Skip to main content

Prospects and leads are different individuals. Naturally, your approach to each of them should differ, too.

Sales prospecting kicks off the sales journey by pinpointing promising potential buyers. On the other hand, lead generation focuses on nurturing relationships that ultimately result in sales.

Prospecting Vs Lead Generation: Differences & Similarities

When you understand the concepts of prospecting and lead generation, you sell more effectively.

Here’s a closer look at the key differences and similarities between these terms:


1. Sales vs. Marketing

Sales is responsible for prospecting, reaching out to specific, qualified potential customers to gauge their level of interest. They learn about their target audience's pain points and adjust their approach accordingly to score a sale.

Marketing handles lead generation. Instead of focusing on individual sales, they work to attract and nurture leads on a broader scale through engaging content and targeted ads. They also optimize different channels to collect contact info from potential leads.

2. Middle of Funnel vs. Top of Funnel

Prospecting falls in the middle of the sales funnel, where sales professionals reach out to potential customers who meet exacting criteria. They look into individuals or companies who could be a good fit for what they're selling (aka the ideal customer profile or ICP). Even if those leads aren't aware of the company yet, they are more likely to purchase and pre-qualified by the sales team. 

Lead generation covers the awareness stage—finding and engaging a large number of people, and moving them along the sales journey. It involves building connections, sharing helpful content, and guiding leads through the buyer's journey.

3. Outbound vs. Inbound

Prospecting often relies on outbound strategies. Sales reps actively reach out to potential leads through cold calling, email marketing, or networking events. The focus is on initiating contact and sparking interest in the product.

Lead generation uses inbound strategies, such as content marketing, SEO, and social media, to attract potential clients to the business. The goal is to bring prospects in by offering valuable content and solutions to their problems to get the conversation going.

4. SQL vs. MQL

Prospecting finds sales qualified leads (SQLs), who are fully vetted and ready for direct sales. These leads have shown clear interest or need and are likely to become paying customers.

Lead generation finds marketing qualified leads (MQLs), who are interested but not yet ready to buy. These leads need more attention from the marketing team to eventually become SQLs.

5. Manual vs. Automated Processes

Prospecting is typically a manual process, with reps researching leads, creating personalized messages, and managing relationships individually. While this approach allows for customization, it's quite time- and resource-consuming.

In contrast, lead generation is mostly automated, often leveraging tools like email automation, lead scoring systems, and CRMs to streamline and scale outreach. Using automation saves time and expands reach, but you must maintain a personal touch to make real connections.

Coming soon — Get career resources, software reviews, & expert tips right in your inbox

Coming soon — Get career resources, software reviews, & expert tips right in your inbox

  • By submitting this form, you agree to receive our newsletter, and occasional emails related to The RevOps Team. You can unsubscribe at any time. For more details, please review our Privacy Policy. We're protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Challenges of Prospecting

  • Identifying Ideal Prospects: It's tough to pinpoint who exactly might be interested in your product or service.
  • Initial Engagement: Getting people to notice and engage meaningfully with you with all the noise out (think: never-ending messages and ads) is no easy task.
  • Rejection and Objections: Rejection and objections from prospects can be disheartening and hard to handle for some salespeople.

Challenges of Lead Generation

  • Generating Quality Leads: It's hard to find high-quality leads genuinely interested in your offerings.
  • Lead Nurturing: Continuously keeping leads interested and moving through the B2B sales process takes a lot of effort and time.
  • Measuring ROI: It's challenging to accurately measure the ROI of lead generation efforts, particularly when tracking leads through the entire sales cycle and attributing conversions to specific marketing activities.


1. Revenue Generation

Prospecting finds potential customers, while lead generation guides them toward closing deals. Both are crucial for increasing sales and revenue.

2. Sales Pipeline Building

Prospecting efforts focus on identifying potential customers and lead generation nurtures them. This ensures a continuous stream of opportunities for your brand.

3. Brand Awareness

Prospecting introduces the brand to potential customers. Then lead generation validates your brand's expertise and credibility, establishing its presence in the market.

Is Prospecting Or Lead Gen More Valuable?

Determining which is more valuable between prospecting and lead generation depends on your company's specific goals and context. 

Yet, both are crucial in their own right, with prospecting laying the groundwork by identifying potential customers and lead generation nurturing those prospects towards conversion.

Below is a deep dive into popular sales prospecting techniques and lead generation strategies.

Prospecting Tactics

LinkedIn Sales Navigator and InMail

Using LinkedIn's Sales Navigator and InMail, you can reach out to potential customers directly on a professional platform. 

Keep your message short and personal—tell them why you're reaching out and how you can help them. If you have any mutual connections or interests, mention them to build trust. Keep the conversation going by sharing more info based on how they respond.

screenshot example
LinkedIn Sales Navigator is one of the top tools for prospecting, allowing sellers to reach out personally to qualified prospects.

Cold Calling

Cold calling means giving potential customers a ring to introduce your products or services. 

Do your homework before you dial—research your prospects to ensure they match your ideal customer profile. Have a script ready that grabs attention and shows how you can solve their problems. Listen closely to what they say, and adjust your approach to connect with them better.

Cold Emailing

Sending personalized emails is another way to get in touch with potential leads. Use the recipient's name and mention things you have in common. Keep your message short and focused on how you can help them. 

Follow up politely but consistently to keep the conversation going.

Networking events

At industry events, you get to meet potential customers face-to-face. Use them to connect and grow your network.

Set goals for each event, like how many meaningful connections you want to make. Approach networking with a genuine interest in getting to know people—not just making sales. Take notes about each person you meet so you can follow up later with a personalized message.

Social media outreach 

Engaging with prospects on LinkedIn or Twitter helps you kickstart sales conversations. Find out where your prospects hang out online, and join the conversation there. 

Share helpful content related to your industry to show your expertise. When reaching out to someone, avoid being too "salesy"—show them you're genuinely interested in connecting.

Lead Gen Tactics


When you're doing SEO, you're making your website easier to find on search engines like Google. 

Find out what words people search for that are related to your business. Use those words in your website's content, titles, and links. Also, ask other trustworthy websites to link to yours.

This helps your website rank higher in search results, bringing in more traffic.

Content Marketing

Ever read a blog post or watched a video that really helped you? That's content marketing. 

The idea is to create helpful content to get people interested in what you offer. 

To start, figure out what your audience cares about or needs help with. Then, make content that answers their questions and solves their problems. Mix it up with different types of content like blog posts, videos, or infographics to keep things interesting.

Webinars and Events

Hosting webinars or events offers dual benefits: first, it educates attendees about your industry, and second, it gets you their contact information. 

Choose topics that matter to your audience and spread the word through emails and social media. Make your events interactive so people stay engaged and interested. Then, follow up with them afterward to build a relationship.

Paid Social

Paid social means running ads on social platforms like Facebook or Instagram to reach specific groups of people. 

Decide what you want your ads to do and who should see them. Make your ads catchy and relevant to your audience so they want to check them out. Regularly monitor ad performance and tweak as needed to get the best results.

Landing pages

Landing pages are special web pages where people give you their contact info in exchange for lead magnets (think: ebook, free demo).

dock screenshot
Let your landing pages do the heavy lifting with actionable calls to action, valuable content, and frequent iteration to find what resonates with your audience.

Offer something valuable to visitors on your landing pages, and make sure it encourages people to take action. Think: signing up or downloading. And try out different versions of your page to see which one works best at getting people to sign up.

Referral programs

You know when a friend tells you about something cool they found, and you want to check it out too? That's what referral programs are all about. 

Give your customers or partners a reason to tell their friends about you—like a discount or special reward. Make it easy for them to spread word by giving them links or codes to pass along. 

How Do Lead Generation and Prospecting Work Together?

Lead generation and prospecting are crucial parts of an effective customer acquisition strategy.

Here's how they work together:

  • Finding Potential Customers: Prospecting means actively looking for people or businesses who could become customers. It sets the stage for lead generation by finding potential leads to connect with.
  • Making Contact and Building Relationships: Lead generation uses tactics like content marketing and webinars to catch the interest of prospects found through prospecting. By offering helpful assets, leads are encouraged to share their contact info and engage more.
  • Guiding Leads to Buy: After capturing leads, the next step is to guide them towards buying. This involves personalized communication and follow-ups to build trust and address concerns.
  • Passing Leads to Sales: Once leads are ready, they're passed to the sales team to close the deal. Good communication between the marketing and sales teams is key for a smooth handover and more conversions.
  • Refining Strategy: Feedback from both prospecting and lead generation helps refine strategies and target the right people better. This continuous process ensures resources are used wisely and efforts focus on what works best.

Tools and Software

When shortlisting prospecting and lead generation tools, you want to make sure they work well with other marketing and sales systems in your stack. 

Integrated tools keep your data in sync and streamline your workflows, showing you a complete picture of your customers. Ultimately, this amplifies your prospecting and lead gen efforts.

Here's a quick list of prospecting and lead generation software to help you get started:

  • HubSpot centralizes all your prospect and lead info, helping you track interactions.
  • Mailchimp simplifies managing and monitoring email campaigns.
  • Marketo creates personalized customer journeys automatically.
  • Buffer schedules posts and tracks how people are engaging with your content.
  • Leadpages lets you create optimized forms and pages that convert visitors into leads.
  • Leadfeeder provides insights to enrich prospect information and prioritize leads.

Take Your RevOps to the Next Level

Looking for more RevOps content? Subscribe to The RevOps Team newsletter for expert advice, software reviews, and other resources to help you deliver predictable growth at scale.

By Rana Bano

Rana is a B2B writer and researcher specializing in sales, marketing and customer success. She aims to help RevOps teams take strategic steps and achieve their desired goals by providing them with actionable advice. When she isn't writing, you'll find her binge-watching or binge-reading — there’s no in-between.