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Leads, Prospects and Customers – Do they really need their relationship managing?

There is sometimes confusion around the terms Leads, Prospects and Customers. Here is a snap shot guide to defining them for your business. 

Even for an experienced sales person a list of 100 leads can be a daunting prospect. If you do the maths you can see that there is weeks or months of work to do if you take them on one at a time. Plus, you will have to make some assumptions about who is priority to follow up. What if you get it wrong and the good leads slip away? Ideally you will have a system in place which will act like a sales funnel converting ‘leads’ to ‘prospects’ to ‘customers’ in a well structured way. This is the process or nurturing. It takes time and dedication and a lot of persistence. While this post is directed at human nurturing it also highlights what a great job your website can do with come conversion rate optimisation, inbound marketing and marketing automation.

We have, of course, been managing the relationship with customers since the dawn of time when they were exchanging sticks for rocks at the West End markets (Hello Brisbane…). It is the processes, automation and consistency which has got the 21st century businesses so excited though. You can spend a gasquillion on these CRM systems but there are plenty of systems available for every budget.

As mentioned there are 3 loose categories of customers in your box. You need to feed them in to your CRM system and then work through them in order to get to the end goal. So which are which?


Leads are unqualified contacts, they may have shown some interest in your product, they may have talked your salesperson’s ear off, they may have taken a brochure and they may have been a little elusive. You are not sure if they are really in the market for what you are selling and they may be a hull thumping tyre kicking waste of square metres. You just don’t know until you ask for the sale. Unfortunately, they are not there to ask any more.

So how do you move them on to the next stage? They need nurturing to move on to the next level. First thing is that you will have got their permission to make further contact. This means they will now receive your well crafted email newsletter at least once a month. They will be open to receiving an invitation to your retail outlet or receiving a friendly call from a knowledgable sales person who somehow seems to remember the details of the conversation at the boat show (detailed notes are a great thing! Note for next year…).

They will still see your advertising in their favourite website or magazine and this weekend they are going to bring the family in to check that boat out again.


Prospects have done everything but say “yes” to you. They will have taken the brochure, given you a timescale to purchase, threatened you with a competitive quote and examined your quote or price list. They are basically a qualified lead. Only one step away from a long term relationship. 

They have come to see you again or they have called you before you can call them. They may have expressed genuine interest in knowing more and want to come to the dealership to find out more. Follow these up with priority but add everyone to the email database in the CRM system so the automation or those annoying marketing people can keep them all interested.


Customers are not signed up for life. Deposits can be refunded and research can turn up more objections. Even when the product is delivered there is so much more to do. In five years time they may become a statistic in your ‘lapsed customer’ folder and they will no longer own a product that you sold them. It was so hard to get them as a customer but you are willing to throw them away like a used newspaper. Get recycling. 

Side note: Referrals

Have you ever thought about asking for referrals? If your customer has had a great experience then why the heck not ask them if their friends or family might like one too. As a customer they are your brand advocates. They already made their decision and nothing justifies that more than other people buying it too.

Conclusion – Leads, Prospects and Customers – Do they really need their relationship managing?

Yep. Get busy.

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