Leads are typically qualified into two separate categories: Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).
(Depending on the type of business you’re in, you may also have Information Qualified Leads (IQLs) or Product Qualified Leads (PQLs). For many businesses, IQLs and MQLs are two terms that describe basically the same thing, and PQLs are fairly specific to SaaS companies, so we’ll focus on the most widely-used qualifiers here.)
What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?
MQLs are prospects that have engaged with your marketing team’s efforts, but have not yet signaled they’re ready to buy.
An MQL has initiated contact or indicated interest in your company, for example by filling out a contact form on a website or landing page, by downloading an ebook from you, or by putting their business card in a fishbowl at a tradeshow.
These leads have the potential to become buyers, but are not quite ready to take that step.
Your marketing team will engage your MQLs with information and media relevant to their needs and interests and then will initiate a lead scoring process based on the lead’s responsiveness to those materials.
MQLs can mature into sales qualified leads once they are deemed ready to buy. When this happens these specific leads are handed off to your sales team.
What is a Sales Qualified Lead?
An SQL is a lead who has moved beyond engagement with your company. They’re characterized by specific actions that indicate they have intentions of becoming a paying customer, for example contacting your support team about plan prices or service quotes.
When starting to build a relationship with an SQL, it is important to take their time as an MQL into account. Ideally, your sales team will have visibility into the habits and behaviors they demonstrated in interacting with your marketing collateral — what resources captured their attention? How frequently did they engage? What specific behaviors moved them further down your sales pipeline?
This analysis will allow your sales team to understand the interest points of your product that are relevant to this specific person as well as to define how you should continue to sell your product.
The success of your sales efforts hinge on a cohesive messaging strategy. The story you tell the SQL should seek to build on and clarify their understanding of your products and services as an MQL.