Are you feeling frustrated because you are not generating enough leads? You’re cranking out content, testing landing pages, and posting up a storm and nothing happens…

You are struggling to fill your pipeline… Maybe you are filling up your sales funnel but your conversion rate is terrible.

Do you know that you’re not alone? A lot of marketers are facing the same challenge… until they learn the difference between a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead, usually known as MQL vs SQL.

It´s important for you to know that every lead is different, so you must determine where the lead is in the sales funnel. When you know where your prospects are in their customer journey, you can actually generate more revenue with fewer leads. Here’s why:

  • Not every lead you generate is sales ready, or a fit for your product
  • This means your sales team spends their precious time sifting through dirt to find gold, rather than doing what they do best: selling
  • If you only increase the leads you generate, the sales team might find more deals to close, but they’ll also find more dirt
  • By forcing your sales team to hunt for opportunities, you’re actually making them less productive
  • To improve the efficiency and performance of your sales team, give them fewer, higher quality leads. How do you know which leads are gold? It all starts with marketing

Lead vs. Marketing Qualified Lead

A marketing qualified lead is like a normal lead, but much, much better.

Why? Because it’s highly likely these leads will become customers.

You know they’re more interested in your product than other prospects are, based on specific demographics, activities, or behaviours. Qualifications can include expressing interest through information, answering to a survey, downloading an ebook, watching a video or guide requests, having certain job titles, site activity such as viewing your pricing page, or numerous other predetermined factors.

Of course, MQLs aren’t guaranteed to buy your product, but identifying them early helps sift through the dirt, which ensures both sales and marketing are only focused on prospects who meet specific criteria. Prospects who meet criteria tied to revenue.

MQL vs. SQL

Marketing qualified leads are hand raisers.

After an inquiry, they’ve taken action or done something to indicate interest. Simply put, an MQL is a lead who likely isn’t ready to buy yet, but they will respond to being nurtured.

Moving down the funnel, a sales qualified lead (SQL) is further along in their buyer journey. They have specific questions and are ready for some one-on-one time with your sales department. Often this is the result of being nurtured by marketing, but they may have entered your sales funnel of their own decision.

Every company has different criteria for what an MQL and SQL looks like. What some businesses consider an SQL, others would merely consider an inquiry. Even worse, some departments within a single company don’t agree on the difference between the two, which creates disconnect between sales and marketing…

Some companies even fail to note any differing qualifiers. To these businesses, there is no MQL vs. SQL, simply all leads are created equal. We’ll explain why this is a recipe for failure.

Quality vs. Quantity

Lead management is like a Lego®. It has a lot of pieces and moving parts. In an ideal world, a person would learn about your product or service and immediately open their wallet.

But in reality, a person must get to know, like, and trust you before they make a purchase. The greater the investment or more complex the purchase, the harder you have to work to earn their trust.

The real challenge is ensuring leads are not contacted by the sales team before they’re ready or interested. We know it´s hard, but we should prevent wasting the time and focus of the sales teams.

When businesses fail to recognize that only 5-15 percent of leads are sales-ready initially, they’re doomed to low conversion rates. With low rates, you need more lead volume to drive growth. So, month over month, marketers struggle to increase volume using existing resources.

To break this cycle, focus on the quality of your leads.

Rather than the amount, consider the type of lead you deliver to sales. When you increase the percentage of leads who convert into customers, you don’t need to generate as many leads to grow your revenue.

Why Intent Matters

All leads are not equal.

If you send every single inquiry generated from your marketing efforts to a salesperson, you waste the sales rep’s time and create a poor customer experience.

Inquiries and leads are not synonymous. The quality of a lead who filled out your form matters.

After all, anyone could have filled that form out. A student seeking information for a paper, an analyst dissecting the market, a rival doing competitive research, or, finally, an actual person looking to learn more about your product.

Read our article: Generate Qualified And High-Quality Leads From B2B Trade Shows And Events. 19 Tips That Will Help You Succeed

Sending all of these leads to sales makes everyone’s life harder. The student and analyst just wanted to read your ebook. They were never going to buy your product. Neither was your competitor, they were only trying to steal your marketing strategy. And the person attempting to learn more about you might want just that…. to learn more about you, not to talk to a salesperson.

To overcome these quality issues, validate the intent of each buyer. A follow-up email that analyzes the prospect’s actions and interests, or “digital body language,” will help filter through the list and only send MQLs to sales.

Transitioning from Marketing to Sales Qualified Lead

A strong partnership between sales and marketing is crucial for your success. If this relationship doesn’t work your conversion process is doomed…

Sales and marketing must align in order to focus their collective efforts on prospects who meet specific criteria. It’s critical to concentrate on how both MQLs and SQLs convert into revenue. To analyze these conversions, you need a strong partnership between sales and marketing. Knowing your target market and their behaviours will help you identify which leads need to be nurtured, and who is ready for a sales call.

It Comes Down to Good Communication.

Here’s a four-step process to ensure your marketing efforts align with your sales team’s expectations:

Talk

If sales and marketing don’t speak the same language, then your MQL strategy will fail. Sit down with sales, find common ground, and agree on the attributes that impact quality. The goal is to find out what leads sales considers high quality.

Define

Once you know the traits your sales team deems important, sales and marketing must work together to define both a lead and an MQL for your business. This is where a lot of companies fail. If sales expect apples and marketing delivers oranges, then neither team will be happy. Especially if marketing thought they were handing off apples. To make MQLs meaningful, both teams must agree on what characteristics make a lead worth reaching out to.

Measure

After you settle on the definition of an MQL, then it’s time to generate and deliver them. One of the many benefits of marketing automation software is the in-depth analytics. With closed-loop analytics, you can track and analyze the cost of acquiring a lead, nurturing them, converting them, and the speed at which they convert. This insight allows you to identify which efforts are worthwhile and which ones need improvement.

Adjust

Lead scoring and nurturing isn’t static. Keep an open dialogue with sales to analyze what is and isn’t working. If they find a high percentage of your MQLs aren’t worthy of sales follow up, you will need to be more cautious. Adjust accordingly as you gain new insight.

Marketing qualified leads have identified themselves as more engaged than other leads, but they’re not quite ready to buy. Depending on your sales cycle, you may have multiple levels of MQLs. Only very specific, high interest activities should trigger the promotion of a lead to an MQL. These include bottom of the funnel offers such as demos, free trials, detailed buying guides, how-tos or additional sales-ready actions.

Once sales have followed up with MQLs and found them high quality, they become SQLs. By aligning sales and marketing, the focus is on high quality leads, which increases conversions. If MQLs are passed to sales, the transition to SQL, opportunity, customer, and eventually evangelist through great testimonials, will be smoother. When marketing helps sift through the dirt to find gold, sales can work on what they do best: turning it into revenue.

MQL Metrics That Matter

Though MQLs are important, the amount delivered shouldn’t be the only thing you measure. To ensure you see the big picture, consider tracking the following metrics.

MQL Conversion Rate

If your MQLs don’t lead to closed sales, then it’s tempting to conclude they’re useless. While it’s important for marketers to look at conversion rates along the entire funnel, this metric is especially important. If sales can’t close MQLs, then you’ll need to re-evaluate your definitions and focus them further down the funnel.

MQL Per Channel

To keep the leads flowing, you need to know which channels are the strongest MQL source for your business. Does email marketing create more qualified leads than your blog? Does paid media bring in the most volume? If one channel is particularly lucrative, then you’ll want to focus more of your effort there. Be sure to balance MQL per channel with close rate per channel. If you get a lot of leads from social media, but they don’t convert well, then that’s an opportunity to fill the top of your funnel with MQLs for nurturing.

MQL Conversion Rate Per Offer

Are your leads more likely to become an MQL after attending a webinar or downloading a case study? Knowing which content offers have the highest MQL conversion rate will help you focus your marketing efforts on the most effective content. To monitor content performance, compare your conversion rate per offer to the leads generated per offer.

If people are willing to fill out your form to download an ebook, but no one converts to a customer, then you have a content disconnect. Perhaps your target market is hungry to learn about the topic, but your content wasn’t valuable or compelling enough. Knowing what offers generate leads, and which ones convert leads will help you find room for improvement. It also provides insight about which content to use in your nurturing efforts.

MQL to Opportunity Conversion

If you want to measure the quality of your MQLs, calculate what percentage of MQLs turn into opportunities. If this metric is low, your MQL criteria may be off. Consider interviewing your sales team to discover the hurdles they run into when turning MQLs into opportunities. Then pinpoint how you can help nurture leads to overcome those obstacles. This will ensure you only pass on truly qualified leads.

Boost Your MQLs

Marketing qualified leads are not the be-all and end-all of marketing metrics, but they’re important because they help map marketing’s contribution to revenue. Imagine being able to correlate closed sales with marketing sourced contributions. Marketing would be viewed as an investment, not a cost centre.

With a strong MQL strategy, you can interact and nurture leads until they are sales-ready. You must know how many MQLs are sent to sales, their conversion rates, and how to repeat and improve the process. This will help you shift from reporting on what you did last quarter, to forecasting the revenue marketing will generate next quarter.

MQLs are simply a stage in the funnel. When defined and nurtured correctly, they drive sales and ultimately revenue. If your MQLs are dead ends for sales, then it’s time revamp your strategy to focus on prospects who meet specific criteria. MQLs are simply prospects who meet criteria that drives revenue let’s not pronounce them dead before you’ve given them a chance to truly live.

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