Cold vs Warm vs Hot Sales Leads – Difference

Cold vs Warm vs Hot Sales Leads – Difference

Every sales journey begins with leads, and the popular opinion is that you can close more deals by acquiring more leads. However, not every lead is the same, and as someone who is handling sales directly or indirectly, you can’t agree. There are various types of leads, and the way you handle each of them affects the conversion rate. Classifying leads is a way of making the most of every kind of lead’s benefits. Before knowing the types of leads and detailed comparison between Cold vs Warm vs Hot Sales Leads, let’s understand the meaning of a sales lead, shall we?

Table of Contents

What are Sales Leads?

Let’s begin with what a lead is. A lead is an individual from whom you have collected a few contact details but have not bought your product or service.

A lead also refers to an individual at the top of the sales funnel or one on the final stage of the journey and willing to purchase. Understanding the difference between the two is essential. But, you have to handle the one almost ready to make a purchase differently from someone who doesn’t even know that your product or service exists. It simply means that not all leads are the same. 

Different Types of Leads in Sales

Cold sales leads

Cold leads are individuals or organizations who have very little or no interest in your brand. Chances of them not being aware of your brand are also there. You must have found their contact details online or made a first-level contact with them, and these individuals don’t know about you and what your exact offerings are.

In addition, you have to nurture cold leads carefully, and it will be a time-consuming task for you to close a deal with them. 

Warm sales leads

A warm lead is an individual or organization that has a pre-existing interest in your products or services. You can see their interest in you when they follow your social media handles, subscribe to your newsletter, fill up contact forms, and so on. Warm leads are those who wish to know more about what you have to offer, and they are more likely to turn into paying customers. However, you have to nurture warm leads as well to close deals. 

Hot sales leads

A hot lead is an individual who matches your ICP or ideal client profile and is highly interested in purchasing your product or service. These leads are also known as qualified leads, and they are the best category of leads as the chances of them patronizing your brand are higher. 

An example 

Are you getting an idea about the difference between leads? For example, you run a car showroom, and a person visits your showroom and gives his contact details. Calling him would be more fruitful as he is more likely to purchase a car from you than getting in touch with a person from the phone book. That is one reason why it is better to pay more attention to leads who have shown interest in your product or service. 

Cold vs Warm vs Hot Sales Leads

Following is the table with the comparison between Cold vs Warm vs Hot Sales Leads.

Difference between cold lead, warm lead and hot lead sales leads

Hopefully, the difference between Cold vs Warm vs Hot Sales Leads is clear. 

How To Qualify Leads Using The BANT Method?

BANT is a helpful sales methodology in qualifying leads that forms a central part of the sales process. Using BANT, it is easy to find out whether a prospect is a good fit for your solution or not. In case the prospect is not a good fit, you can disqualify them. BANT has been around for some time now and is also reasonably practical and relevant to many different products and sales processes. 

BANT means for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. 

Budget – The amount the prospect is ready to spend or is willing to spend on your product or solution,

Authority – Who is the decision-maker in the organization?

Need – Does the prospect need your solution?

Timeline – The time required for the prospect to decide on making the purchase. 

Here’s how you can use the BANT framework,

1. Understand the prospect’s budget is

Most B2B solutions on a subscription model have a wide price range. The prospect can choose a plan that suits their needs and budget. Also, you can clear the price factor by asking the prospect what they expect from the product or service.

2. Identify the decision-makers

It usually takes three stakeholders to finalize a purchase in an organization, and you have to convince all of them. Find out who all are involved in the sales process and how you can reach out to them.  

3. Figure out the importance of the problem

You have to ask yourself whether the prospect is keen on solving the problem or not and find out the prospect’s needs. 

4. Create a timeline for the deal

Determine how fast the prospect’s organization can make a decision. Is it going to take months, or is it a quickly closing deal? Doing so would help you prepare yourself well for it. 

5. Be in the know through different channels

This is a crucial step to help you address the concerns and deal with the prospects objections. Try following your prospects’ social media accounts, attend events and sign up for their newsletter. It is like being aware of what is going on, and you can gather enough information to qualify the prospect.

If you are using the BANT framework for the first time in your sales process, you will be pleasantly surprised by its results. It will also help you close more deals successfully. 

Cold, Warm and Hot Leads in the Sales Cycle

You can see cold, warm, and hot lead in different stages of the sales cycle. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Cold leads: You will find cold leads in the initial stages of the sales cycle. These are the leads who don’t respond to your emails and reject your calls. They also do not show any interest in you and your efforts in reaching out to them. Even after nurturing these leads, the number of them turning into warm leads are pretty few. 

Warm leads: These leads engage with your company and marketing channels periodically. They also read your blog posts, follow your company on social media, share their details, and subscribe to email newsletters. In addition, you can nurture them by learning about their needs, what issues they face and how your product or service can solve them.

Hot leads: Hot leads are the qualified leads ready to make a purchase. These are the leads you will have in the final stage of the sales process, i.e. closing. 

How Can You Generate Each Kind of Lead?

To give your business a boost, you have to chalk out different strategies to generate different leads,

Generating cold leads

1) With the help of lead generation outsourcing firms, outsourcing is one of the oldest yet most effective methods of getting leads. You can get a list of contacts that are related to your business and product or service. Also, it is an excellent way of starting the outreach process.

2) Using lead generation automation tools – Many lead generation tools can fetch you relevant leads in an instant. They search based on specific parameters such as the industry, team size, location, and so on. Switching to automation is a good idea as you need not depend on anyone for lead generation.

3) Using LinkedIn and websites – The LinkedIn Sales Navigator search is a great tool to find relevant leads to your business. Apart from LinkedIn, there are industry-specific websites that provide you with relevant leads. After finding prospects, you can also get connected with them with LinkedIn outreach.

Generating warm leads

1) Hiring email prospecting service – It is a good idea to hire the services of a firm that generates warm leads for you. You only have to specify the type of prospect you are interested in, and the firm will give you warm leads that fit your needs, i.e. incline your brand.

2) Using Google/Facebook ads and opt-ins on websites – You can use opt-ins on your website or capture leads using ads on Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn. Qualifying leads before you speak to them is a great idea. Also, several lead generation firms can help target your ads accurately.

3) Writing blogs – You can create content for your website, LinkedIn groups, and other famous websites. Also, keep your blogs relevant to the target market, and people will engage with your content. 

Generating hot leads 

1) Hiring a sales development representative – You can generate hot leads by hiring a sales development representative or outsourcing the task to a firm that can handle it well. It will be their job to email leads, call them and qualify them before fixing up the final meeting with you. Ensure that you entrust the job to a company with the experience and expertise to do the task. Certain firms will even carry out the task of closing the deal on your behalf.

2) Running email marketing campaigns – You can automate lead generation if you get many visitors to your website or newsletter. Creating surveys and drip campaigns can help you meet only clients interested in buying your product or service and match your ideal client profile. 

How to Identify and Market Different Leads?

You have to make a plan on how to identify and market to different leads. Here is a closer look at how you can do it,

Cold leads

You get in touch with cold leads through cold email outreach or cold calling. As already mentioned earlier, they have no idea about your product or service. It is important for salespeople and marketers to know the difference between cold email and email marketing and understand which one suits their business needs better.

You can make the initial contact using email, text, or phone calls. Cold calls target a part of the audience with a problem that your product or service can resolve. It helps let leads know that you know about their pain, which would attract them towards you. You have to get the attention of the prospect by making phone calls and emailing.

1. Send them tailor-made emails – Use emails to get in touch with cold leads and nurture them. You have to show them that your product or service can help in resolving the issues they face. However, you have to give time to the prospect to open up. Don’t start pitching your solution right away.

2. Offer value – You can grab the lead’s interest by adopting a value-based selling approach. This can be done by offering something in return, such as a free trial, free consultation, an attractive discount, or a free e-book. It would be best if you tried to mention it in the email subject line so that the leads open the email. 

3. Get in touch with leads on social media – You can request leads to follow you on social media. It is a great idea to share news and tidbits of information regarding your company.

Warm leads

Identifying warm leads is simple. As you already know, they are the ones that engage with your business in one way or another. They are interested in you, but they also require some nurturing before turning into paying customers. 

Here’s what you can do to market to warm leads,

1. Provide them with customized content based on their needs – Warm leads share their contact details with you. Put them to good use and send warm emails and articles that help solve the leads’ problems. Sending gifts and special discounts on their special day also counts. 

2. Interact on social media – Build a relationship with warm leads on social media by liking and sharing their posts. Creating a network of your warm leads on social media and building a whole community is a good idea. 

3. Meet them in person – Apart from interacting online; it would be better to plan coffee meetings or lunches to solidify relationships further. This would help in shortening the sales cycle. 

Hot leads

You would want hot leads in your Sales pipeline always, don’t you? That is because they are willing to buy your product or service immediately if you are nice to them. The probability of a hot lead converting into a customer is very high. 

Despite the high likelihood of closing the deal, you have to use specific marketing strategies,

1. Keep them in the know – When you add new features to a product or service, it’s better to let the hot leads know about it so that they make an immediate purchase from you.

2. Promote your product or service– As hot leads know about you, you can emphasize your brand in the marketing content you create. They are likely to share it in their circle. 

3. Be nice to them – When you treat hot leads as special individuals, they will turn into loyal customers. Even after that, it is better to give them special discounts and offers. In short, keep a special relationship with hot leads

Benefits of Targeting Different Types of Leads

Cold leads 

Even though the conversion rate of cold leads is low, here are a few benefits of targeting them,

a. They are easy to acquire as getting lists of cold leads from B2B lead generation firms is not challenging.

b. Outsourcing the lead generation task can help you focus on sales activities that contribute to your company’s success.

c. Cold leads are easy to target as you don’t have to look at prospect history to reach out to them. You only need to send an email or make a phone call in the initial step.

Warm leads

Here are the benefits of targeting warm leads,

a. They have higher conversion rates than cold leads due to their prior interest in your product or service.

b. It is easy to begin a dialogue with them and push them ahead in the sales funnel. 

c. You can get in touch with them to understand their unique needs and pitch your product or service.

Hot leads

The main benefit of targeting hot leads is that they are the leads that have the highest conversion rates. They may not be as many as cold and warm leads, but they have the highest chance of closing a sale. That is ultimately what you want as a salesperson.

What To Do When a Warm or Hot Lead Grows Cold?

When warm or hot leads go cold, there are certain things that you can do to revive them, and they are the following,

1. Email them specifically

Try to group the leads that have turned cold and email them asking for the reason for their loss of interest. Use subject lines that rekindle their interest in your product service. You can use a free subject line generator for this purpose.

2. Keep them in the know

You can revive the leads that have gone cold by sending them emails about new launches, fresh pricing, and new features. Try to create a sense of excitement so that the cold leads turn warm again. Put your creative foot forward. 

3.  Try using different channels

Instead of calling and emailing, it is better to search for other channels to engage leads. The point is that you should not annoy the lead in any manner. Bringing an element of freshness in the way you reach out to them looks refreshing.

How To Prevent A Warm Lead From Going Cold?

Here are a few tactics that keep warm leads from going cold,

1. Be in touch with your lead

You have to please your lead and be in touch with them. Doing so will ensure that your leads don’t search for solutions that your rivals offer. Keep your approach positive and friendly while showing that you understand the challenges the leads face.

2. Have a purpose to follow up

It is better to send the optimum amount of follow-ups to the lead. Not too many and not too few. Also, the purpose of sending emails is essential. It can be new offers, launches, features, company updates, and congratulatory messages for achievements and wishes for special days.

3. Keep the timing right

Send emails on suitable days of the week, i.e. when the leads are likely to read them. Similarly, you should call people when they are most likely to be free to speak to you. 

4. Automate email campaigns

Use automation tools to come up with catchy email subject lines and see an increase in open rates. An outreach tool will be of immense help to you as a salesperson. In addition, it will reduce your manual work to a great extent. 

Tips To Increase Close Rate For Cold Prospects

Cold leads are difficult to convert because they don’t know about you and the solution you are offering. You have to build a rapport with them and make them trust you better. Also, show them how you can fix the problems they face and convince them that you are there to help. Here’s how you can do so,

1. Provide social proof

When you provide social proof in your email to cold leads, you show them that you have already helped other customers achieve their goals, making you look more credible. The best social proof you can present includes customer testimonials and case studies. When leads know that you have delivered results for others, they would be more likely to give your solution a try. 

2. Build a relationship

Cold leads require nurturing from your end. After your initial email, you have to come up with calls to discuss your product or service in detail. Give the leads a demo for them to understand the solution in detail. It is the right chance to build a deeper relationship with them.


Leads are not the same every time, and handling each lead differently is the mantra to success. In the comparison between Cold vs Warm vs Hot Sales Leads you must have learned that you have to nurture these leads differently to get desired results. Also, methods of lead generation and marketing strategies for each type of lead are different for each category of leads. Another essential point to note is that you should try your best in keeping warm and hot leads from turning cold. 

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