How to Generate Sales Qualified Leads for Your Business

How to Generate Sales Qualified Leads for Your Business

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 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 and sales strategy 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 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.

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.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) Vs Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)

SQL (Structured Query Language) and MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) are different terms used in business. SQL is a programming language used to manage and manipulate databases. MQL is a term used to describe a lead that has shown a higher level of interest in a product or service and has been qualified by the marketing team as a potential customer. SQLs are leads that are passed to the sales team for further follow-up and closing, while MQLs are leads that need more nurturing before they can become SQLs.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are leads that have been vetted and qualified by the sales team as having a high likelihood of becoming paying customers. They typically have demonstrated a high level of interest in the product or service, have completed specific actions such as requesting a demo or consultation, and have met certain criteria such as budget and authority to buy. SQLs are typically passed on to the sales team for further follow-up and closing.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are leads that have been identified and qualified by the marketing team as having a high potential for becoming customers. They may not have shown as much interest as SQLs, but have engaged with the brand, such as by downloading a whitepaper or attending a webinar. The MQLs are then passed on to the sales team for further nurturing and qualification.

In summary, while both MQLs and SQLs are leads that have shown interest in your business, MQLs are leads that are identified and qualified by the marketing team and SQLs are leads that are qualified by the sales team as having a high likelihood of becoming paying customers.

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.

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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.

What’s the Difference Between Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) And Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)?

Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) are terms used in the context of lead management and sales processes. While they are related concepts, they represent different stages in the lead qualification and conversion process.

1. Sales Accepted Leads (SAL):

  • Definition: 

SAL represents a stage in the lead management process where marketing has passed on a lead to the sales team, and the sales team has reviewed and accepted it as a potential opportunity.

  • Criteria: 

At this stage, the lead has typically met some basic criteria set by the sales and marketing teams, indicating that it’s worth the sales team’s time and effort to pursue further. However, the lead might not yet be fully qualified for a sales pitch.

  • Purpose: 

SAL helps bridge the gap between marketing and sales. It ensures that the leads passed from marketing are not outright rejected but are evaluated by the sales team for their potential.

2. Sales Qualified Leads (SQL):

  • Definition:

SQL represents a stage where a lead has been further assessed and deemed by the sales team as highly likely to convert into a customer. It’s a more advanced stage than SAL.

  • Criteria: 

For a lead to be considered SQL, it usually needs to meet specific, more detailed criteria set by the sales team. This often includes factors such as a clear need for the product or service, a defined budget, and a shorter timeframe for making a purchase.

  • Purpose: 

SQLs are the leads that sales reps prioritize for more personalized and direct engagement. These leads have demonstrated a higher level of interest and alignment with the company’s offerings.

SAL is a stage where leads are accepted by the sales team for further evaluation, while SQL represents a higher level of qualification where leads are considered more likely to result in a successful sale. Both stages are crucial in the lead management process, ensuring a smooth transition from marketing efforts to the sales pipeline.

What Are MQLs And SALs In Relation To SQLs?

What distinguishes MQLs and SALs from SQLs within the process of qualifying sales leads?

The progression of leads through the sales funnel involves a journey from initial interest, labeled as marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), to the evaluation stage known as sales-accepted leads (SALs), and finally to those deemed ready for direct sales engagement, known as sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

Consider a scenario where a prospect interacts with your lead generation page or Facebook ad. Various marketing teams engage with these prospects—content marketers, campaign marketers, and performance marketers—evaluating their potential to become customers.

To determine if a lead qualifies as an MQL, the marketing team assesses several indicators: the pages they visit, the forms they fill out, and the materials they download, such as white papers. Upon meeting the criteria, the lead is passed on to the sales team, which decides their potential as an SQL, based on a robust qualification process.

The transition between marketing and sales is crucial, ensuring alignment between the two departments. Companies often establish a lead acceptance process to prevent discrepancies, ensuring SALs are MQLs that align with sales criteria like job function, company size, and industry. Once these leads demonstrate clear intent to purchase, they graduate to SQL status.

Leads may be disqualified if they don’t meet the predefined qualification criteria. To identify SQLs, representatives directly engage with leads to gather crucial details and prioritize high-potential prospects.

How To Determine A Sales-Qualified Lead?

Determining a sales-qualified lead involves assessing various aspects to gauge whether a potential customer is likely to convert into a sale. The criteria you’ve listed are essential in evaluating the quality of a lead:

1. Budget to Buy: 

This criterion evaluates whether the lead has the financial capacity to make a purchase. It involves understanding their budget constraints and whether it aligns with the pricing of your product or service.

2. Authority to Buy: 

Knowing if the lead has the decision-making power within their organization is crucial. It ensures that they can approve the purchase without requiring additional approvals from higher-ups.

3. Need for Your Product or Service: 

Understanding the lead’s pain points or requirements and how your product or service addresses those needs is fundamental. If your offering fulfills their requirements or solves their problems, it indicates a higher chance of conversion.

4. Suitable Time Frame: 

Aligning the lead’s buying timeline with your sales cycle is vital. If their time frame matches or aligns closely with your sales process, it can indicate a higher probability of successfully closing the deal within a mutually acceptable timeframe.

Assessing these criteria involves ongoing communication, understanding the lead’s situation, asking relevant questions, and perhaps using tools like questionnaires or qualification frameworks. It’s not merely a checklist but a dynamic evaluation process that may evolve as you gather more information about the lead.

Remember, the more criteria a lead meets, the more likely they are to become a qualified sales opportunity.

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.

Buying Authority

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 Improve A Sales Lead Qualification Process?

Sales lead qualification has always been a time-consuming and intensive process. Generating leads is a challenge in itself, then you must determine if that lead can be qualified as a sales prospect, which takes time, research, and often connecting with leads directly.

With the slowness in traditional lead qualification processes, businesses have started using B2B data smartly. The likes of buyer intent data and data enrichment, along with firmographics and technographic data, are the key to boosting the qualification process.

Here’s how you can improve your lead qualification process:

  • Start with creating an ICP by identifying what your existing ideal customer “looks” like.
  • Identify if the company matches your Ideal Consumer Profile (ICP).
  • Develop a deeper understanding of your leads using data enrichment
  • Use real-time lead scoring using buyer intent data.

This quick process will ensure that you are focusing on qualified leads. If a lead isn’t ready to be qualified right now, don’t dismiss it. Circumstances, priorities, and timetables shift. Rather than rejecting unqualified prospects, nurture them till they reach the buying stage. Keep an eye on the buying intent using buyer intent data.

What To Do After Qualifying A Sales Lead?

After Qualifying a Sales Lead:

Thoroughly researching your leads, focusing on their pain points, and demonstrating how your product addresses those pain points are fundamental aspects of successful B2B sales. 

However, the process doesn’t end there. To create a consistent system for lead qualification, it’s crucial to understand the next steps and develop a predictable method.

Assigning a grade or score to each lead becomes pivotal in this stage. This grading system enables the prioritization of Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) and facilitates their progression through the sales cycle. 

Meanwhile, leads that don’t initially meet the criteria for qualification are placed into a nurturing sequence. This sequence aims to gradually warm them up to your product or service, nurturing them for potential future purchases.

Reassessing previously disqualified leads involves considering specific lead scoring factors. These factors help determine if these leads are now ready to be requalified:

1. Response to Cold Emails: 

If a lead responds to your initial outreach with inquiries about your product, showing an interest in understanding more, it indicates potential readiness.

2. Direct Contact: 

Initiating direct communication via email or by using your website’s contact form signifies an active interest in your offerings.

3. Engagement with Webinars or Events: 

Registering for a webinar or upcoming event, particularly those positioned towards the end of the sales funnel, suggests a deeper interest in your solution.

4. Repeated Website Visits: 

Consistent visits to specific high-value pages, such as product or pricing pages, indicate a growing interest in exploring your offerings further.

5. Referral Source: 

If a lead arrives at your site from a referral that has previously resulted in Sales Qualified Leads, it signifies a potentially higher chance of qualification.

Individually, these actions might not fully indicate readiness, but collectively, they provide a strong signal of a lead’s receptiveness to engaging with your sales team. These actions help in re-evaluating and potentially upgrading previously disqualified leads to the status of Sales Qualified Leads, allowing for a more targeted and efficient sales engagement.

Ways To Increase Sales-Qualified Leads

1. Set Up Lead Magnets:

Offering free, high-value resources, known as lead magnets, can significantly boost the generation of Sales Qualified Leads. These resources, whether it’s comprehensive whitepapers, quick-reference cheat sheets, or insightful eBooks, serve as incentives for prospects to willingly provide their contact details. This exchange of information not only adds to your lead database but also creates an initial connection with potential customers who might not have initially shown interest in your product or service.

The strategic implementation of lead magnets in your sales approach goes beyond merely capturing contact information. It sets the stage for meaningful interaction and relationship-building with these prospects. This initial engagement lays the foundation for future interactions, allowing your business to nurture these leads effectively and move them through the sales funnel.

By offering valuable content upfront, you position your brand as a valuable resource within your industry or niche. This cultivates a sense of trust and credibility, fostering a relationship that can potentially translate into future sales opportunities. Ultimately, integrating lead magnets into your sales strategy is not just about acquiring leads; it’s about initiating relationships that contribute to the sustained growth and success of your business.

2. Engage and Delight Your Leads:

In the realm of sales, the ability to generate qualified leads is a cornerstone of success. However, the true challenge lies not just in acquiring leads but also in converting them into actual sales.

How do you elevate your Sales Qualified Leads? The answer lies in engaging and delighting them. Acquiring contact information is just the beginning; the key to turning prospects into paying customers hinges on establishing trust.

Avoid overwhelming them with aggressive sales pitches. Instead, focus on cultivating a relationship through valuable, informative communications. By providing helpful content and insights, you lay the groundwork for trust and credibility.

Once a rapport is established, gently guide them towards considering your product or service. The emphasis here is on a soft approach, steering clear of excessive assertiveness. Ultimately, the aim is to foster a mutually beneficial partnership, where both parties find value and trust in the relationship.

3. Know Your Leads:

In the pursuit of business growth, attracting new customers and boosting sales remains a constant goal for entrepreneurs. One potent strategy to achieve this is by focusing on Sales Qualified Leads. Understanding your leads plays a pivotal role in converting them into customers.

Thoroughly studying your leads allows a deeper understanding of their needs and preferences, enabling you to categorize them based on their level of interest. This categorization provides insights into their relationship with your product or service and guides the information necessary to influence their purchasing decision.

With this knowledge, you can customize your approach, tailoring it to address their needs. This personalized strategy significantly heightens the likelihood of successfully sealing the deal. Investing time in understanding your leads inevitably enhances your ability to generate sales-qualified leads.

4. Ask For More Contact Information:

Businesses aspiring to expand their sales qualified leads should consider the advantages of gathering additional contact information from potential customers.

While standard forms usually request a name and email address, offering options for more details, such as a phone number, amplifies your sales efforts significantly.

By acquiring additional contact information, you gain insights into leads more inclined to make a purchase. This allows for more targeted and effective sales pitches. Moreover, a lead willingly sharing their phone number indicates a higher interest level in learning more about your product or service, presenting an opportunity for direct engagement.

How Much Are Qualified Sales Leads Worth?

It depends on how much it costs you to convert the lead into a customer and what you are selling. As a general rule, the cost is often considered 20% of the net profit.

Why Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) Stage Important For Both Your Sales And Marketing Teams?

If the sales team has a healthy number of SQL, it will help them to close more deals quickly. On the other hand, the MQL to SQL ratio will help the marketing team modify their lead generation strategy accordingly.

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.

Qualifying Questions To Ask In 2024

Qualifying questions in 2024 play a crucial role in determining if a potential lead qualifies as a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) for your product or service. Here’s an elaboration and revision of the questions along with their significance:

1. What is your current role and responsibility within your organization?

This inquiry unveils the lead’s decision-making authority and involvement in the purchasing process. It identifies whether the lead can make decisions independently or if they need to collaborate with other stakeholders.

Recognizing multiple decision-makers or understanding the lead’s level of influence aids in crafting a tailored sales approach.

2. What pain points are you trying to solve?

Understanding the lead’s challenges and business needs allows customization of your sales approach. Aligning your product or service with their specific problems demonstrates value and positions your offering as a solution.

Identifying unrecognized pain points presents an opportunity to highlight additional benefits of your product or service.

3. What led you to consider our product/service?

Assessing the lead’s familiarity with your brand and offerings provides insights into their motivation and expectations. It aids in tailoring the sales pitch and addressing potential objections preemptively.

Understanding the lead’s perspective allows for a more targeted and persuasive sales approach.

4. What is your budget, and how is it typically allocated?

Understanding the lead’s financial constraints or allocation process aligns with your product or service pricing. It helps determine if their budget aligns with your offering and avoids pursuing leads whose financial limitations don’t match.

Identifying misaligned budgets early prevents investing resources in leads unlikely to convert.

5. Have you evaluated other vendors? What did you like or dislike about them?

Gaining insights into their experiences with competitors sheds light on their expectations and allows you to differentiate your offering. Addressing competitors’ weaknesses strengthens your sales proposition.

Learning from their past interactions enables a more informed and compelling sales strategy.

6. What is your timeline for implementing a solution like ours?

Understanding the lead’s timeline aids in managing expectations and planning the sales process. It helps in prioritizing leads ready for immediate action and differentiates them from those needing more nurturing.

Identifying urgent needs allows for tailored and timely engagement, optimizing resource allocation.

7. How do you prefer to communicate during the sales process?

Tailoring communication to the lead’s preferred style enhances the customer experience. It ensures effective engagement and fosters a positive relationship, potentially increasing the likelihood of a successful sale.

Adapting communication channels enhances rapport and supports a smoother sales process.