What is a Lead? Lead Definition and Lead Status Explained Simply 

Katharina Krus
CEO & Managing Director of leadtributor GmbH. We support companies in managing their multi-level sales in a transparent and targeted manner.

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The definition of the term as a problem solution - what is a lead?

"What is a lead?" In almost 90% of all workshops, this is our first question! Why? There is no single lead definition. Common practice: there are a wide variety of terms for prospects. Be it an address without information or a serious prospect with budget and short-term purchase intent.

From leads, prospects and other terms for contact requests

Many of our customers talk about leads, prospects, contacts, customer inquiries, opportunities or suspects. This is only an excerpt from the long list of descriptions! If you don't ask exactly what you mean, you produce one thing above all: misunderstandings!

And this does not only apply to the cooperation between client and marketing agency. Especially for sales and marketing, these inaccuracies are the cause of false expectations and disappointments.

What is the solution? A clear definition of terms!

Actually, it doesn't matter how you name prospects. The main thing is that they all mean the same thing! Let me make a suggestion. In the Anglo-Saxon area the following terms have become generally accepted. They distinguish a little clearer and finer.


The term sounds suspicious to German ears. In the narrower English sense it is also! The literal translation means "suspect" or "suspicious person". However, what is actually meant by this is the relevant target group. Target people we "suspect" to be interesting. They are neither customers nor have they had any contact with you so far. But your product should be interesting for these people according to the target group definition.

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Lead is often used as a generic term. However, the word lead is generally translated as "the tip," "the lead," or "the clue." According to this, a lead has indications that it is worthwhile to follow up with the contact. This could be downloading a white paper or clicking on a website.


Strictly speaking, prospect means "the expectation," "the prospect," or "possible candidate." When interest has been expressed in a product or service, we speak of a prospect.

Depending on the lead status, this includes, for example:

  • The retrieval of product documentation,
  • A trade fair contact
  • Or attending a product demo.

The prospect has basic product interest, but lacks information about whether the person has decision-making authority, whether there is a budget, and whether a purchase is being considered.


A prospect becomes an opportunity for us when the prospect has expressed a need, a project is imminent, and budget has been allocated. If you consult the dictionary, you can read that opportunity is translated as "the chance" or "the opportunity".



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Conclusion: A lead is a prospective customer who passes through different phases in the customer process

So, that would be our suggestion for the answer to the question "What is a lead". At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how you name the statuses, as long as you make it very concretely clear what who can or must expect. So it's a matter of defining each level with the lead status au and enforcing it in the company. Want to know more? Download the Whitepaper!

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