At ActiveProspect we process millions of leads per month for all types of customers. We split these into two main groups – marketing leads and sales leads. Before explaining the difference between marketing leads and sales leads, let’s start by defining a lead. A lead is someone that has proactively expressed interest in your product or service by taking an action such as filling out a web form. Marketing leads are used for ongoing marketing campaigns, and sales leads are sent directly into an outbound sales process.

At ActiveProspect, we collect both marketing leads and sales leads on our website. Below are examples. We use a very different lead flow process for our marketing leads versus our sales leads. Note we also give visitors the option to call or chat on the site.

Marketing Lead Form:

Sales Lead Form:

There are lots of articles about marketing qualified leads (MQLs) versus sale qualified leads (SQLs). Those terms are about the stages of a lead primarily in the context of a B2B sales process. While there might be some overlap, this is a different discussion. There are many companies that buy leads that don’t even have an outbound sales process. They are acquiring marketing leads with no intent of “qualifying them” for another stage in the sales process – they are building a database to be leveraged over time.

Marketing Leads

Marketing leads have expressed an interest in learning more but aren’t necessarily ready to buy.  A marketing lead could be a subscriber to your email newsletter or someone that downloads one of your white papers. An E-Commerce company might acquire marketing leads in the form of email subscribers with the goal that they will eventually make a purchase on the site. A Consumer Packaged Goods company might use marketing leads for a loyalty program to distribute special offers or samples to their customer base. Their marketing database provides a means to build and maintain a relationship with their customers – even though purchases are made through retailers/distributors.

Marketing leads are typically comprised of only a few data fields (name & email) and are cheaper to acquire than sales leads. A marketing lead might be generated via Facebook Lead Ads or a CPL ad placement on a registration path. A marketing lead might eventually turn into a sales lead, but that is not necessarily the goal.

Sales Leads

Sales leads are meant to be contacted directly by a salesperson. They are leads that have requested contact by submitting your “Talk to Sales” form on your website or completing a quote request on a comparison site.

For example, when a mortgage lender buys a lead from, that is a sales lead. That consumer has filled out a form to get mortgage quotes from multiple mortgage lenders. They are in the market to purchase your product now. Sales leads are typically comprised of more data fields (name, email, phone and address) and are more expensive to acquire than marketing leads.

While it is important to respond to all leads quickly, when dealing with sales leads every second counts. Companies that buy shared leads from comparison sites often try to call the consumer within seconds of form submission.

Marketing Lead Sales Lead
Purchase Intent Low High
Cost Low High
Primary use Email campaigns Outbound calls
Data fields Few (name & email) More (include phone #)
Exclusivity Almost always Often shared


Even if your company doesn’t collect sales leads, lead acquisition should be part of your marketing mix. At a minimum, every company needs marketing leads to fuel their ongoing marketing efforts.