What is the Difference between a MQL and a SQL?

December 15, 2019 in Digital Marketing

Working in digital marketing is fun for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the language used within the vertical. SEO, SEM, sales funnel, long-tail keywords – the buzzwords digital marketers use just roll off the tongue, don’t they?

While marketing jargon is enjoyable to use, buzzwords are only meaningful if you know what they mean. In recent times, it’s become vital for digital marketers and other folks residing in the C-suite to understand that leads usually fall into three categories: leads, marketing  qualified leads, and sales qualified leads. Knowing what those terms mean isn’t enough, however. You also have to understand how they all differ from one another if you want to be able to close more sales even when your lead pipeline slows down a bit. 

What is a Lead?

While pet owners may think “lead” refers to the leash they use to walk their dog, the term means something quite different to digital marketers. In the context of digital marketing, a lead is someone who has done something to express an interest in your goods or services. 

It’s important to note that all leads are not created equal. Just because someone indicated that they have an interest in the things you sell, it doesn’t mean the person has a legitimate interest. The individual may have been bored and clicked a link to your website to pass the time, for example. Alternatively, people may share their email address to read a specific whitepaper because they want to see the information it contains, not because they ever intend to do business with your brand.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?

As you probably guessed, MQL is shorthand for marketing qualified lead. MQLs are similar to “regular” leads, but they’re a whole lot better. Like leads, MQLs have somehow relayed an interest in your goods or services. MQLs are at a different point in the sales funnel compared to leads. For that reason, lead intelligence, which often takes the form of closed-loop analytics, indicates that MQLs are more likely to become paying customers than leads are.

Types of MQLs

In general, there are two types of marketing qualified leads, prospects and suspects. A prospect is someone who is likely to make a purchase after they determine what you sell will satisfy a need or solve a problem. A suspect is a person who ended up in your sales funnel for some reason other than wanting to buy something. Future marketing messages can help prospects advance in the sales funnel while those same or similar messages will be wasted on uninterested suspects.

It’s crucial for your marketing team to separate prospects from suspects early on in the sales process. If they don’t, you run the risk of wasting marketing resources on people who will never convert. If suspects make it through to your sales desk, your sales reps might end up wasting time chasing them and missing out on bankable sales as a result.

What is a Sales Qualified Lead?

Like MQLs are farther along in their buying journey than leads, sales qualified leads or SQLs are even deeper in the sales funnel. An SQL is a prospect who’s been thoroughly researched and vetted by a company’s marketing team and, subsequently, its sales team. SQLs have been identified as being ready to move onto the next phase of the sales process.

How to Transition an MQL to an SQL

While it may take MQLs a while to move forward in their purchasing journey, SQLs often move a bit more rapidly. For this reason, it’s vital to know when it’s time to transition an MQL to an SQL. This transition is an essential step in your sales funnel because it’s often where most potential sales are unnecessarily lost.

To avoid losing sales at this point of the sales process, you must set up a system that will allow your marketing and sales teams to identify when MQLs are ready to become SQLs. Depending on the CRM you’re using, the system will likely have lead scoring capabilities. 

If your system has those abilities, you can assign a score to each MQL that indicates their potential value to your organization. Once a given prospect’s perceived value reaches a certain level based on your team’s research, the MQL should be transitioned to an SQL.

During the transition phase, your marketing and sales teams should work together to nurture the lead and gain valuable information. When a sales rep initially contacts an SQL, a marketing representative should participate in the interaction, even if the person is “only” actively listening. By involving both representatives in the phone call, it will enable you to score future leads more accurately, filter out suspects quickly, and create more effective content that will prepare leads for your sales force more efficiently moving forward.

Your marketing and sales reps need to do more than listen to the words a prospect utters. They also need to listen to the person’s tone throughout the conversation. If they’re meeting with a lead in person or via video conference, your representatives should pay attention to the prospect’s body language and level of engagement as well. Depending on how the initial conversation with a prospect goes, the individual may quickly become a Sales Accepted Lead, or SAL, whose next step is to be nurtured further or make a purchase.

Let Us Delight Your Leads Throughout the Sales Funnel

If you’re ready to convert more leads into MQLs, SQLs and SALs, the digital marketing experts at GoingClear Interactive can help. Our team will work tirelessly to capture high-quality leads and delight them throughout the sales funnel with timely, meaningful marketing messages aimed to motivate them to make a purchase.

Based in Boston, GoingClear Interactive is perfectly positioned to help small and midsize businesses convert more leads and increase their bottom line. Let us help you improve your lead conversion rate and generate more sales. That’s what we do and we’ll be happy to do it for you. 

Your path to more conversions is clear, and it’s with GoingClear Interactive.

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