Cold Leads vs Warm Leads: Does It Matter in B2B Outreach?

It’s important to know the difference between cold leads vs warm leads in B2B outreach. Find out how to identify and convert them to paying customers.
Reading time: 6 minutes

In business-to-business (B2B) outreach, generating leads is only half the battle. The other half is turning that lead into a customer. 

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for doing this, especially considering that not all leads are the same.

That being the case, it pays to know the difference between cold and warm leads and which type is more conducive to B2B outreach success.


What are cold and warm leads in B2B marketing?

A cold lead is a potential customer that is unaware of your company and what it does. You have no existing relationship to sell them your product or service. In other words, there’s a lack of a ‘warm’ relationship

Every lead starts out as a cold lead, and eventually warms up to your products and services as you nurture them further down the sales funnel. 

On the other hand, a warm lead is someone who has been “pre-sold” on your product or service. This could be because they’ve visited your website, subscribed to your newsletter, or attended one of your webinars. 

For example, leads whose contact information you’ve captured after a webinar or those referred to your brand by another client already know what to expect from you and are therefore classified as warm leads.

Qualifying warm leads vs. qualifying cold leads

Lead management is the process of determining whether a lead is worth pursuing. This means determining if the lead is a good fit for your product or service and if they’re likely to convert into paying customers. 

This evaluation is based on different factors, depending on the sales development rep’s (SDR) approach. SDRs decide whether a lead is a qualified lead or not based on different models such as:

  • BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline).
  • ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, and Money).
  • CAB (Challenges, Authority, and Budget).
  • FACT (Fit, Alignment, Competition, and Timeline).

Qualifying cold leads isn’t the same as qualifying warm leads — the main difference between qualifying cold and warm leads is the effort required. 

In many cases, the first stage of qualifying cold leads seeks to turn them into warm leads, so it’s evident that there’s more work involved in qualifying cold leads.

Is it better to prospect cold or warm leads for B2B?

With cold leads, the qualifying process can be lengthy and complicated since you have to start from scratch. 

You’ll have to introduce your brand, build rapport, establish trust, and so on. And even then, there’s no guarantee that the lead will be interested in your product or service or that they’ll even need it.

On the other hand, qualifying warm leads is much easier since you’re starting from a position of trust. 

In most cases, all you need to do is determine if the lead is a good fit for your product or service and if they have an immediate need for it. This is why focusing on warm leads is better for B2B sales.

Do all warm leads come from nurtured cold leads?

According to some sources and marketing experts, warm leads are nothing more than cold leads transitioning to hot leads, which are essentially qualified leads that are almost ready to buy.

If this was the case, then it wouldn’t make any sense to argue which leads are better for B2B marketing since all warm leads would necessarily start as cold leads, making the former absolutely essential (without nurturing cold leads, we wouldn’t have warm leads).

However, luckily, this is not the case. 

Although some of them do, not all warm leads come from nurtured cold leads. Considering that warm leads are better for generating sales, making an extra effort to find warm leads makes more sense than looking for cold leads and nurturing them to drive them down your sales funnel.

This brings up an obvious question:

Where and how do we find warm leads?

There are several ways to find warm leads. Here are some of the most effective methods:


The best way to get warm leads is through referrals from existing customers or companies in your industry. If you have happy customers, they’ll be more than happy to refer you to their friends and colleagues. 

Furthermore, if you have a referral program in place, this will incentivize them even more.

Industry events and tradeshows

Another great way to find warm leads is by attending industry events and tradeshows. These are great opportunities to network with other companies in your industry and potential customers. 

If you have a booth at the event, make sure to collect business cards so you can follow up with the leads later.

Social media

Social media platforms like LinkedIn are very effective for warm lead generation since it’s a platform designed for business networking. Other networks like Facebook and Twitter can also be valuable sources of warm leads.

Though, it’s important to note that using social media to find warm leads isn’t about searching for your target audience within the network and reaching out to them. This would only generate cold leads.

What you want to do is look for new leads among your followers. If someone follows you on social media, they’re already interested in what you have to say and have probably already read about your products and services. All you need to do is reach out and start a conversation.

Content marketing

Finally, content marketing is an effective way to find and connect with potential customers who already need your product or service. Creating high-quality content relevant to your target audience can attract leads to your website and blog. 

Once they’re there, you can capture their contact information and start nurturing them down your sales funnel.

It’s important to focus your content marketing on topics relevant to your target audience. 

Take Slab, for example, a company that offers business knowledge-sharing solutions to other big enterprises. For a company like this, publishing general content about knowledge culture and working smarter as a team is a great way to attract cold leads. 

However, publishing case studies showing how other companies benefitted directly from using their solutions is also a good way to attract clients who already know the brand but may not be aware of all the solutions they offer.

On the other hand, some B2B companies have strong brands that make them recognizable by almost anyone. This level of brand awareness makes almost all leads they generate warm leads to some degree. 

For example, big names like Coinbase or Binance in the crypto scene need no introduction, while smaller exchanges require much stronger content marketing to attract warm leads.

The most effective ways to nurture warm leads and convert them to paying customers

Now that we’ve established that warm leads are better for sales and explained some of the best ways to find them, it’s time to look at how to nurture them. Nurturing leads means keeping them engaged with your company until they’re ready to buy.

There are many ways to nurture leads, but the most effective methods usually involve some combination of email marketing, content marketing, and personal selling.

Lead nurturing emails

Lead nurturing emails are one of the most effective methods for nurturing warm leads. These are email campaigns designed to keep leads engaged with your company by providing them with valuable information at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Since you’re reaching out to warm leads instead of cold ones, you already have an idea of what they’re interested in and what their needs are. This makes it easier to create targeted email campaigns focusing on their particular problem and how your service helps them solve it.

In other words, your first emails would include content that educates them on the problem you already know they have and its solutions. As they move further down the funnel, you would provide them with more information about your specific product or service.

The key to lead nurturing emails is to provide value at each stage of the buyer’s journey and to gradually move the lead closer to a sale, not to sell right away.

Content marketing

Content marketing is another effective method for nurturing warm leads. Like lead nurturing emails, you want to provide value at each stage of the buyer’s journey. 

The difference is that you will deliver the content and value through your blog, white papers, articles, ebooks, infographics, and other types of content. Consequently, content marketing allows you to deliver much more than you can through solitary emails.

The great thing about content marketing is that it’s not only effective for nurturing leads but can also be used to attract new ones.

Personal selling

Last but not least, personal selling is another effective method, if not the most effective, for nurturing warm leads and converting them into paying customers. Personal selling involves reaching out to a lead directly, usually through a phone call, but it can also include face-to-face meetings.

Personal selling involves having sales conversations with potential customers to build relationships and trust. Most B2B buyers prefer talking to someone made of flesh and bone before they make a purchase, so personal selling is usually the best way to close the deal.

However, you must remember that direct calls and meetings, even with warm leads, aren’t intended to make a sale. Warm leads aren’t qualified yet, meaning you still don’t know if they’re the perfect fit for your product or if it’s the right time for them to make a purchase. 

Through personal selling, SDRs not only nurture warm leads but also ask the right questions to figure out if a lead is worth nurturing or not.

The bottom line

While prospecting cold leads is an essential source of sales for any B2B business, it can be an inefficient way to use your time and resources. The leads are harder to find, harder to qualify, and harder to convert.

Warm leads, on the other hand, are already interested in what you have to offer and are more likely to convert. Since they already know your brand or have at least heard about it from someone else, they’re easier to nurture, more likely to respond to your emails, and easier to qualify.

If you know where and how to find them and target your email, content, and telemarketing campaigns to warm leads instead of cold leads, you will see a better return on your investment and faster growth than by focusing on cold leads. 

Additionally, content marketing efforts that target warm leads can still attract potential cold leads, so you’ll still be able to tap into that market.

The bottom line is that, when it comes to B2B marketing, warm leads are much better than cold leads.

Picture of Jordan Bishop
Jordan Bishop

Jordan Bishop is the founder of Yore Oyster and How I Travel, two sites to help you optimize your finances while living an international life. He recently published his first book, Unperfect, an exploration of problem solving.

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