MQL vs. SQL: A Guide to Maximizing Revenue Growth

June 7, 2024

Managing a diverse range of sales leads can be a real challenge in today's B2B landscape. However, by nurturing every lead more efficiently, you can optimize your funnel and close more business deals. That's why it's crucial to differentiate between marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) and sales-qualified leads (SQLs). In this article, we'll explore the main differences between MQLs vs. SQLs and how understanding this can help you optimize your B2B marketing and sales efforts.

What is the difference between an MQL & an SQL?

Simply put, an MQL is someone who's interested in your products or solutions but not necessarily ready to buy, while an SQL is someone who's interested and intends to buy. The primary difference between MQLs and SQLs is intent, and each type of lead requires different ads, outreach, and other brand messaging.

What is an MQL?

An MQL is someone who shows interest in your brand, products, or solutions but may not be ready to make a purchase decision. They could have visited your site, clicked on a programmatic ad, or downloaded an ebook about a high-level topic in your industry. Their behavior doesn't necessarily indicate direct purchase intent, but it does put them at the top of the marketing funnel and tells you that they might be open to hearing more from your brand.

What is an SQL?

On the other hand, an SQL is someone with buying intent who appears interested in your company's offerings. They have engaged with your brand several times and shown interest in more advanced content like case studies, product comparisons, and pricing charts. An MQL becomes an SQL when they have demonstrated certain signals of intent and are ready to be reached out by your B2B sales team.

Why the difference between an MQL and SQL matters

Understanding the breakdown of MQLs and SQLs is crucial for your marketing and sales teams because it helps you operate more efficiently. MQLs and SQLs are both leads in different stages of their buyer journeys, and knowing how to qualify them helps determine the right messaging each one should receive and when. This qualification process is determined based on lead behavior, score and even type. 

Lead behavior

Lead behavior is all the actions a prospective customer takes while engaging with your brand. Examining lead behavior can tell you a lot about their location in the buyer journey, and you can pull behavior analytics from your account-based platform. You can examine specific actions like what pages the lead has visited and in what order, how much time they've spent on your website, what forms they've filled out and more.

Lead scoring

Lead scoring is the process of ranking a lead's sales readiness by assigning points based on a list of qualifications and actions they take. Once a contact reaches a certain threshold, they're ready to hand off to sales. In addition to lead behavior, you can assign points based on demographic information, company information, other online behavior, email engagement and subscription status, and social engagement level.

Types of Leads

Once you have your lead scoring down, it's important to understand the different types of leads you may encounter in your sales funnel. There are 3 main types of leads:

  • Hot Leads - The person is ready to buy, has the money and budget to close the deal

  • Warm Leads - The person may want to buy, may have already done a trial, or may be already locked into a contract with a competitor.

  • Cold Leads - The person does not have any knowledge of who you are, what your company does or could be looking only for information.

How to transition an MQL to an SQL

Businesses often make the mistake of sending leads to sales too soon. Just because a lead has engaged with your brand does not necessarily mean that they are ready to make a purchase. It is essential to analyze a lead's behavior with your brand before making the transition. For instance, if most of their interactions with your brand are at the top of the funnel, answering questions, they may not be ready for sales yet. Conversely, if a lead downloads pricing information as one of their first engagements, they are not truly a sales-qualified lead.

To successfully transition an MQL to an SQL, businesses should examine a lead's total behavior with their brand. This involves scrutinizing their engagement across various touchpoints and determining whether they fit the profile of a sales-ready lead.

Once a lead has reached the ideal lead score, it's time to transition them to sales. This can be done through customer relationship management (CRM) automation, which can deliver the new SQL to sales via email notification or task. However, even with automation, sales and marketing teams still need to collaborate regularly and discuss SQLs to ensure the handoff process or lead score threshold is working effectively.

While most leads take time to nurture and manage before they're ready to talk to sales, nurturing them with helpful content throughout the sales funnel is the most practical approach to operating efficiently, hitting lead targets, and creating a loyal customer base that trusts your organization.

Get the right data to develop leads into customers

To optimize the process of developing leads into customers, bring your sales and marketing teams together and outline a profile of what your business defines as a ‘sales-ready lead’. This involves deciding what criteria and qualifications need to be met to indicate a true purchase intent. At RollWorks, we understand that having the right software to optimize lead nurturing efforts is also key. 

From there, make sure you have the right software to optimize all of your lead nurturing efforts that offer sales and marketing teams to advance lead management. This can look like creating custom scoring models that update in real-time, automating nurturing based on persona and buying stage, and real-time data to inform your sales and marketing strategies. 

Transitioning MQLs to SQLs is a critical step towards closing more business in B2B marketing and sales. By carefully analyzing a lead's behavior with your brand, collaborating effectively between sales and marketing teams, and utilizing the right account-based platform, you can successfully convert leads into loyal customers and accelerate revenue growth.

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between SQL and MQL?

  • A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a marketing sales lead that is likely to become an actual customer. In relation to your website, the MQL might be a visitor who has shown an interest in your site's content. A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) indicates an immediate interest in purchasing your products. In contrast, MQLs are leads that might need more education and follow-up.

What is an example of MQL?

  • A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) might be a visitor who has shown an interest in your site's content. For example the person could fill out an online form, sign up to receive a newsletter, place items in a shopping cart or download content.

What is an example of an SQL?

  • A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a lead who has been identified as having a higher likelihood of making a purchase. This is usually based on certain criteria such as their level of engagement with the business, their fit with the ideal customer profile, and their level of interest in the product or service offered.

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