What is a Qualified Lead and How MQL is Different from SQL

If you don’t know much about the advanced lead generation strategy, you might wonder what a qualified lead means. To understand it, let’s begin with the term “lead” that can mean a lot of things. Typically, a business lead indicates an individual who can become a potential customer to buy a product or service. Depending on the level of this potential, we can separate one lead from another.

Lead generation is one of the most vital steps in sales and marketing as it can deliver a huge ROI in quickest possible time. The process of getting the valuable pool of prospects that can eventually become paying customers is known as Lead Generation Funnel.

A qualified lead can have different meanings for different businesses. For some businesses, a qualified lead refers to someone who could become a potential customer on the basis of criteria and information that they have voluntarily provided. On the other hand, some consider qualified lead as the number of leads that has been verified.

Qualification can be described as the process of collecting information about a lead and verifying their interest and ability to purchase. There is no standard criterion for it as it varies from business to business. However, only those who have willingly provided information are counted as a qualified lead. As such, these are the leads that have shown clear interest in the product or service. These qualified or Sales Ready Leads with a strong intent to buy ensures a much higher success rate for businesses.

When it comes to the digital marketing funnel, the qualified leads involve marketing and sales qualified leads. Now, let’s take a look at these!

Marketing Qualified Lead

The first stage of qualification is usually a marketing qualified lead or MQL. It can be defined as someone the business hopes of converting down the funnel and moving to sales step or further evaluation. These prospects are already in your lead-tracking system because they have met the minimum criteria to continue marketing to them. MQL is one who has expressed interest in buying your product and passes a set of lead qualifications to move further down the funnel. For instance, you can qualify someone as MQL when the Lead has responded to your Email Campaign by submitted its details.

A marketing qualified lead is the first step in the qualification because it helps marketers in filtering potential buyers. However, this step may include people who are not business buyers such as students or your competitors. This means that an MQL is not necessarily someone who is going to definitely buy your product or service. This is usually found out after further exploration that your sales team should not waste time on MQLs that are not good fits for your business. To eliminate such disqualifying factors that waste time, you should use a CRM such as HubSpot. Moreover, you need to collect information such as company name, email address, industry or vertical, and some personal questions to evaluate their interest in order to qualify the lead as an MQL.

Sales Qualified Lead

A sales-qualified lead or SQL can be defined as a prospective customer that has been researched to deem fit for the next stage in the sales process. A SQL is first examined by the marketing department of the company and is then vetted by its sales team before proceeding to the next stage. There is no exact or universal definition of an SQL as both MQL and SQL definitions depends on your organizational needs, market changes, and buying patterns. However, an SQL is someone who has displayed intent to buy your product or services and is deemed a right fit for the organization’s lead qualification criteria.

In order to determine which qualities or actions of a prospect should be taken into account to get classified as an SQL, both sales and marketing teams need to coordinate. An SQL is confirmed only when a prospect qualifies the engagement stage and is ready to be pursued for conversion into a full-fledged customer. Demographics, lead’s industry, company size, and job role are important factors in determining an SQL. You may either receive the budget information, company size, their role/position, number of employees, or something else specific to your industry. It is because these sales-qualified leads are valuable for the company, the management and sales team sends them a personalized sales follow-up.

Difference between MQL and SQL

As you might have understood by now, both MQL and SQL are different. The basic difference between MQLs and SQLs is the readiness to buy. MQL is like giving a lecture to the audience in order to attract them or inform about your product. But when that lecture turns into a conversation, it becomes sales-ready.

Marketing-qualified lead is what the marketing department performs at the beginning of the process to gain interest in its products. The marketing phase involves social media, opt-in forms, and email responses to generate engagement. An MQL is a lead that has intentionally performed actions like submitting contact information, adding e-commerce items to a shopping cart, downloading materials, or repeatedly visiting a website. Although you find these leads promising, it is not necessary that they step into a sales conversation.

Once MQLs shows interest and are deemed eligible by the management and sales team, they are passed to the next stage for becoming SQLs. Some actions, such as downloading a whitepaper often make a prospect eligible for an SQL. However, both MQL and SQL vary among companies and different criteria are used by marketing and sales teams to qualify leads.

“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”
― Mark Twain

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