For many businesses, lead generation is an essential part of the marketing funnel. But not all leads are the same; some are more worth pursuing than others. This begs the question: how do you know which leads to focus on, and which to deprioritize? To start with the basics, there are two levels of qualified leads: marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL). While both are technically “leads,” they represent consumers at different stages of sales-readiness.
For a consumer to be considered a marketing qualified lead, they must show interest in a product or service based on a company’s marketing efforts, including sharing contact information, downloading a software trial or e-book, joining a mailing list, clicking an ad or reaching out to request additional information. By taking one of these actions, the consumer exhibits interest, signaling to a company that they may be a potential customer. It’s also worth mentioning that this is no way an exhaustive list of actions, since the definition of a marketing qualified lead often varies company-by-company.
Once a customer has proven they’re serious about purchasing your product or service, they’re ready to chat with the sales team and effectively make the jump from being a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead. At this point in their journey, the customer has most likely done research and is very interested to learn more, moving further down the sales funnel. At this stage, it’s the sales team’s job to answer any lingering questions and convert. The customer has now become a sales qualified lead.
Now that we’ve covered the different types of qualified leads, we’ll explore the basics of identifying these qualified leads, while simultaneously increasing ROI and driving sales:
Creating Harmony Between Your Marketing and Sales Teams
Alignment between marketing and sales is crucial, because the marketing team often determines when leads are passed to the sales team. As a caveat, it’s important to remember that not every marketing qualified lead will make the transition to a sales qualified lead — a person may show interest, but not be ready to commit. For example, if they’ve moved through the sales funnel too quickly, they may be hesitant to make a purchase. On the flip side, if leads sit in the hands of your marketing team for too long, you might miss the window of opportunity to make a sale. By establishing alignment between marketing and sales, both teams will know what to look for and what to avoid when identifying qualified leads, thus streamlining the sales process.
Becoming a Sales Qualified Lead
Not every customer will evolve into a marketing qualified lead; and likewise, not every marketing qualified lead will become a sales qualified lead. To help companies identify the leads with the greatest potential, many turn to lead scoring, a process that ranks prospects to determine sales-readiness. This system creates common ground between marketing and sales — see how this could get tricky if the two aren’t aligned?
For companies to successfully leverage lead scoring, they must know and understand their customers’ behaviors and attributes, allowing them to accurately assign a score to each action taken by potential customers. For instance, “positive” actions like opening an email, visiting multiple website pages, downloading a white paper or requesting a demo add to a consumer’s rank score, and actions such as ignoring emails, unsubscribing, visiting the “careers” page frequently or providing a fake email address may signal a point deduction. If you’re wondering why visiting the careers page could indicate that a lead is unqualified, it’s because it suggests the person may be more interested in working for your company rather than buying your product or service. Overall, lead scoring allows the marketing and sales teams to better understand where a consumer falls on the sales-readiness spectrum — the higher the score, the better.
Qualified leads comprise an important part of the sales funnel, and success lies in a company’s ability to recognize when it’s time to move a prospect further down the funnel, nurture them or stop pursuing them entirely.