Knowing the difference in an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) and an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) is as key to your business’ success as a business plan. It means you’ve got a buyer’s journey mapped up and have streamlined what the buying process look like for your customer. But what if you’ve never heard of an MQL versus an SQL? Hey, you can’t know what you don’t know. But have no fear, because today we’re defining the difference, breaking down the stages, and determining when the transition from one to the other takes place.
Let’s start with the very, very basics. Before someone is an MQL or an SQL, they are simply an “L.” That’s right, just a good ol’ fashioned lead. Whether they’re an MQL or an SQL depends on how that lead moves through your buyer’s journey as they make their way down your sales funnel.
Marketing Qualified Leads are leads the marketing team has deemed “qualified.” Now, they’re certainly not doing this on a case-by-case basis. On the contrary, what qualifies a lead as an MQL is determined early on by the marketing team. Then, certain behaviors are given a score, so to speak. As a lead interacts with your content, each action gains them a score. Once they hit a certain score, they move from a standard lead to an MQL.
For example, someone who simply visits your website would be a lead. They’re interacting with your content simply by being there, but their level of interest is yet to be determined. For all you know, they’re on the wrong site altogether. Or perhaps they’ve come ready to buy. By ranking their actions, or better yet, qualifying their behavior, you can determine regular leads from MQLs. An MQL shows a more serious interest in your products or services, perhaps downloading an ebook, subscribing to your newsletter, or sharing a blog post. Each of these actions let you know they have some level of interest in what you’re offering and are ready to be nurtured.
If you’re thinking now is the time to pass them along to the SQL phase, HOLD IT. Not even close. This is a new, budding relationship, and you don’t want to be the “too big too early,” guy. Just like you wouldn’t pop the question on a second date (or at least, we hope not), you wouldn’t want to scare this brand new interest away by coming on too strong. This is the early romance stage, it’s time for love notes and sweet nothings, not weighty demands about commitment.
Transitioning the MQL to the SQL stage is all about communication. It needs to be like the handing off of a baton in a 4x4. Smooth, anticipated, and done without ever breaking your stride. This can only happen if the buyer’s journey has been hammered out and the sales and marketing teams are all on the same page. Clear communication between the two teams is paramount and should be the norm in your office, anyway (but that’s a topic for another day).
Once the MQL has done something that’s qualified them to move onto the next stage, it’s time for the handoff. This usually takes shape in the form of something much more serious, like signing up for a demo or a free consultation. At this point, it’s time for the sales team to reach out. The lead is showing serious intent to buy, and a more strategic contact from the sales team won’t be off-putting like it would if it were launched too early within the cycle.
Once you’ve been carrying out this process for a while, you’ll want to regroup with the sales and marketing team to see how things are going. You’ll want to see how many leads actually converted, and identify any hiccups in the journey that could be throwing things off. Maybe you’re transitioning them too early. Maybe you’re right on time, but the sales team’s approach just isn’t resonating. It’s important to stay objective and agile so you can adjust your process and maximize everybody’s efforts for future successes.
Do you have a great system for turning your leads into MQLs and SQLs? Or are you just learning the ropes? Let us know in the comments below!
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