A lead is a lead, right? Maybe so, if you look the same way at anyone who expresses interest in your product or service. The downside to this view is that some of these leads are further along the buyer’s journey. They need a different message than those leads just starting to express interest.
It’s why successful organizations sort leads and respond to them based on what’s been discovered about intent. Leads tend to fall into two distinct categories this way:
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). A lead determined likely to become a customer because of the interaction they’ve had with marketing tools such as your website and its content.
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). A lead that has shown a much stronger intent to purchase, which usually is indicated by a conversation or interaction with a member of your sales team.
Why knowing and treating MQLs and SQLs differently matters
It’s true that both types of leads are hungry for more information but understanding which category to place a lead in helps you decide who should take responsibility for keeping up the conversation.
MQLs are at the start of the customer journey. They may just recently have become aware of your product or service. Or, they might be a bit further along, where they’re at the phase of evaluation. In both cases, it’s more effective and efficient to engage them with informative marketing content – ranging from social media posts and email campaigns to blogs, eBooks and webinars. It’s highly important to be at the front of your buyers journey with your prospects – ahead of your competitors – because you increase the odds the prospect will choose you by exponential measure when you do so.
On the other hand, SQLs have taken an action that puts them squarely in the buying cycle. These leads need personalized interactions – usually the type that only a sales representative reaching out can provide.
Consider what could happen, though, if you applied this stronger interaction to someone who’s still in the passive awareness stage of a customer journey. They’re likely still interested only in self-directed exploration. A potential sale could be derailed. Likewise, applying deeper and stronger interaction too late could result in lost sales opportunities.
The MQL-to-SQL transition
Leads begin as MQLs and based on their interactions they become SQLs. The timing of the handoff between marketing and sales – defining a MQL and a SQL for your organization – is crucial. Filling out a form to get more information doesn’t necessarily express buying interest. You’re going to need more insight into a prospect’s overall behavior to determine that someone is ready to be a SQL.
This is usually accomplished through a process known as lead scoring, which assigns values to the information you know about a prospect. It helps to determine who – sales or marketing – should be leading the conversation. Higher lead scores typically indicate someone is farther along the customer journey and closer to a buying decision.
What this means is that your sales and marketing efforts have to be in alignment. Interested in learning how we can help you increase sales by deepening your understanding and identification of MQLs and SQLs in your market right now?