How to Classify Sales Leads: Cold, Warm, and Hot


Lead generation and prospecting is often the most challenging part of business for several businesses and sales professionals. Fortunately, there is a wealth of knowledge out there today to assist you in finding the best leads for your business. You don’t have to read a 10,000-word eBook on lead gen (although it might not hurt if you do). You can learn a lot just by taking a few notes from what others are doing. 

Of course, we’re here to help as always and have taken the time to break down the three most common types of leads that your business will have so that you know what each entails. Even more important, you’ll know how to properly proceed with each one to help them move to the next stage of the buying journey. 

It's a delicate balance these days—you have to find a way to connect with people and make them feel valued without being pushy or overreaching when it’s too early in their journey. However, when you strike the right balance, you can make sure that all of your leads are getting the right attention and that your lead generation as a whole has improved. 

Real quick, for those who are still learning here, let’s talk about what a “lead” is. Sales leads, as they’re also known, are the people (or companies) that are potential clients or customers for your business. If you’re a B2B company, these will be other businesses. If you’re a B2C, your leads will be individual consumers. 

Understanding where your leads are at and how you can help them reach the next stage of the customer journey is going to change the way that you handle your lead generation and qualification. It will also give you the chance to build better relationships and convert more prospects than ever before. 

Cold leads

Cold leads are just as they sound—leads or prospects with which you have no previous contact or relationship. You’re just reaching out to them to see if they may have interest in your products or services and you have no established rapport or connection. These leads are often the hardest to work with for a business, but they don’t have to be intimidating. 

Today’s business world makes cold leads easier to deal with than ever before. Many companies are whittling away at their “cold” category by building an online brand image and presence that makes sure everyone knows their name. This can unwittingly turn a lot of cold leads into potential warm leads without you doing anything extra. Of course, you can’t rely on things like this, so you have to know how to properly address these leads to have the best chance of moving them to the “warm” category. 

Warm leads

The warm leads are the ones who already have some interest in your business or what you’re selling. They’ve reached out to you via Facebook, your website, or another medium. Perhaps they’ve signed up for your newsletter but have yet to actually convert to a customer. In any case, these leads range from tepid to almost hot, depending on who they are and where they come from. 

Warm leads are easier to deal with than cold leads. They’re also often the source of a lot of inbound calls. Unlike cold leads where you have to reach out and try to connect with people, most of your warm leads are going to come looking for you. Prospects who want to know more about your company are far more likely to become paying customers or clients. 

Of course, that doesn’t mean that they don’t still need nurturing. You’ll want to continue to educate people and inform them about the products or services that you provide. You’ll also want to continue encouraging them to carry on through the buying journey, in a warm, inviting manner. No one likes pushy salespeople anymore. 

Hot prospects

If you’ve done your job (or lucked into finding someone who’s already “arrived” on their buying journey), you should have some leads that are red-hot and ready to close. These are better than warm leads because they’re that much further in the buying journey. They also have a much better idea of what they want and need, and how your company can help them along the way. 

Often, a hot prospect is one conversation or step away from closing a deal. You might think they’re already there, but no deal is closed until the transaction has been completed. Too often, businesses get leads to this point and then assume they’ll finish the journey themselves. Some might, but others will be quite shocked if you suddenly drop the ball this late in the game and leave them to their own devices. 

Hot leads have already identified their needs and how your business can help them resolve the issues they have. They are actively looking for solutions and they are qualified leads, which means you have weeded out the junk by this point in the journey. These people are often looking for assistance in completing a transaction or starting a relationship, and all you have to do is facilitate the rest of the journey. 

Never worry about managing leads again when you partner with

No matter what kind of sales leads you have, or how many of them there are, you can trust the dedicated receptionists at to handle them all. We’ll take care of all of your follow-up, lead generation and intake, and anything else that you need. Our 24/7 agents can provide full solutions for inbound and outbound sales and support, including a customized plan to help you manage it all. 

Ask abouthow we can assist with after-hours answering, live website chat, scheduling, payment collection, and so much more. 

Schedule a consultation to discuss what our virtual receptionists can do to streamline your lead qualification process and more. You’ll also reach us at or (650) 727-6484. 

Business Education
Sales Tips
Written by Samir Sampat

Samir Sampat is a Marketing Manager with He has experience working with businesses of all sizes focusing on marketing, communications, and business development.

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