I am working in online advertising industry, and many time people use the word lead is kind of something that a company should achieve. Lead sometimes means a customers who actually bought products or services of the company, but sometimes it also means a customer can just needs to provide his information like name, address, phone to the company.

For example, say, our company got a website about game. In that website, we got a form to ask customer to provide their personal info like email, phone, address... After signed up, the customer can see some demo of the game, but they can not play the game. They can only play the game if they actually pay for it.

So that customer who only signed up the info without paying for product or service is called "customer lead" or something like that.

So what does "customer/sales/product lead" mean?

  • Yeah, I'm not sure where/how it originated, but I believe that "lead" was first used in detective jargon to describe a hint or clue, in particular with regard to a potential individual to investigate ("We got a lead on the Parker case."). It got appropriated by the sales community to mean a clue to a potential customer. – Hot Licks Mar 9 '15 at 4:23
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    It needs to be noted that "lead" is also used to mean "the person in charge". As a result, "sales lead" could mean either a potential customer or the head of the sales department -- you need to figure out which from the context. – Hot Licks Mar 9 '15 at 18:14
  • quite right on both counts HL. two excellent points. – Fattie Mar 10 '15 at 1:54

In this context, "lead" means a potential customer.


in sales, you have "lead generation" and then "closing"

as zen says a "lead" is a "contact" or "potential customer".

for example you're selling new windows for houses.

you have mailbox-stuffers put (let's say) 100,000 brochures in 100,000 mailboxes in your area.

at the bottom of the brochure it says "contact us here _ _ _ if you're interested!"

of course, of the 100,000 brochures, you may only get 1000 "leads"

of those 1000 "leads", only 10 or 20 may be "closed" (converted to sales)


A lead is quite similar to an introducer, influencer, or any person who sends referrals to a business firm.

"Potential" is an adjective which means that something has the possibility to become something else.

In this sense and to keep it simple, I would term mere signups - potential lead/customers. Those who might not necessarily become a customer themselves.

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    this: "A lead is quite similar to an introducer, influencer, or any person who sends referrals to a business firm." is totally wrong I'm afraid. introducers, influencers, etc are people who generate "leads". a "lead" is one "known possible customer". the phrase "potential lead" is meaningless. a "potential customer" is in fact "a lead". – Fattie Mar 10 '15 at 1:56
  • "signups" are in fact .. leads. interchangeable. it's exactly how the term is used in online marketing universe. – Fattie Mar 10 '15 at 1:56

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