Lead vs Prospect vs Opportunity – How To Upgrade Each

To properly convert incoming leads into qualified opportunities, you need to understand the definitions of people going through your sales funnels at each stage.

In this article, I’ll define each visitor step and how to upgrade from one to the other.

What Is a Basic Sales Funnel?

If you’re serious about making money from your WordPress business, you must understand a basic sales funnel.

The standard sales funnel follows the AIDA model.

Awareness = what is it that you are offering?

Interest = I like what you are offering.

Desire = I want what you are offering.

Action = I’m getting what you are offering right now!

The AIDA sales funnel describes your website visitors’ different states when engaging with your website content.

At the top of the funnel are cold leads who you attract with interesting content that relates to their situation, problems and issues.

The leads get warmer as they move down the funnel, engaging with more of your targeted content with the hopeful final result that they take action to buy your products or services.

What Is a Lead?

A lead is a contact who has entered the very top of your sales funnel.

This is considered a cold lead.

They may have come across your blog post in a Google search or your free offer that may be a checklist, PDF guide or latest podcast episode.

A lead is not yet ready to buy anything from you as there is no trust or relationship.

Attracting as many leads as possible into your sales funnel is essential, as only a small percentage will end up moving through your sales funnel to become clients or customers.

Leads have not yet been qualified.  

That means the individual may not be a good fit for your ideal customer avatar (ICA).  If they are not a good fit, they will unlikely buy anything from you.

What Is an Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA)?

An ICA is a profile you have created that matches an individual who is the most likely to purchase your product or service.

It’s the ideal client that you want to work with.

What Is a Prospect?

A prospect is a qualified lead or, in other words, what the industry terms a ‘warm lead’.

Prospects have been qualified to match your ideal customer avatar (ICA), and because they are a good fit, they are more likely to purchase what you offer.

Prospects are in the middle of your sales funnel.  They have a problem and are interested in the solutions that you may offer.  

What Is an Opportunity?

An opportunity is a qualified prospect that has a high chance of purchasing what you have to offer.

An opportunity must exhibit at least the following three characteristics.

1. Pain

The individual has a pain point or issue that needs to be addressed.

People usually purchase something to solve a problem or issue, transforming themselves from a perceived bad situation into a better one.

That could be making more money, getting more clients, feeling happier, losing weight, having more robust mental health etc.

Your digital marketing strategy has created content highlighting solutions to the pain points and issues your ICA may be experiencing.

2. Interest

The individual needs to be interested in solving their pain points.

For example, if they have been living with the issue for the past 20 years, it’s less likely they are interested in a solution than somebody who has only had the same issue for a year or less.

When looking for an opportunity, you need to qualify their immediate interest in solving their problems.

3. Fit

The opportunity needs to be a good fit for the solution you are offering.

Consider a prospect with a pressing need and a strong desire to solve the problem.

If they are a sole trader freelancer and your offer is targeted at businesses with 100+ employees and a management structure, then that is not a good fit, and they are unlikely to purchase your offer.

How To Upgrade a Lead To a Prospect?

When a lead enters the top of your sales funnel, they have no engagement with you, no opportunity to build trust or assess your authority, and are considered cold leads.

You must nurture cold leads by offering them valuable content that they find useful.

If a cold lead stumbles across your blog posts during searching, your blog posts should have a clear call to action (CTA) at the end to encourage them to sign up for an offer or your newsletter so that you can capture their name and email.

If they are not interested, they will unsubscribe from your email list, and that’s not bad because it’s unlikely they would purchase from you anyway.

You can then target cold leads with an email nurturing campaign highlighting the content and offers you provide to further help them solve their pain points.

This will build engagement, trust and authority, and if they stay engaged with the content you offer, you qualify them as a good fit for your ICA.

How To Upgrade a Prospect To an Opportunity?

A prospect is a warm lead who would consider purchasing something from you, but they are not quite in purchase mode yet.

To upgrade a prospect to an opportunity, you need to know (qualify) that 1) their pain point is a match for the solution that you offer, 2) that they have an immediate interest in solving their pain point, and 3) they are the right fit for your solution.

A direct conversation with an individual has a higher chance of converting a prospect into an opportunity.

This can be done as a phone call, a video chat, an email, or over text or online messenger-like chat.

How To Upgrade a Lead to an Opportunity?

Upgrading a lead to a sales opportunity is challenging but not impossible.

Your highest chance of success in converting a cold lead into an opportunity is to have a direct conversation with them in person, over the phone or through a video chat.

You must listen to their pain points, try to qualify if they are a good fit for your offer, and address their immediate need and fit for your solution.

In the real world of freelance web designers and developers, this situation often happens when you receive an email or a phone call from someone looking for a quote for your services, having been referred to you by a friend or colleague.


Knowing the stage individuals are at in your sales funnel allows you to create a content strategy to guide them through your funnel, upgrading them from cold leads to prospects and sales opportunities.

Ideal Customer Avatar Guide

Ideal Customer Avatar (ICA)

Understand who you are selling to with my FREE easy-to-use Ideal Customer Avatar guide and template.

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