What’s the Difference Between Demand, Lead, and Sales Generation?

A lot of marketers online use some of the following words interchangeably.

They are:

  • Demand generation
  • Lead generation
  • Sales generation

Besides all having “generation” in their names, what else do these three marketing and sales tactics have in common? What is different about each of them? How do they relate to one another?

Read on! This post breaks down the difference between demand, lead, and sales generation.


Defining Demand, Lead, and Sales Generation

We’ll start with a short definition of each.

  • Demand generation – focuses on creating interest and demand in your company or offering
  • Lead generation – focuses on collecting specific information on interested individuals so they can be nurtured and eventually turned into sales opportunities
  • Sales generation – focuses on individuals and creating conversations with buyers that result in closed business


When do you use each of these tactics?


Demand generation

Demand gen starts before the beginning of the funnel. You are searching for people who have a problem but aren’t necessarily looking for the solution yet.

You are looking to appeal to people that aren’t even sure that they’re looking to buy something yet. You are getting them used to seeing your brand name and reading your content.


Lead Generation

This is set slightly lower in the funnel, somewhere just below the top rim. It focuses on those who are already aware of your brand but need to be formally brought into your system as leads.

Most commonly this is done via gated content and a form. You offer something of value in exchange for a lead’s data.

From this point on you send them increasingly more specific content to get them from a new lead to one that’s nearly ready to be passed on to sales.


Sales Generation

Sales generation is at the very bottom of the funnel. This is where deals are made, and one-on-one relationships form.

Some might even argue that this is beyond the funnel, but today the lines between the sales and marketing funnel have blurred. In well-aligned organizations, they are the same.

Here you must make sure to address personal problems that these sales-ready leads have with solutions from your business.


What kinds of content works best for each?

Because of the different points in the funnel that each of these processes occurs in, each tactic requires a different sort of content.


Demand Generation

The most successful demand generation content is content that has a broad appeal.

Since the focus is all on brand positioning and awareness, you want to ensure that your brand’s content hits as many relevant screens as possible.

Some popular content types for demand generation include:

  • Videos – think light, easy-to-consume videos on high-level topics. They shouldn’t be longer than a 3 minutes tops
  • High-level white papers – think easy-to-consume, introductory white papers that provide an overview of important industry topics without going into great depth on any one area
  • Blog posts – think high-level, low-jargon content that won’t scare away someone who doesn’t know the industry well yet

These are beginner level, low barrier to entry content that cast a wide net. They attract a larger, more broad audience.


Lead Generation

Lead generation content is more specific than demand generation content.

Since lead generation often involves a form, content needs to be narrower and more specific than the content you use for demand generation.

Send tailored, value-packed content for lead generation. Some forms of content that work best for this include:

  • Ebooks and white papers – these should delve into more technical areas that require more knowledge and understanding
  • In-depth blog posts – blog posts on topics that wouldn’t be for beginners, but also aren’t unapproachable
  • Webinars – these should feature discussions by industry experts and influencers

You need to ensure that the content you use for lead generation is worth the price you’re asking (aka for their personal data).


Sales Generation

Content used in sales generation is even more narrow and value-oriented than that used in lead generation.

It should answer specific questions that a sales-ready lead might ask a member of your sales team. It should be highly-targeted and specific to your brand and offerings.

Some of the best forms of content for this late-funnel stage are:

  • FAQs – a list of answers to questions that your salespeople regularly encounter
  • Demo/trials – literally offer a free, cheap, or preview of your offering or services to convince buyers that might be on the fence
  • Case studies – these should include reviews and words from actual customers as well as data-based statements that prove your offering’s effectiveness


How can you get started with each of these?

You know what demand, lead, and sales generation is. You know where in the marketing and sales cycle they occur. And you know what types of content work best for each.

But how do you get started with each of these stages in the marketing and sales pipeline?


Demand Generation

You should use a blend of tactics to get started with demand generation. First, create some content.

From there put a lot of it on your website and social media.

If you want to kickstart your efforts, consider buying Campaign Engagement Data, which is high-level engagement paired with contact information for interested parties.

It kicks off your marketing efforts, starts to fill your email list, and gets your content out to a broader audience than just sending it out organically.


Lead Generation

Create some of that content that provides value for the people who want your offering.

You might also want to write some higher-level content that helps to introduce and tease the more specific content that you will gate.

Then post that on social media, place targeting and retargeting ads, etc.

You could also try buying Classic Lead Generation, which involves sending out your most valuable content to a massive database of leads and getting only the most interested parties back.

You continue to nurture these leads with segmented and specific content until they are ready to be passed on to sales.


Sales Generation

Make sure you have a process in place that qualifies leads to be sent over to sales.

When they’re there, make sure that your sales team has all the late-stage content they need to answer the questions of the people they speak with.

In this content, give the sales-ready leads a variety of places to connect with those they’re buying from. That includes click-to-call links, buttons to contact a representative, etc.



Demand, lead, and sales generation are all integral parts of the marketing and sales processes. As your leads and prospects move through the funnel, you’ll feed them increasingly more targeted and valuable content in exchange for more information and bigger asks (like getting on the phone with someone).

Make sure you have strategies in place to determine where leads are in the funnel (or if they’re in it at all). Give them the appropriate content in the right contexts. That how effective marketing and sales programs work.



Let us know what you think:

  • Did you know the difference between these three terms?
  • Do you use all three in your marketing and sales cycle?
  • How can marketers improve upon their demand, lead, and sales generation?




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