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Lead Generation vs Sales: Which Objective Do You Choose? | inSyte Blog

Lead Generation vs Sales: Which Objective Suits Your Business Better? 

One of the most important things you need to decide when setting up your digital marketing campaigns is the overall objective or goal you want to accomplish. 

After all, if you don’t know what you’re aiming to achieve, how do you know when you’ve succeeded? 

The two basic objectives you’ll want to use most of the time are lead generation or sales.

This is because they’re the easiest objectives to compare with your marketing spend to determine an ROI.

We believe good marketing should always have a measurable and tangible result. 

So how do you know which objective is better for your business? 

We’ll give you an overview below, so you know how to get started. 

What is Lead Generation? 

Leads are the marketing term for prospective consumers we channel into our sales processes to convert them into a paying customer later down the line. 

There are many kinds of leads, but in this context, we’re specifically talking about sales leads.

I.e. leads which you follow up on to result in direct sales rather than something else, like signup to a newsletter for example. 

To understand the difference between leads and sales we need to look at the purchase funnel:

The purchase funnel represents the overall journey consumers take with your business. 

They begin at the top of the funnel with a basic awareness of your product, and journey down to the point where they ultimately purchase your product or service. 

As you go down the funnel, you naturally lose some consumers because no product is for everyone. 

Lead generation targets people near the top of the sales funnel. 

Why would we ever want to target people at the top of the funnel? 

Surely it’s always better to target consumers who are ready to convert now rather than convert later.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. 

For many businesses lead generation is better than targeting sales, for a variety of reasons, or it’s their only real choice. 

When to Choose Lead Generation as an Objective

The two main reasons you’d want to target lead generation are: 

  • You want to give consumers a highly personalised and guided experience through your sales process. 
  • You’re a service-based business where the transaction isn’t as straightforward as buying a product online. 

The first point speaks to high ticket or niche products and services that require direct sales contact to convert customers reliably. 

You wouldn’t buy a car online without test driving it, for example.

In these cases, high-quality leads are the closest thing to direct sales we can reliably target.

It’s widely accepted that the traditional cold calling approach is dead, so digital marketing is now the most reliable way for these businesses to generate quality leads.

In a similar vein, service-based businesses may also use lead generation as their primary goal because it’s harder to sell some services over the internet. 

For instance, you wouldn’t hire someone to renovate your house from a website alone. You’d want to speak to the real person behind it first. 

Overall, you want to choose lead generation whenever you can’t directly target sales as an objective. 

The good news is that through optimising your advertising spend, you can still achieve great results using lead generation in combination with your traditional sales system. 

What is Sales? 

In digital marketing terms, sales are creating direct transactions with consumers over the internet. 

If we think of lead generation as the old method of cold calling, sales are attracting consumers into your store to make a purchase. 

Similar to having a physical store, location is crucial.

This is why digital marketing is so invaluable for generating sales, with an estimated 14% of global retail sales occurring online (and this number is climbing sharply). 

If you don’t meet consumers where they’re trying to buy your product, you lose out.

Simple as that. 

Sales target consumers near the end of the purchase funnel:

They’ve compared options and are honing in on the product that they will end up purchasing.

Our goal when targeting sales is to reach consumers at this crucial point. 

We need to ensure that we make it as easy as possible for them to convert before we lose their interest, or they go with a competitor’s offering. 

When to Choose Sales as an Objective 

You’ll typically always want to choose sales as your main objective when it’s an option. 

Where leads make it slightly harder to evaluate your true ROI, it’s easy when you’re targeting sales. 

Some types of businesses work better for sales online, including: 

  • Products with broad appeal and standardised properties like clothing and home accessories. 
  • Simple consumer goods like food and beverages. 

Some high ticket items can work using sales as the objective, but generally, you need to invest heavily in brand building to make this a viable option.

For instance, you might buy a pair of designer Levi’s online but would you pay a premium for a new unknown denim brand? 

Overall, you almost certainly want to focus on sales as your objective if you can. 

It’s the simplest way to know if your digital marketing efforts are working, but it still needs careful management to ensure you’re making the most of it. 


You always want the primary focus of your marketing efforts to be either lead generation or sales. 

Use lead generation if you’re unable to target sales directly because your product requires more selling, or you have a service you can’t directly sell online. 

Use sales if you have a product that can be sold directly online and you have a clear idea of where to reach consumers to create the most conversions.

Whichever you choose, be sure to manage costs against ROI and continually optimise your campaigns to ensure you’re reaching your goals.

This article was brought to you by Syte. We’re e-commerce digital marketing specialists obsessed with driving up your bottom line. If you’d like to get in touch with us, reach out with the form below.

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