March 3, 2022

Sales Prospecting vs Lead Generation: The Ultimate Guide

Sales Prospecting vs Lead Generation: The Ultimate Guide | Mixmax
  • What is sales prospecting?
  • Examples of sales prospecting
  • What is lead generation?
  • Examples of lead generation
  • Differences between sales prospecting and lead generation
  • How do sales prospecting and lead generation work together?
  • Should you invest in sales prospecting vs lead generation?
  • The last word

Sales prospecting and lead generation are both designed to fill your sales pipeline with potential customers. But they’re not the same thing.

So what’s the difference? 

Good question.  

Talk to a lot of people and you’ll end up more confused than before, as they’re often used interchangeably. 

It’s important to get it right, though, as the right process for your company depends on your product, customer base, stage of growth, and more. 

Get it wrong and you could be wasting valuable time and resources. 

We asked our top prospectors to clear up the differences between sales prospecting vs lead generation.

Read this to kiss goodbye to your doubts about:  

  • What sales prospecting is. 
  • What lead generation is. 
  • What the difference between them is. 
  • How they work together to drive revenue creation. 
  • Which is right for your company. 

Let there be light…

Looking for a sales prospecting tool that works for all your sales teams? Mixmax helps you fill your pipeline with prospects and drive revenue creation. 

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What is sales prospecting?

Sales prospecting is the process of identifying and contacting potential new customers, known as prospects. A prospect is any individual or organization that’s a good fit for and can benefit from your solution.  

Prospecting activities are the first stage of the sales process and are carried out by sales teams. Mostly, but not exclusively, sales development representatives (SDRs). Account executives (AEs) also prospect in many companies.  

Sales prospectors seek out, contact, and qualify prospects with the aim of setting up meetings with their AEs, who then take over and guide prospects through the sales funnel until they close the deal.

Outbound Sales Funnel

Examples of sales prospecting

Sales prospecting is a very time-consuming process involving a lot of different activities. Some happen at the level of the company or sales team, others are down to individual salespeople. 

Here are just a few: 

Tasks carried out at company or sales team level, or by a product marketer if your company has one: 

  • Calculating your total addressable market (TAM, the total number of prospects available in your target market). 
  • Creating an ideal customer profile (ICP) with firmographics and technographics of the target customer company. 
  • Creating buyer personas (BP) profiling individual roles, responsibilities, and challenges, and how your solution can solve them. 

Here’s our editable template we made earlier, especially for you:

Buyer persona template
  • Researching prospects and their challenges using sales prospecting tools like ZoomInfo, Diffbot, etc., databases, and online sources.

Tasks carried out by the sales leader or RevOps: 

  • Building a prospecting list of verified contacts using tools like LeadIQ or ZoomInfo. 

    Graphic showing prospect contact details captured by LeadIQ

Tasks carried out by individual sales reps: 

  • Tracking industry news, company hirings, prospect job changes, etc. using B2B sales prospecting tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator to identify sales opportunities and determine the best time for outreach.  
  • Social selling. So, identifying and engaging with prospects on social media, sending LinkedIn messages, etc. to warm prospects up before outreach. 
  • Qualifying inbound leads from marketing before placing them in the sales pipeline. This involves reaching out to determine whether they genuinely need your product and have the authority to buy, so you don’t waste time and resources on lukewarm leads. 
  • Performing cold outreach via email, phone, etc. 
  • Scripting sales and setting an agenda for meetings.  
  • Booking client meetings with AEs. 
  • Taking the time to listen to prospects, understand their challenges, and build relationships. 
  • Using a sales engagement platform like Mixmax to run multi-channel prospecting sequences, customize sales prospecting email templates with prospect data from your CRM, and leverage features like best-time-of-day scheduling, easy calendar scheduling, etc. to maximize the chances of getting a response. 
  • Asking existing customers for referrals.

Mixmax in-email poll

Mixmax in-email poll

Related Post: 75 Sales Prospecting Email Subject Lines to Get More Responses

What is lead generation?

Lead generation is carried out by the marketing team to build brand awareness, generate interest in and demand for a product, and capture contact information to build prospecting and marketing lists. 

Lead generation strategies aim to create a consistent pipeline of leads that have a high chance of converting into customers following qualification and nurturing by the sales team. 

Inbound leads are known as marketing qualified leads (MQL) since they’ve demonstrated interest in your product and company by interacting with you in some way.

Examples of lead generation

Some tactics in the marketer’s arsenal include:  


  • Researching customer pain points. 
  • Creating marketing buyer personas, which usually include more demographic and personal data than sales BPs.
Marketing buyer persona profile
  • Identifying which channels potential customers use, and how to best engage them. 
  • Identifying what content they consume and how.
  • Creating landing pages and online forms to capture inbound contact information when someone signs up for a webinar or newsletter, or downloads a lead magnet.

Outbound activities:  

  • Performing content marketing activities, like creating lead magnets—white papers, video tutorials, blogs, etc.—and sharing them via email, social media, on the company website, etc.
Downloadable lead magnet report and call-to-action


  • Performing account-based marketing using tools like Triblio, which enable marketers to reach out to prospects in the same target account with content personalized for them.   
  • Using marketing automation tools to carry out streamlined, repeatable one-to-many outreach. For example, email marketing via Mailchimp to share event invites, product announcements, offers, company milestones, and more.
Two boxes showing Mailchimp marketing automation rules and sample marketing message
  • Lead nurturing: Sharing content designed to generate desire for your product with leads who aren’t yet ready to buy. 

Differences between sales prospecting and lead generation

Sales prospecting and lead generation are both designed to pack your pipeline with prospects, but they differ in several ways.

Prospecting vs Lead generation

  • Sales prospecting is a short-term process designed to generate results faster than lead generation, which tends to be a slower, more long-term strategy.
  • Prospecting is a highly focused, hyper-personalized activity targeting a relatively small group of people. Think of us as sales process snipers. And while lead generation isn’t exactly spraying bullets, it targets a much wider audience to generate a larger volume of contacts.
  • Inbound leads are aware of your company on some level and have demonstrated intent and interest by interacting with your content, which makes starting a conversation and converting them easier.

    Prospects, on other hand, don’t yet know you, even though they may need your product, which means conversions take longer. And there’s no guarantee of success. You might target the right person with the right solution, but for one reason or another, they’re just not in a position to buy.

    However, outbound prospecting does give you more control over who you interact with. With lead generation, you can put out messaging targeting a specific industry or persona, but you have limited control over who responds. If you’re swamped with requests for demos and meetings from leads that don’t fit your ICP or don’t have authority to buy, they could eat into your time and resources without resulting in a sale. 

    And while MQLs from inbound marketing campaigns are warm leads, they still need to be qualified by sales to check whether they’re worth pursuing.

    By contrast, outbound prospecting allows you to pick prospects you know could benefit from your solution. So these leads are often more valuable, and the resulting deals tend to be larger. 

  • Lead generation is one-way communication that’s all about your product. Good prospecting, on the other hand, should be all about the customer, with a lot of two-way communication and sales prospecting techniques like a high listen-to-talk ratio to establish trust. 
  • With lead generation, there’s little immediate engagement beyond the automated response that lands in your inbox seconds after you download a lead magnet. 

Prospecting, however, involves a lot more personalization and one-to-one engagement via email, phone and video calls, LinkedIn messaging, etc. When a prospect engages with content shared via Mixmax, real-time engagement alerts mean they’ll get a personalized follow-up call from the sales rep.  

The amount of engagement and personalization means there’s a lot to keep on top of. That’s why busy sales teams use tools like Mixmax to personalize multi-channel outreach at scale. 

Features like in-email CTAs, calendar scheduling, visuals, polls & surveys, and funny GIFs also reduce friction, achieve pattern interruption, and maximize the chances of getting a response. And performance tracking tells them which templates, sales prospecting email subject lines, content, etc. are working. 

Mixmax also takes a load off by automating workflows, reminders, and follow-up, and syncing to your CRM to save time and eliminate busywork. 

New lead - eliminate data entry

Mixmax Rules


Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Sales Qualification: Steps and Questions

How do sales prospecting and lead generation work together?

In an ideal world, sales and marketing departments should work together as one aligned revenue creation monster. When everyone’s on the same page, sales prospecting is helped tremendously by marketing strategies that build brand awareness and thought leadership. 

When an SDR sends out a cold email to a new prospect, the first thing that prospect will do is check out your company webpage or social media. If they find good content that gets them excited about the email they received, they’re more likely to respond. 

And, as we said, prospecting is a short-term process, so having lead generation strategies running in the background keeps a steady stream of MQLs coming in so the pipe never runs dry. 

And while sales and marketing use different tools, ABMs like Triblio benefit both teams by tracking buyer behavior and engagement with marketing campaigns, which allows SDRs to reach out when purchase intent is high.  

Graphic showing range of Triblio activity tracking

Should you invest in sales prospecting vs lead generation?

Every company, product, and ICP is different, so decisions about whether to invest in sales prospecting vs lead generation should be taken at C-suite level by execs who understand which go-to-market strategy is best for your business model and stage of growth.  

There are no hard and fast rules here, but if: 

  • Your prospects need a lot of one-to-one communication, education, and nurturing with tailored demos, proposals, and quotes.

  • You have a long sales cycle with a lot of decision makers involved. 

  • You’re a very small business closing high-value deals. 

You may prefer to focus on sales prospecting, so you can allocate resources to targeting selected prospects with messaging that’s highly tailored to their role, company, and challenges. 

If, however: 

  • Your product appeals to a very broad audience and you want to get your message out to as many people as possible.  

  • Your go-to-market strategy is based on product-led growth, so the product almost sells itself. 

Then you may be able to survive on lead generation for quite some time.

Urgency and the health of your pipeline will also dictate which you choose. Prospecting is like an energy bar, designed to give you a (relatively) quick boost. Lead generation is more of a long-term healthy eating plan: You won’t see the results for a while, but it should contribute to generating a steadier flow of new business.

The last word 

In an ideal world, sales strategies and lead generation processes work together to keep your pipeline plump. 

The world is far from ideal, though, so you need to know which to invest in and when.  

Sales prospecting is a highly-targeted, short-term activity carried out by sales teams that involves a lot of personalization, engagement, one-to-one communication, and nurturing.  

Lead generation is a more impersonal, one-to-many process designed to generate demand for your product and bring in large numbers of warm leads over a longer period of time. 

Which is right for you will depend on your product, target audience, size and stage of growth, length and complexity of your sales cycle, and the deals you’re trying to land.  

If you’re a fast-growing company using Gmail and Salesforce, give your sales teams an edge by investing in an all-in-one sales enablement platform like Mixmax that integrates with other popular tools to supercharge your prospecting.


Looking for a sales prospecting tool that works for all your sales teams? Mixmax helps you fill your pipeline with prospects and drive revenue creation.

Request a demo

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