In this sales prospecting tip we are going to look at what is the difference? To me it is huge and my Continuum differs from what is most commonly taught. A Lead is simply a name or a company, often generated by Marketing efforts including advertising and other promotional activities. A Suspect is when you have determined through research that there is definitely potential to sell to that person or company. A Prospect is when you actually have gotten to the point where the person is ready and willing to listen to what you offer. I call this the Prospect Continuum – the last step is Customer when they actually buy.

So how do you move them through this Sales Prospecting Continuum? On paper it is really simple but the reality is that other than dealing with rejection this may well be the most difficult thing we do in Sales.

To move someone from a Lead to a Suspect is the easiest part, in my opinion. It involves research or gathering and distilling information to determine if this person or company is a good ‘fit’ for what you sell. Ideally you can most of this online but not always. You can check out their web presence and their social media profiles to learn as much about what they do and who they are as possible. Let me give you an example and it is a bit extreme but it makes the point. Let’s say you sell office cleaning services. By doing online research you determine this Lead works from either their home or from a rented office in one of those corporate presence businesses. Given this, they will not likely be a candidate for a conversation – instead you should be looking at the company that rents them the office!

If, however, they have a small office in a business condo unit or maybe even their own building they are now a real potential candidate and you can move them to the Suspect stage of the Continuum. See – that was simple but what if you can find nothing substantive online? In that case the only real way to find out is by talking to someone at the company and that means you are now doing good old fashioned cold calling just to determine if they are even a potential Suspect.

Sales Prospecting Approachs

If your sales prospecting process basically dictates that you need to have a meeting with the Suspect, then your ability to actually secure the meeting now becomes the real task. This is where it can get really tough and there are lots of folks who offer training programs and books on this topic alone. There are really only a few different approaches you can use to get that meeting including

  1. Phone call. Armed with the information you have garnered from your research you can phone the Suspect to work to secure the meeting. Remember your objective; although the real goal is to make a sale, your short term goal is to get the meeting so structure your call to that end. Oh and if you expect to speak with the Suspect on the first try think again; you may have to make multiple calls and leave multiple messages before you even get to a real conversation. So don’t just keep repeating the same thing over and over again; plan your calls to the point of actually scripting out what you want to say both if you actually talk to someone and if you get voice mail.
  2. Email. Again you can use the information you already have to try to get the meeting. Like a phone call or voice mail, you really have to work through this ahead of time and have a plan on what to say and how to structure your various emails.
  3. Hybrid approach using both phone and email. I typically prefer this approach; I usually start with an email and introduce myself and offer why I would like to meet and then follow up with a phone call and then keep the pattern going. Each call and each email is unique as I know it may take many tries to get through. If you are lucky enough to have way more leads than you can ever get to you may do a ‘one and done’ and move on but most sales people do not have that luxury.
  4. What is fairly new and a bit novel is the idea of video email. There are actually software programs available that allow you to do this within a ‘system’ but it could be as simple as you doing a short 30-45 second intro video on your smartphone and emailing it to a customer. Be sure to use a strong Subject in the email to make sure they know there is a short video to watch but here is where you can customize a short personal video to the Suspect to encourage them to reach out for a meeting.
  5. Lastly and this has pretty much gone out of style but it still works for some Business to Consumer and Business to Business sales. Yes, I am talking about Door to Door or Unsolicited Sales Calls. More prevalent in B2C than B2B it is very tough and the average life expectancy of people doing this is very short; some do not even last their first day!

Watch the short video to see how you can use one phone call to take someone from Lead to Suspect to Prospect or completely off your list.

Lessons Learned

  1. Just because you get a Lead from somewhere, whether it is from Marketing or a referral, you need to take the time to do your own background research to learn as much about this lead as possible. Often leads come from very broad marketing efforts and they may not actually be a fit at all for your specific product or service. Even referrals need to be checked on but you need to do these first and quickly so you do not upset the person who provided the referral for not following up. If Anna had not known that Steve’s company had a ‘Green’ focus she probably would not have gotten anywhere with him.
  2. Remember your objective when you are sales prospecting. I do not believe it is to make a sale; rather it is to get the ‘meeting’ where you will really start the sales process. Even if you are a telemarketer or door to door sales person you need ‘get permission’ to make the ‘pitch’ or you are simply talking into the wind.
  3. Whenever possible ask good questions that help drive the process. By not pressuring the person you are talking to and speaking to things that are important to them (you have learned through your research) you will very often improve your results.
  4. Expect a lot of rejection. My short video is a perfect scenario but the reality is Anna may have had to call a number of times to get through to Steve and may have to talk to a lot of ‘Steves’ to get one that will even give her a chance to continue the conversation.
  5. If you do get some traction be sure to confirm next steps and update your schedule to do what you said you would do on the timeline you committed to.

Have a great week but before you go be sure to check out my online courses at

Also get my Daily 2 Minute Leadership and Sales Thought videos on my Facebook Group ‘Raise Your Sales IQ’ at

Have a fantastic week!


Wayne Fredin
Wayne Fredin

With over 40 years of experience as an Army Officer, a Sales Executive in both public and private companies and having been self employed, Wayne is a highly respected Sales Trainer, Coach and Mentor. Having published Sales Leadership: Distinctions With a Difference in 2015 he had now created a series of online sales training courses, tools and resources.