One moment of the customer journey is especially important and requires some extra attention. It’s the stage when a potential client has just got interested and needs a gentle but convincing poke to the right direction. Like during fishing when you strike: one wrong move – and you lose your catch.


Understanding leads and knowing how to treat them increase chances to make that move correctly, and thus – turn leads into clients.

Let me explain how it works.

So what is “a lead”?

If you search for a product and leave your contact details for more information – you aren’t called “our precious potential client” as you might think you should, but just “the lead” in marketers’ terminology.

Under this term we understand people (contacts) that are interested in a product or a company and can potentially “lead” to a deal.

Having a special term (simple and clear) to call potential buyers on this stage isn’t just marketers’ whimsy-whamsy. Leads aren’t total strangers, but they aren’t your clients either. We cannot call them potential buyers – it’s too broad and will blur the lines. Leads need actions from you. Otherwise – you lose an opportunity to influence sales by default.

Treat leads differently

As all people are different, all leads are too. To be successful in communication with them you should treat them accordingly.

To do that – divide leads into several groups and define special approach to every one.

There’re different ways to categorize leads:

  • cold, warm and hot;
  • seeds, nets, and spears;
  • referrals, outbound, inbound
  • and so on.

It doesn’t really matter which classification you choose. You can pick one from these or create your own one.

In RightHello (it’s the company I work for: we help companies acquire more clients with the help of cold emailing) we group leads according to different sources: referral, outbound and inbound.

I think it’s the easiest way to create common understanding of leads and how to talk to them, because the marketing department in our company is divided into outbound and inbound and everyone is familiar with this division very well.

Let’s see who are those people you need to deal with in every group and what’s the best way to approach them.

Referral leads

These are contacts that you get due to introductions and recommendations from your network: friends, acquaintances, partners, colleagues, clients.


You can get references in a natural way if your product is nice or/and customer service is charming.
But there is also a way to kickoff this process simply by asking for references. Let it become your habit. Consider referral programs, try to exchange different perks (free features, free trial..) for references to get more of them.

Sooner or later your network might get exhausted and the reference flow will stop. Be prepared for that – secure your lead generation by:

  • trying to achieve avalanche effect: ask referrals for more referrals;
  • developing the other source of lead generation.

Referral leads are the most effective ones. These people need a product like yours, they heard positive things about your via their trustworthy channels, they are keen on hearing from you – so use your chance.
They by default more-or-less trust you. This means – it’s easier to convince them to buy from you.

But it doesn’t mean you can just relax and watch them becoming your clients with no efforts at all.
In fact, they are friends of your friends. So talk to them as to friends and deliver value as you would for your special ones. Because they expect this from you.

Outbound leads

These are contacts you approach on your own for the first time (by cold emailing or cold calling f.e.). Initiative is on your side here, so you regarding timing – these leads will be more predictable and fast in getting. Moreover – you decide whom to approach and there are no boundaries for that: you can explore new markets, new countries and grow your business if go for outbound leads.

When dealing with outbound leads you should remember that most probably they never heard about you or your product – you’re a complete stranger for them.

You might assume they need what you offer based on research you made – but you cannot be 100% sure. Such contacts don’t trust you and it’s hard to get their attention. But put yourself into their shoes – you would behave the same way if somebody comes to you without an invitation.

Although outbound leads might seem to be a challenge, it’s definitely worth trying – you can read in more details about outbound benefits here.

You can succeed in dealing with outbound leads if you act strategically. Be pleasantly persistent with them, but not annoying. Initiate a conversation with these leads, break the ice and try to learn more about their needs to see how your product can solve them. Get to know them, build trust – and only then start pitching.

In RightHello we build outbound lead generation processes for our clients by using cold emailing. Our own leads come mainly from cold emails too.
We manage to reach quite high ROI (up to 4000% from one campaign for one of our clients) by using cold emails. And main things that help us are:

  • advanced search tool (the app) to find contacts that match the ideal client profile the best,
  • personal approach – we write sweet short emails that people want to read.

If you struggle with finding new clients – let us know, we’ll gladly share our expertise and help you with that.

Inbound leads

In case of inbound leads – they are the ones who find you.

It takes time to cultivate them, you’ll need to invest in SEO content marketing, public relations, social media etc. – all long-term tactics. But once inbound leads start knocking your doors – congratulations! With right approach they are really easy to close deals with!

Inbound leads need a product like yours, they did some research about your company and have some general impression about it. So when contacting them back – don’t start with unnecessary introductions – you can go straight to the point.
The fact they contact you usually means they need a product soon. So the main rule of dealing with inbound leads – be fast with answering and don’t hesitate to start selling right away.

In conclusion…

There is no way to say that some of these leads are more important and you should focus on them not the other. You can be equally successful in closing deals with every of these groups of leads. It mainly depends on your business – what you are good at, what are your goals and so on.

The main difference between referral, outbound and inbound leads is in the level of trust and awareness they have towards your company/product. Use this knowledge wisely and I hope the tips above will help you become a power broker in sales.

Dariya Oliynyk

Content specialist at RightHello. Passionate about marketing, branding, communication. Efficiency freak. Writes on RightHello's blog and Quora.

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