No matter what kind of business you run, lead generation is likely a crucial part of bringing money in and making your business work. But if you’re not generating those leads internally, you’ll need some way to feed your team with good leads that can be turned into a contributing part of your revenue stream.

However, lead generation services are all over the map. Good leads are still good leads, but bad leads are, well, worthless. And if you’re buying leads, it’s important to get leads that you can turn into paying customers. With the right lead generation partner, you’ll find that a steady stream of good leads can mean the difference between a successful quarter and a lackluster one.

What Is a Lead?
While most people have an idea of what a lead is, many teams and businesses use the term interchangeably even though everyone knows that some leads are better than others.

In general, a lead is essentially any contact in your database. Ideally, they’re potential customers that have expressed an interest in your products or services, but they could also be bad leads — harvested emails, scraped numbers and the like that are unlikely to ever convert. These are basic leads, and a lot of times it’s just a vanity metric that measures the size of your database without regard for potential or a likelihood of converting into a paying customer.

Instead, the real value is in qualified leads from the lead generation service you use — leads that match your target customer profile and has both the means and the ability to pay for and utilize your offering. Unlike generic leads, qualified leads represent potential customers. They may not yet have expressed an interest in your company, but they’re at least a member of your target audience.

The next level of leads is a sales qualified lead. These are leads that are not only a member of your target audience, but they’re also expressly interested in your product or service. Ideally, if you’re paying for leads, these are the leads that are most valuable what you should be shooting for. Whether they’re requesting more information or are waiting for a phone call, consultation or demo, these leads are just one step away from becoming a customer.

It’s About Quality, Not Quantity
When you’re considering how much to pay for lead generation services, the most important thing is to look at what you’re actually getting. So-called leads that may have no interest in your product or that aren’t in your target audience are essentially worthless, even if you got thousands of leads for pennies on the dollar.

Years ago, it used to be possible to assemble a huge funnel of generic leads, letting potential customers work their way through a complicated buyer journey of research and self-guided investigation until they were ready to discuss their options with a salesperson.

Today, there’s so much bad and redundant information out there that customers have all but given up. Instead of spending hours, days and weeks researching their options, they want quick and effective solutions to their problems without all the runaround. That greatly benefits nimble sales teams that can get in front of the right people — as well as lead generation services that bring those people right to your door.