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MQL vs SQL: What are they and How do They Differ?

9 minutes read

Passing a lead from marketing to sales is kind of like baton racing, just without the physical activity (phew!). This process, in business terminology, is called “converting an MQL to an SQL”

In this blog, we are going to learn,

  • What are the MQLs?
  • What are the SQLs
  • How do these two kinds of leads differ from each other?
  • And how can you efficiently convert MQLs to SQLs?

What are Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)?

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a prospect who has indicated an interest in your products/services based on your marketing efforts. These kinds of leads are considered to be much more valuable than the other leads (For example the leads generated through cold calling). And are more likely to become your customers.

Usually, the marketing people qualify leads as MQLs based on their activities, behaviors, and specific demographics. For instance, they might qualify a lead as MQL if he shows interest in your

  • Guides
  • Newsletters
  • Or checks your pricing page, etc

Also, note that even though MQLs are better than many other leads, they don’t guarantee sales. Oftentimes, the MQLs might not be ready to talk to your sales reps yet. However, qualifying leads as MQLs makes it easier to focus your resources on important leads. This way, you can pay more attention to the prospects with higher chances of conversion.

What are Sales Qualified Leads?

A sales-qualified lead is a prospective customer that is ready to talk to your sales team. Typically, this lead has expressed enough interest in your product or service, that they’re ready to move into your sales process. Usually, they’ve been researched and vetted by your marketing department and then handed off to your sales team.

What are Sales Qualified Leads

MQL Vs SQL: What’s the difference between MQL and SQL?

As mentioned above, an MQL converts to SQL once the prospect is ready to connect with your sales team. It’s important for your marketing team to note that the MQLs who have indicated an interest in your business may not be willing to buy at the moment. However, they still need to be nurtured. Therefore, MQLs occur during the lead generation and early lead nurturing stages.

In contrast, your SQL may have asked for a one-on-one with your sales department. They may have also signed up for the demo of your product. In most cases, they reach such stages after your marketing team nurtures them. Therefore, SQLs occur further down the line in the sales funnel.

Factors that contribute towards moving a lead from MQL to SQL

Every brand has different criteria for determining MQLs and SQLs.

  • For some brands, an SQL can be a prospect who casually inquiries about their product or service
  • And for others, it can be the prospect who wants to understand how the product or service can be a good fit for them.

While this is absolutely fine, what some brands fail to do is to make a clear distinction between an MQL and SQL. Such actions can potentially cause misalignment of the sales and marketing efforts. And this can make the company spend more money and time on nurturing the wrong leads.

Here, we are going to take a look at some factors which determine the movement of a prospect from MQL to SQL

Factors that contribute towards moving a lead from MQL to SQL

Lead Demographics

This is the very first factor that your marketing team needs to consider in order to decide if a prospect can be moved to the sales team or not. They need to analyze the prospects’ demographics like,

  • Their age
  • Their job
  • The industry they work for
  • The size of their company
  • Their pain points
  • And how do those pain points affect their life

If the marketeers find a prospect with an ideal customer profile who can be pursued as an SQL, then they should move it to the sales team

Note: Even when a perfect customer profile is found, the marketing team needs to understand the prospects’ interest levels and nurture them before passing them on to the sales team

Lead Score

Lead scoring is a crucial practice that helps in moving a potential buyer from an MQL to an SQL. Lead scoring is basically the process of assigning values, often in the form of numerical “points,” to each lead the marketing team generates.

The marketing team can score the leads based on multiple attributes, including

  • The professional information they’ve submitted
  • And the way they’ve engaged with your website and brand across the internet

They can also assign negative scores for email bounce or unsubscribes.

This process helps your sales and marketing teams to

  • Prioritize leads
  • Respond to them appropriately
  • And increase the rate at which those leads become customers

Lead scoring is a way to save time for the sales and marketing people so they can spend more time talking to leads that actually want to talk to them and are genuinely interested in your product or service.

Lead Behaviour

This one is another important factor to determine if a prospect can be a potential buyer. Now every prospective customer takes certain actions to show their interest in you. These actions could be,

  • Booking a meeting
  • Taking part in one of your webinars
  • Or responding to an email

Ask your marketing team to analyze these actions and determine which actions qualify a prospect as ready to be moved on to the sales process. They’ll need to decide how much weight a particular action carries. For example, they may want to assign higher point values to book a meeting rather than responding to an email.

It’s crucial to define a set of actions/ behaviors that qualify a lead as SQL. Without defining these, your marketing team might pitch leads that aren’t ready to move on to the sales process. And this results in slowing down your sales process and sales team.

So, what type of behavior can move a prospect along? It could come in the form of engagement on your site. Let’s say a lead is engaging on your website, opening your emails, or downloading your lead magnets. This means that they’re interested in what you have to say. Depending on how much they engage with you and the type of engagement, they might be ready to move from MQL to SQL.

You could also include negative actions. For instance, if a lead has stopped engaging with you or stopped opening your emails, that could bring their lead score down.

Likelihood to Buy

The next factor that your marketing team needs to look at is the likelihood of the buyer to purchase from you. Typically, for a lead to become an SQL, they have to have

  • A need for your product or service,
  • The budget to purchase your product
  • The infrastructure to use it
  • And the confidence that your product or service would solve their problems

If a certain prospect ticks all these boxes then they can be considered to be passed on to the sales team

Incorporation of leads into the sales process

Once your sales team gets a lead from the marketing team, they should focus on working on the sales process so that they can close as many deals as possible.

When talking to SQLs, salespeople should prepare just like always, but use the information gathered during the nurturing MQL phase to help close the deal. For example, the salespeople should know what a prospect has downloaded, and the path they took to become an SQL.

And then they can personally talk to the SQL and learn about their story so that the sales reps get an idea about how they can take the conversation forward.

Tips to convert MQLs to SQLs

1. Align your marketing and sales team’s messaging

The first and foremost requirement to convert the MQLs to SQLs is to perfectly align your marketing and sales teams. This helps both the team,

  • To provide continual and uninterrupted nurturing to the prospects
  • And maintain a consistent messaging throughout the sales funnel

This is vital because inconsistent messaging or providing overwhelming information may create confusion amongst the prospects. This in turn reduces trust and might even knock high-value leads out of the sales funnel.

Overall, the alignment of your marketing and sales increases the focus on high-quality leads. It ultimately leads to more conversions and sales.

2. Document your Goals

It is crucial to maintain a document that shows,

  • Your goals and strategies
  • And also your sales and marketing teams’ plans to contribute to those goals

This document should also illustrate,

This will help the members of both the teams to understand their roles. In short, it brings clarity to the process and improves performance and results.

3. Always pre qualify prospects at the marketing stage

As mentioned earlier, your MQLs differ from regular leads and can help reduce the costs of marketing. There is no need to overinvest resources in leads that aren’t your target. So encourage your marketing team to always ensure that they focus more on the leads who meet your criteria for MQL or SQL. And then according to the qualified lead’s behavior they can plan nurturing activities and move them down your sales funnel.

4. Consider the Sales Cycle

Every business has a unique sales cycle. And you need to make sure that the process of converting leads from MQL to SQL is aligned with your sales cycle. Because there is a good possibility that your sales cycle can affect the definition of SQL for your business.

For instance, in some B2B scenarios, a prospect may want to get in touch with a salesperson or want to see a demo of the product, but they may not be ready to buy the product yet. In such cases, they will still need nurturing activities to qualify them for sales.

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Read: How to overcome Prospects’ Resistance?

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Read: How to measure and improve the effectiveness of your sales process?

Published on Sat Sep 18 2021

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