Marketing Qualified Leads vs. Sales Qualified Leads: Making the Cut

Marketing Qualified Leads vs. Sales Qualified Leads: Making the Cut image mqls vs sqls

Not every potential lead is going to fit the definition of your ideal customer, nor are they all going to voraciously download every fact sheet on your website. So, how much of a fit, and how engaged does a lead have to be for marketing to hand it off to sales?

This answer will be different for everyone, and the key to making it work for your organization is intelligent lead scoring.

Imagine you’re evaluating the potential of two different prospects. One is a V.P. from an industry that typically buys your product, and the other is a Marketing Specialist from an industry you don’t normally do a lot of business with. The V.P. has visited your website but hasn’t opened any of your emails or downloaded any whitepapers. The Marketing Specialist has been to your website 12 times in the last week, and he’s already downloaded all of your whitepapers and several of your fact sheets.

Which one of them should you hand-off to sales?    

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Before you even ask this question, you need to come up with a system that assigns point values to each different criterion. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need to revisit your system’s accuracy regularly. Lead scoring isn’t a “set it and forget it” activity; agile marketing demands you check back at regular intervals to ensure you’re realistically appraising your prospects.

Let’s go back to our uninterested V.P. and our engaged Marketing Specialist. Your historical sales data shows leads with V.P. roles are 10 times more likely to buy your product than leads with less prestigious job titles. You might, then, give leads with V.P. in their job title 10 points and leads with less authoritative roles (e.g., Marketing Specialists) zero.

Now let’s look at the behavioral qualifications. In the past, you’ve found that leads generally visit your website 10 times and download half of your whitepapers before buying. You might, then, give the Marketing Specialist’s activity 15 points and the V.P.’s activity one.

Not all of these criteria are created equal, though, and you’ll need to weigh each one depending on how powerful of an indicator it is that a prospect will turn into a sale. Maybe your data shows that a prospect’s job title doesn’t always correlate strongly with a closed sale—perhaps the product you sell gets noticed first by a lower-level employee, who then convinces the C-suite to get on board. And let’s also say the kind of content leads interact with before buying has a high correlation to whether they turn into customers—your ebooks, for example, have been downloaded by almost every lead that converted into a sale. With this information in hand, you can weigh the type of content consumed more heavily than the job title data, leading to a more accurate assessment of a lead’s sales-readiness.

The last step in this process is for sales and marketing to set point values that determine whether a lead should make the journey from marketing’s database to the sales team’s prospect list. The lead score you agree on will be the factor that differentiates MQLs from SQLs—it’s crucial sales and marketing come to an agreement about the minimum acceptable lead score for MQLs.

Working with an inbound marketing agency can take the mystery out of the lead qualification process. Marketing needs to monitor leads throughout the sales cycle, and because lead scores change over time, it can be extremely helpful to use marketing automation software (like Hubspot’s Lead Management Tool) that’s capable of setting up custom alerts to notify you when a lead’s score hits the MQL sweet spot.

What tactics has your company used to define qualified leads? Share your expertise in the comments!

Marketing Qualified Leads vs. Sales Qualified Leads: Making the Cut image 14c8632a 335d 4895 8387 65955b5f72383

photo credit: striatic

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