Cold Leads vs. Warm Leads: Differences in B2B Outreach

Every successful B2B sale starts with a lead. However, the journey from the top of the sales funnel to a purchasing decision can be long and bumpy unless you know how to classify and nurture your leads.

Before applying B2B outbound strategies, you need to define your leads to better understand how to convert them into prospects. This, in turn, will ensure a smoother and faster ride into the buyer's journey.

Want to find out how to convert those leads? Let’s look at the different types of B2B sales leads and how to prospect them the right way to close more deals.

Sales Leads Classification: Cold, Warm, and Hot

In B2B sales, leads are classified into three main categories: cold, warm, and hot leads. Every lead category is different, and so are the ways to nurture them. While some will require less time to convert into sales, others will take longer before purchasing your product. 

There is no universal strategy that will work with each lead, but each one is valuable, and with the right prospecting strategy, it can become as warm as you want. Let’s explore the three different types of leads in the B2B sales journey.

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What is a cold lead in sales?

At the beginning of the B2B lead generation journey, all the leads are cold. It means that your current warm leads were once cold, and the same applies to hot leads. It’s up to the strategies you use to make them move faster down the sales pipeline or forever stay cold. 

Cold leads require the most of your time and effort to turn them into prospects because they stand at the top of the sales funnel. They have very little or no knowledge about your business yet and, as a result, have never shared any information with you nor expressed any interest in your services.

What is a warm lead in sales?

Warm leads have already moved one step further toward purchasing your product or services. They have visited your website or answered your email. Therefore, they are aware of the value proposition and have shared their contact information with you. Although they won’t buy right away, they may be ready to hear you out and consider your business. 

A warm lead is a transitional step between cold and hot leads, which, if you play your cards right, may convert into a hot lead and later into your prospect. While cold leads are reluctant to receive your emails or visit your website, warm and hot leads have already passed that stage and are ready to be nurtured. 

Warm leads are easier to handle than cold leads because you’ve already connected with them and have done the groundwork. However, you still need to prove that your services can enhance their business and offer them solutions. 

What is a hot lead in sales?

Hot leads are what every business strives for because they generally take less time to convert into sales. They are the most desirable leads as they have a substantial interest and necessity in your service. Having hot leads implies that your business has done a great job offering personalized treatment, managing to grab their attention, and building trust in the relationship. 

Hot leads are also known as qualified leads because they meet all the criteria for being qualified to convert into a customer. To distinguish qualified leads among others, sales development representatives (SDRs) apply different lead qualification methods in their outreach. Popular methods, such as BANT, ChAMP, ANUM, and NOTE, are used to determine potential prospects based on various metrics to convert them.

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How Do You Prospect Cold vs. Warm Leads?

To secure a progressive journey of the leads through the sales funnel, you should have an effective B2B outbound strategy to reach out to every type of lead. Since they are in the different stages of a buyer’s journey, they need to be nurtured differently. 

Cold leads, for example, are not the easiest crowd to work with, but this is because you haven’t gotten a chance to show your value and form a meaningful connection. Whereas, warm leads tend to be a bit more delicate: You shouldn’t overwhelm them with too much information, nor should you leave too much space for the competitors to get involved.

Prospecting cold leads

Cold leads are not familiar with your service yet, so you’ll want to grab their attention. Use these strategies to warm them up and gain their interest:

- Cold emails. When composed correctly, cold emails are exceptional for creating awareness among possible prospects. Pay attention to the subject lines you create and keep the body of the email short and to the point. 

According to Salesloft, cold email personalization is crucial to increase your response rate, an estimated 112 percent. So before crafting that email, spend some time doing thorough research on your recipient before reaching out. 

- Cold calls. Many businesses lack the certainty of where to begin prospecting the leads. CIENCE’s recommendation is to start with an email, wait till your leads read it, and then give them a call. Establishing a good connection will be easier when your lead is familiar with your business. 

Social media. Same for everyone who has favorite channels to connect, businesses also have their preferences. According to a recent CIENCE survey, a majority of prospects prefer to be contacted by LinkedIn. You could, for example, create a profile on LinkedIn, connect to your prospects, and keep them informed about your business by posting up-to-date content.

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Prospecting warm leads

Warm leads have already expressed interest in your company and shown you their pain points by answering your surveys, emails, or calls. If you want to stand out from your competitors and meet your buyers’ needs, you can apply these strategies:

- Clients’ testimonials. When considering purchasing a product or service, people like to know that others use it and share their thoughts about it. Reading positive clients’ reviews or case studies can give you an extra boost of credibility. 

- Personalized content. Another way to prospect warm leads is to target them with personalized content. Landing pages, blog posts, emails, and other content that match their interests will aim them toward a purchasing decision. People like to have a one-on-one experience and engage with something that relates specifically to them. 

- Real conversations. If you have managed to build a trustworthy foundation between you and your warm lead, you could invite them to meet in person or a Zoom chat, answer their questions, and negotiate about further cooperation. Regardless of where your meeting takes place, online or offline, real interaction is of great value. 

Most of the work is already behind you if you successfully moved a cold lead from the very top of the sales funnel up until the end. However, do not forget to keep nurturing your buyers so they will remain your loyal customers. It will be highly appreciated and may win you a bunch of new prospects.

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Warm Up Your Leads with Outbound

Putting your business out there and expecting to get substantial results in the form of a high number of sales leads is a challenging process. But this is not where the challenges end. To successfully prospect cold and warm leads, you should carefully identify their needs, interests, and characteristics. Then you can pick some of these strategies that fit the best, use them, and expect the best outcomes from building those relationships.