What's Considered a 'Hot Lead' in Sales?

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Lestraundra Alfred
Lestraundra Alfred



You’re working closely with your company’s marketing team and your efforts to align are paying off — a constant stream of leads is coming in. Time to cue the celebration, right? Well, yes and no.

Sales rep follows up with a hot lead to close the deal

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According to Gleanster, only 25% of marketing-generated leads are high enough quality to advance to a sale. So while attracting a good number of leads is a positive sign for your business, there is more work to be done to determine if they are the right leads you should be selling to.

How do you know when a lead is worth pursuing? It helps to (figuratively) check their temperature, and often, hot leads are going to be your best bet. Let’s discuss what a hot lead is, and why identifying them is key to reaching your sales goals.

What’s a Hot Lead?

A hot lead is a qualified lead who is highly interested in your product, and is ready for direct contact asking for the sale. To identify a hot lead, consider the following criteria:

1. Level of interest in your product

How familiar is the lead with what you offer? If they already have a sense of your offering’s key features and specs, chances are they have done some preliminary research, which shows a genuine interest in your product. With this information in mind, you don’t have to sell them on what your product is and why they should consider it, because they are already familiar and would like to continue the conversation. Using a sales software like HubSpot to identify a lead’s engagement with your website and marketing collateral is pivotal at this step. 

2. Your product fulfills a need

Not only is a hot lead interested in your product, they also know what problem they are trying to solve and are aware that your product can help them solve it. This is an indication that they are in the later stages of the decision-making process, and are inclined to buy sooner rather than later.

3. Has the budget and authority to make the purchase

There are few things worse than moving through the sales process and investing precious time into courting a prospect only to learn they either don’t have the budget to purchase, don’t have the authority to purchase, or both. A hot lead has the means to purchase your product, and the authority to accept your proposal.

4. The lead has a clear timeline

In addition to knowing what they want, hot leads know when they want it. Typically, a hot lead has a clear timeframe they are working within to implement your product as a solution to their problem. This gives you a good idea of when you can expect to close the deal.

Cold vs. Warm Lead

Now that we’re clear on what a hot lead is, let’s discuss the other types of leads you may encounter — warm leads and cold leads.

Warm Lead

An individual who has expressed interest in your product or company but does not have a sense of urgency or specific timeline for their purchase can be considered a warm lead. This could be someone who opted in to receive a piece of gated content on your website, or who submitted a contact form requesting more information about a product or service you offer.

Essentially, a warm lead is someone who is aware of your product and is interested in buying from you, they just may not be looking to buy right now like a hot lead is. If you have warm leads in your pipeline, here are some ways you can nurture them to prime them for the sale:

  • Respond to their inquiries quickly — Many warm leads are established when individuals submit an inquiry to learn more about a product. When you receive credible inbound contacts, it is important to respond as soon as possible. With 78% of buyers purchasing from the first company to respond, time is of the essence when it comes to working with interested leads.
  • Perform product demos — If a contact has submitted their information expressing interest in your product, performing a demonstration can be a great way to keep them engaged. Whether you invite them to an already-scheduled upcoming demo, or personally set up time to show them the features of your offer, allowing a warm lead to see the ins and outs of your product is a great way to keep them engaged and prepare for the sale.
  • Share customer success stories — Customer case studies can be a powerful sales tool. For warm leads who are interested in your product but still on the fence, sharing a customer success story that showcases how your product helped another customer can help the lead see the value of your product, encouraging them to buy.
  • Present a short-term offer to create urgency — Do your CRM records indicate a contact has visited the product page of your website multiple times but has yet to press "buy"? Encourage their decision with a short-term offer such as a discount or bonus within a short timeframe. This can help create a sense of urgency for indecisive leads.

Cold Lead

A cold lead is a contact who has not shown interest in or an intent to purchase your product or service. This could be an individual who was contacted via cold outreach, or someone who initially expressed interest in your offering but has since become unresponsive and disengaged.

Though working with cold leads may feel like a dead end, all hope is not lost — depending on the contact and your bandwidth as a rep, nurturing cold leads to prime them for the sale at a later date can be worthwhile endeavor. If you have a lead that has cooled off, here are some tactics you can use to re-engage them.

  • Relationship-building — When trying to win over new contacts, remember building trust is key. While this contact may not yet be ready to buy your product, if they see you as a helpful resource whose opinion they can trust, it can build a solid foundation for a future sale.
  • Personalize your communications — If you have a lead you are reaching out to cold, don’t kick things off with a generic message. Personalize your messaging to cold contacts as much as you can. According to Epsilon, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with companies that create personalized experiences. So when reaching out to cold leads, always make sure your message is tailored to the individual and their industry to build a connection.
  • Share relevant content — Before asking for the sale from a cold lead, establish rapport by providing value. For example, if you have a prospect you have been wanting to reach out to take some time to do a bit of research about the individual’s industry, company, and role (LinkedIn is great for this). When you see content that may be relevant or helpful to their industry, you can share it with them as a way to break the ice and begin establishing trust.
  • Clarify you have the right contact — A key factor in working with a hot lead is knowing you’re working with the right decision maker. If you have a contact who has gone quiet after you have sent a proposal or no longer seems interested, verify you have the right contact. This post has helpful questions that can direct you to the right person for the sale.

How you choose to pursue a lead can vary depending on your business model and current resources. But with strategy and intention, you can nurture a lead from any stage. To kick your prospecting efforts into high gear, check out this post teaching you how to generate more B2B sales leads.

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