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What Are the 3 Different Groups of Leads?

Leads refer to individuals or companies that have expressed an interest in your company’s products or services. Obtaining and nurturing leads is essential to the success of any business, so it’s important to understand the different types in order to know how to approach a lead and grow your business.

What are the major types of leads?

Leads can be classified in various ways depending on the organization or which department is handling the lead. Classification of leads can be determined by level of engagement, readiness to purchase, or where they are in the sales funnel. These are often identified as cold, warm, or hot leads then further classified as marketing qualified, sales qualified, product qualified, or service qualified leads.  They could also be categorized based on how the lead was obtained (i.e., inbound, outbound, or referral) or through what marketing method the lead was procured (i.e., digital vs. traditional). The types of leads in digital marketing will be online leads that have typically been obtained using inbound or referral marketing, whereas traditional marketing produces offline leads that tend to use more outbound marketing methods.

How many types of leads are there?

There are a number of different types of leads in marketing and sales, depending on the criteria you are using to categorize them. We will focus on the three major categories for sales along with the four types they can further be broken down into.

What are the 3 types of leads?

As discussed, there are several different types of leads, but what are the classifications of leads in sales? Sales leads can be divided into three different types:

  • Cold leads: Cold leads refer to those leads that have shown little to no interest in your business. They may not be aware of your brand at all or may have only heard the name but not know anything about your products or services. Cold leads have not been in contact with your company and may even be resistant to attempts you have made to contact them.
  • Warm leads: Warms leads are leads that have shown some level of interest in your business and what you have to offer. They might not be ready to make a purchase just yet, but they may have visited your website, filled out a contact form, subscribed to your email list, followed you on social media, or contacted your company to ask a question or gain information.
  • Hot leads: Hot leads describe people who have expressed a high level of interest in your products or services and are ready to make a purchase from your company. They may have requested a quote, used a free trial, or simply expressed an immediate need that your offering will fulfill. 

What are the classifications of leads?

Leads are classified based on how qualified they are and what stage of the sales funnel they’re in. These are the types of leads in lead generation and are important to the success of the company.

  • Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): MQLs have engaged with your marketing materials, but they aren’t ready to make a purchase. They have expressed some interest but may need more lead nurturing to move further along in the buying process.
  • Sales Qualified Lead (SQL): SQLs are leads that have indicated they have interest in purchasing your product. They have engaged with your company in some form and have the need, resources, and authority to buy.
  • Product Qualified Lead (PQL): PQLs refer to those that have tried your product or service, usually through a free trial or sample, and are interested in becoming a paying customer.
  • Service Qualified Lead (also referred to as SQL): SQLs have interacted with your product or service offerings and are ready to buy. This includes existing customers who are looking to upgrade to a premium version.


Classifying leads into the different types is a way to help marketing and sales teams prioritize and tailor their efforts based on what type of lead they are interacting with. You should have methods or software in place to track and manage data on your leads, so you can focus on guiding the highest quality leads through the sales funnel and turning them into paying customers.