Sales leads debunked: The 3 types of sales leads

We all hear sales people say: “This call was not a qualified sales lead!”

Ok, let me try to clarify the 3 different types of B2B sales leads and why there is no one-fits-all:



1. Referral Leads

Referral leads come from referrals of your former and existing customers and from your activities in your personal networks.



  • It feels most natural and human for the seller.
  • They have a high conversion rate.  There is already an initial trust bridge.
  • They are partly into the decision process.
  • They come for low costs and with low effort.
  • Very short time-to-first-lead.



  • Not predictable and repeatable.
  • Impossible to systematically scale.
  • Often, they are not your ideal customers (ICP).


2. Inbound Leads

Inbound leads come from website forms and social media – triggered by your SEO, paid traffic, and content marketing efforts.



  • They are further down the buyer journey and usually “ready to buy”.
  • This is the lead type that most sales processes and techniques are designed for.
  • Very repeatable and often scalable.



  • There’s a lot of (expensive) noise in your inbound leads.
  • They talk to many others as well.
  • Very costly (PPC) and very time consuming (content creation).


3. Outbound Leads

Outbound leads come from your “cold outreach” activities such as cold calling, email prospecting, LinkedIn messaging.



  • Very predictable, repeatable and scalable.
  • They don’t talk to many others and you can create/influence their demand.
  • Only the right (ICP) prospects are contacted– no distractions with poor fit clients.


  • Often, they are early in their buyer journey and require an account executive to nurture and move them further down the sales pipeline.
  • Longer time-to-first-lead due to ramp-up.


So, the question is: What type of leads do you want?

  1. Squeeze out some more random leads –> work your personal network and ask for referrals.
  2. Massively scale up a successfully tested market segment –> go for Inbound Lead Generation.
  3. Test and work a new market segment –> go for Outbound Lead Generation.
  4. Generate your account executives an uninterrupted flow of qualified sales leads for relatively small money –> go for Outbound Lead Generation.


If you want to test and work the German speaking DACH market (#3) or if you want to generate an uninterrupted flow of qualified B2B sales leads for your account executives in DACH (#4), then you should take a look at our outbound lead generation service.



Outbound B2B Lead Generation in DACH



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