A sales lead is a prospective consumer of a product or service, created when an individual or business shows interest and provides contact information.
Businesses gain access to sales leads through advertising, trade shows, direct mailings and other marketing efforts. A sales lead is not a sales prospect; further qualification of the lead is necessary to determine intent and interest. The sales process begins when a sales lead is identified, qualified and placed into a company's sales pipeline. Sales professionals use the lead's contact information to send sales emails, make outbound sales calls and provide direct marketing material.
The quality of the sales lead depends on whether the individual or business was incentivized to give contact information, or if the sales lead was aware of what he or she was signing up for. The more qualified a sales lead is, the more expensive it tends to be for a business to acquire it. People are more likely to become sales leads and qualified sales prospects when businesses take the extra effort to engage them through marketing efforts that educate or offer solutions.