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Who is a prospect? Definition review and analysis

  • #B2B
  • #Customer Success
  • #Sales

While doing research for my work, I have stumbled across two opposite definitions of the word “suspect”. I asked myself a question: “Is that I who misread this term, or are some people just using it wrong?”

Suspect, marketing qualified lead, prospect, lead, opportunity, sales qualified lead. Looks like the word salad, though it is still used to describe one particular person. Modern digital terminology is quite a mess, and today we will try to clarify all of these definitions.

As it was mentioned before, there are several definitions of prospects. But to make it easier, we will divide definitions into two big parts: whether prospects have shown some interest in your product or service, or not. Regardless, have they been collected by the marketing methods or by the sales ones.

When a potential client hasn’t shown interest yet

I met several definitions when a prospect is described as a person who fits ICP — ideal client profile. Such a person hasn’t shown interest in a product or service and there is no communication yet.

Other terms correspond to a similar definition.  A person, who has not shown any interest in a product may be called suspect or marketing qualified lead (MQL), unqualified prospect, or simply a person, who fits the ICP.

These terms are pretty different but have one common aspect, they all are at the beginning of their funnels and do not engage in two-way communication. Let’s take a close look at them.

Due to the most common definition, suspect is a person, who has never interacted with your content in any way. In general, the suspect is the exact person who fits your ICP, you just do not know if he or she is interested in your product or service. Sometimes suspects also can be named as unqualified prospects. You do not know whether these people need your product or not.

In another way, such a person may be marked as MQL. Marketing qualified leads are a bit different than suspect because you know at least something about them. MQLs can be a person who has visited your website, downloaded your whitepaper, or interacted with your content in other ways.

When a person shows some interest

On the one hand, we can find a prospect definition as a person who already expressed interest in a product or service. In this case, a potential client gets engaged in two-way communication.

Such a person can also be named as Sales qualified lead (SQL). This term is mostly used by marketing experts. A person moves from marketing to the sales qualified lead as he or she goes through the funnel and has a high chance to become a client.

The sales representative commonly classifies potential clients as prospects or qualified prospects. As it was mentioned before, a prospect is somehow interested in your product or service and has shown this interest to youк product or service. To become a prospect it is not enough to fit your company’s special criteria or ideal customer profile. Compared to the Lead, Prospect has a higher qualification in the sales funnel. Prospect has much more chances to get through to the sales funnel and become a client.

Potential clients can come both through marketing and sales channels via inbound or outbound methods. When a potential client moves to the one-to-one communication which corresponds to the sales process, it becomes a prospect.

To sum up

It is pretty easy to get confused by this amount of different definitions that mean the same, and same terms that have different meanings. It is easier to understand the difference when you understand the context.

People are using two contradictory terms to the word “prospect”. But after some research and analysis, we personally believe that a prospect is a person who somehow showed some interest in your product or service during a one-to-one communication process. And people that simply fit in your ICP should be called “suspects”. The Suspect is the one who fits your ICP and does not show any interest in your product or service

  • #B2B
  • #Customer Success
  • #Sales