The difference between cold, warm, and hot leads

illustrated marketing and sales funnel

For your business to succeed, you need leads—people who may buy products or services from you. However, not all leads are the same. Depending on a potential customer’s level of interest, he or she may be classified as cold, warm, or hot. So what’s the difference?

  • Cold leads are people or organizations who show no interest in your business. They may need you to educate them about your offerings and convince them they need to buy from you.
  • Warm leads show some interest in your business. However, they still haven’t chosen to do business with you, so you’ll need to convince them that you’re the right choice.
  • Hot leads are qualified leads who need the product or service you offer and are interested and able to buy from you very soon.

Working with a cold, warm, or hot lead requires you to tailor your marketing technique. Here’s how to approach each one.

How to identify and market to cold leads

Cold leads may be people you contacted via cold calls or emails. They may also have initially expressed interest in your business—perhaps by signing up for your email list—but have not answered your messages or engaged with you since.

So how do you market to cold leads? Initial contact usually involves a phone call, email, or text. A cold call might target people in a certain demographic with a problem your product or service can solve.

These calls should let potential customers know you’re aware of their problem and its cause to grab a cold lead’s attention and increase the chances of engaging in the sales process. According to Velocify, however, sales reps must make an average of six cold calls to sell a product or service.

It’s also possible that some of your warmer leads have gone cold. For instance, people who signed up for your email list but haven’t been opening your emails may no longer be interested in your business. In these cases, it’s a good idea to re-engage and warm them up:

  • Send a custom email tailored to your cold leads. Mention you noticed they haven’t read your emails and indicate that you’re still able to help them with their problems. Also, offer a way to opt out of your email list if they like—it’ll improve your reputation and eliminate cold leads not worth pursuing.
  • Offer your cold leads something to pique their interest in your company. This can be a discount, free consultation, or information about a new feature that will solve their problems. Highlight these offers in your email subject lines to entice them to open the email.
  • Engage with your cold leads on social media. Not all leads respond well to email marketing. Encouraging cold leads to follow you on Twitter or Facebook can help you re-engage with them in new ways. Offer softer types of content on social media, such as market stats, recent listings, and testimonials from satisfied clients.

How to identify and market to warm leads

Warm leads reveal themselves by engaging with your business in some way. They may have signed up for your free webinar, shared your Facebook business posts, or visited your company website after reading a positive testimonial. However, it may take several attempts to turn their interest into a sale.

When marketing to warm leads, show you’re interested in them as people and not just as consumers. To create this type of relationship, you can:

  • Give them content specifically tailored to their needs. Warm leads are more likely to share personal and business information that you can use in your marketing. Send warm emails with articles aimed at solving their problems. Offer a free gift or discount on their birthday. Provide an exclusive offer to help them purchase a needed product or service.
  • Engage with them on social networks. Having a warm lead like or share your social media posts is gratifying, so why not build that relationship by liking or sharing the posts that align with your brand? You can also help your warm leads network with each other by informing your leads of other potential customers you know who can help with their businesses. This creates a sense of community among your warm leads that can be beneficial to your business.
  • Encourage face-to-face meetings. Socializing online is fine, but inviting warm leads to lunches or activities is an excellent way to build relationships and learn more about your leads’ needs. This information helps immensely in shortening your sales cycle when it comes time to sell a product or service to your warm leads.

Silent prospect? Learn how to reach out and re-engage.

How to identify and market to hot leads

Hot leads are the qualified leads every business wants in their sales pipeline. These leads want your product or service now and are willing and able to buy from you. Provided that your sales rep is polite and provides them with the information they need, a hot lead will almost certainly result in a sale.

However, there are still marketing strategies you can use to keep them as loyal customers. These strategies also encourage hot leads to refer potential customers to your business, generating more leads:

  • Continue educating them about your products or services. If you add new features to your products, hot leads may want to buy more from you, especially if your updates solve their problems.
  • Promote your brand. Hot leads know your brand name and identity, so by emphasizing this in your marketing materials, you increase the chance of them sharing the information and spreading brand awareness.
  • Treat them well. Hot leads who become customers stay good customers if your business gives them personalized treatment. Provide discounts and special offers specifically for being a loyal customer. Make sure each sales process goes smoothly. By maintaining a good relationship with a hot lead, you not only keep a repeat customer, but you also encourage them to make referrals.

Whether your leads are cold, warm, or hot, the first step to qualifying them is to manage all your leads. CallRail’s Lead Center helps manage your phone leads by placing all your calls and texts into one inbox and providing a timeline of customer interactions.