In today’s fast-paced sales race, no matter how great your product or service is, your business will find it difficult to survive without high-quality leads. Defining Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Sales Leads (SQL) for your company can be achieved through a collaboration between sales and marketing. While your marketing and sales departments may have different metrics and team goals, they are, ultimately, working towards a common goal – revenue growth.
Getting to the revenue goal requires a clear understanding of the difference between MQLs and SQLs and a seamless transfer of leads from marketing to sales as they pass through the funnel. If you do it right, you will hit your goal. But if you drop the baton in your pocket, you can lose your leads and prospects to your competitors.
This article will help you…
- Draw a clear line between your MQLs and SQLs
- Learn how to move your prospects from MQLs to SQLs
- How to qualify them as SQLs
- And, how to generate SQLs when you don’t have enough MQLs.
What is an MQL?
A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a lead who has shown an interest in your offering, engaged with your marketing campaign, or is more likely to convert into a customer than other leads. Often, an MQL is a lead who is engaged with your brand by performing actions like submitting contact information, scheduling a free demo, downloading an eBook or case study, or consistently responding to email outreach.
These are promising leads who are curious and considering you, but they haven’t quite made the step into a sales conversation yet. From a funnel standpoint, Marketing Qualified Leads turn into Sales Qualified Leads, which then turn into customers.
What is an SQL?
Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) are leads that your sales executives have identified as suitable for direct sales follow-up. Such contacts have made direct sales inquiries or responded to bottom of the funnel offers, such as a free trial. Oftentimes, SQLs are MQLs who have engaged with your sales team in a way that shows immediate and legitimate buying potential. These contacts would then be qualified and considered ready to move further down the sales funnel.
Why SQLs Matter
Getting consistent meanings for separate lifecycle phases and a stellar lead qualification framework helps your company to market and sell more efficiently, irrespective of how many names and email addresses your database includes. This “smarketing” alignment can increase the number of successful deals finalized from incoming sales qualified leads, and enable you to better tailor your messaging depending on how interested contacts are. Your organization will also have greater success in nurturing SQL leads if you customize the messaging and content to match their lifecycle stage.
MQL vs SQL Example
The marketing team produced an eBook. 5000 people downloaded it for free. However, 2000 of the people who downloaded the eBook are not decision-makers, and 2500 of them do not have the budget to purchase any product or service. This rather low MQL to SQL conversion rate of 10% puts the responsibility of change on the marketing department.
Marketing creates the same eBook, restricts its distribution based on spending ability, and provides an initial link only to the management level and higher contacts of niche message boards. 1,000 people downloaded the eBook. However, the sales team could convert only 5 of these into customers. Here, the 0.5 percent SQL to MQL ratio would be a concern for the sales team, not a marketing campaign.
Given that, it is important to identify when a lead is ready to be handed off to sales.
How Do You Move a Lead from an MQL to an SQL?
The process of setting up lead qualification criteria varies for different organizations based on lead scoring. Lead scoring is simply prioritizing leads based on their intention to buy.
You can score your leads based on several characteristics, like the information that your leads have provided you, and how they have interacted with your website and brand around the internet. This method allows sales and marketing departments to identify leads, respond to their interactions accordingly, and boost the sales process to convert them to customers.
Lead scoring saves time for salespeople to invest more time in selling to leads who have shown interest in your product or service and are ready to talk to you for more details with the intent to buy.
Sales reps and marketers work together to define the actions that identify the prospect as ready to step into the selling cycle. For example, the actions could be scheduling a meeting or demo, taking an active part in your presentation, or responding to an email. You can then decide the priority of the leads who are ready to buy immediately and how many of them would need further nurturing. You might give higher score values to book a meeting instead of replying to an email.
How to Qualify a Lead as SQL – The BANT System
The precise definition of SQL can vary based on what you’re offering and who you’re offering to. But there are specific reasons that stop consumers from purchasing. Many companies are using the BANT system (pioneered by IBM) when qualifying leads. BANT is the abbreviation for Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline.
Here is a brief breakdown of how to qualify leads using the BANT system:
Ultimately, it is not about how much your prospects like your solution. If they can’t afford it, they are not qualified prospects. Selling with honesty needs the reps to determine if a prospect can really afford the solution. If they can, you should focus on them. However, if they can’t, or if they are not sure, there is an opportunity that there are much better customers to find instead.
Imagine that you have a SaaS product and are having a telephonic conversation with a prospect. The prospect is showing interest and is ready to schedule a demo. But does he have the authority to make a buying decision? Maybe yes. Yet odds are he will have to discuss with his management before he comes to a buying decision. He may love your tool. However, he is not the only one buying it.
Also, deals need buy-in from a team of decision-makers before they can close. So even with those deals with only one decision-maker, the reps have to make sure they are talking to the right decision-maker.
The golden rule is to consider whether your product or service offers value to the prospects or not. Your prospects might have several reasons not to buy your solution immediately. For example, your product might be incompatible with a prospect’s current Salesforce infrastructure. So, prospects that don’t have Salesforce may have a need for your solution, but they cannot buy at that moment unless they start using Salesforce or your solution is compatible with their infrastructure.
You may come across many prospects for whom it’s simply not the best time to close the sale. Perhaps the prospective company is waiting to get the funding. They may choose to recruit a wider team to incorporate a specific tool. Reps need to figure out what a prospect’s timeline is before turning the prospect over to the account executive.
How to Generate SQLs When You Don’t Have Enough MQLs
There are times when you don’t have enough MQLs to fill your pipeline. All you need to do is identify the prospects that are looking for products or services similar to yours. This will not only save time but it will also ensure that your team is focusing on the prospects that are sales-ready. So, getting buying intent signals is vital.
Intent data can be extremely useful, but it works best to generate SQLs when combined with firmographic data, technographic data, and engagement metrics to create a holistic score model that also represents qualifying requirements and engagement. When used in the correct combination, Intent Data can be a strong indicator of which accounts are most likely to buy your product or service.
With SalesIntel, you have access to reliable and detailed B2B data that provides firmographic and technical information about your ideal customer profile (ICP) and access to Intent Information from buyers. Intent Data from SalesIntel will help you discover your prospective purchase of signals by recognizing and discovering the topics of intent that are being actively researched across individual accounts.