Mql vs Sql: Why is it important in a sales cycle?

Are you confused between the terms “MQL” and “SQL”? While both have the term qualified leads, they are completely different from each other. The article will focus on everything you need to know about the concepts. But before we begin, let’s have a short and crisp definition of the terms.

The main difference between SQL and MQL looks like this- While an MQL stands a little up the sales funnel, SQL stays close to the bottom of the sales funnel. That said, a lead cant jumps into being an SQL without qualifying MQL. Because one leads to another down the sales funnel. Not yet clear? Wait a moment and take a deep dive into the concept here below!

What is an MQL?

Marketing qualified leads(MQLs) are people who are more likely to receive further assistance in listening to a brand. They show interest in a business in some way or the other but might not be ready for a sales pitch right away. Now, what defines SQL in the same funnel?

A sales qualified lead or SQL bears the readiness to get in touch with a sales rep instantly. The faster the sales team contacts such prospects, the better is the relationship between the lead and the company. Such action translates into a concept known as speed to lead.

However, lead intelligence can only be provided by closed-loop analytics- a mix of website analytics and CRM data to predict various happenings in the customer journey.

Handing off a lead from MQL to SQL effectively 

1. Lead Scoring

Giving values to each lead in the form of numerical points is known as lead scoring. The process recognizes a couple of attributes such as submission of professional info, way of engagement with a company’s website, as well as the organization online. 

Once the value is assigned, the strategy helps marketing and sales teams prioritize leads followed by a proper response, thus increasing the rate of conversions. Meanwhile, it also leads to better time management for sales teams who can focus more on pitching activities. 

In most companies, the tactic demands maintenance to offset its core value-driven by exclusive insights such as market cap, company details, content engagement, and funding. But before executing the strategy, your business must consider its needs, about whether leads can be qualified via routing rules. 

If routing rules can’t help, lead scoring would be the ideal way out to success. Say, your reps aren’t overburdened with leads to switch into a different process from manual alternatives. Then, lead scoring isn’t your choice.

2. Lead Behavior

When assessing lead behavior, MQLs drill the weightage behind every action. They span over various activities like participating in a demo, booking a meeting, or replying to an email. Your sales team should assign values to each in terms of significance. 

Based on the type and level of engagement, an MQL decides whether a lead can pass onto SQL or not. Here, sales must not ignore any negative action on the lead’s part. For instance, if a lead doesn’t engage with a brand anymore or keeps emails unopened due to some reason, the lead score will automatically come down.

3. Likelihood to Buy

Various factors necessitate a lead to be converted into SQL. They range from the need to get hands-on with a service or product, affordability, required infrastructure to use them, to their problem-solving capability. 

Such questions can be answered using the BANT system- Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline. Rather than asking routine questions to BANT, your business can get a sound idea about whether it’s serving a potential customer in the funnel.

Comparing MQL and SQL

The value of a specific action or a piece of demographic info, in the context of routing rules or lead scoring, depends on the company. To give an example, while first-time visitors for Company B, might bear the same likelihood of purchasing as a frequent visitor, Company C’s leads might not convert unless visiting the brand page for at least thrice.

Irrespective of assigning weightage to particular behaviors, some general attributes defining MQL and SQL need to be considered from a standard outlook:

  • First-time visitor v.s. frequent visitor
  • The number of conversions or time, the leads fill out a form 
  • Detection of the buying stage, indicative of the consumed content (checking the pricing details)
  • Tracing The source channel from where the lead has been generated (whether leads from Facebook have better chances of becoming a customer)
  • Look out for negative characteristics(brand rivals, applicants for jobs)

How can you nurture SQLs effectively?

When a lead transitions into the sales team, the role of pitch comes into play. However, sales professionals must be prepared enough to engage the lead with an intention. 

That implies they must have info from the MQL phase to close the deal soon. For instance, they must know what type of asset was downloaded in the past or the lead’s story behind seeking a specific solution, so that the pitch makes sense to the prospects.

Tracking MQL and SQL

Monitoring MQL and SQL throughout the journey provides multiple insights to the marketing and sales departments. It speaks for:

  1. What is working well for the company?
  2. How often SQLs are becoming customers?
  3. Are sales personnel able to engage in meaningful interactions?

Channelizing the MQL-to-SQL process

While the transition of MQL to SQL isn’t an easy process, a lead scoring automation tool can ascertain the overall engagement. It will also help evaluate the performance of the sales and marketing team within the funnel(if they can sustain the lead’s interest or not). 

On the other hand, CRM automation will allow the distribution of new SQLs via email notifications or by putting them to task with required info. Your business can even have a service-level agreement (SLA) to know about handling leads, the viewed versions of your brand product in the timeline.

That’s not the end of using lead distribution software. It can simply send leads to the right rep as per the criteria, inclusive of their availability, location, and expertise. Ideally, various sales teams placed across domestic and international locations cut back on the wait time for customers, providing a satisfying experience throughout the journey.

When a business shouldn’t pass on leads to the sales team immediately? 

If your business finds the need of investing hefty cash or a lot of time by the leads, they shouldn’t be handed over to sales in a hurried manner. Say if leads come to know about it during the engagement, the decision-making process will be delayed. Before the final push, one needs to take count of several parameters-

  • the reason behind form fillup
  • their present state of mind 

The best time to qualify leads into the sales team will be when their interest gets intensified, exhibiting a willingness to explore the brand’s value proposition in the ensuing period. 

Every MQL should not be passed on to the sales team. Here’s why.

Offering MQLs with good quality content such as webinars, whitepapers, or blogs helps build trust for a brand while educating about the company’s benefits. The marketers should engage the leads step by step and impart a comprehensive understanding of the brand. 

This will uncover actionable info for the leads to make an informed decision. On one hand, the motif is to show how a brand cares for its customers. Again, that should reflect on the brand’s expertise within the given field. Here, GPCT( Goals, Plans, Challenges, Timeline) and Hubspot can help achieve the desired outcomes.

Always remember, some leads can remain suspects even after trying out the best strategies. It’s like when you think they are about to convert after coming down all the way, things don’t move forward. That is one side of the story. To consider other leads, they might need more marketing efforts, be it freebies or demos.

Leads need to be sent back to the marketing team at times

At times, if the sales team feels leads haven’t been nurtured enough, they have to be pushed back to the marketing department. Either way, when a lead has already passed onto sales, giving away special offers will help boost their delight onto a different level. The trick will ultimately result in the achievement of new customers via referrals.

Another twist lies in sending customers back to the marketing team after your brand has been trusted. Such a strategy will help retain the leads over the period. As long as you host quality offerings, they will be interested in hearing about the various product lines. An obvious tactic to celebrate such bonds is to offer discount codes on special occasions.

SDRs usually follow up with a couple of MQLs daily. Every lead gets a call from the sales team that sometimes goes unanswered. The main goal is to get their nod for scheduling an intro call in the days to come.

ABM can fit into the picture from a wider perspective. MQL doesn’t get complete without account-based marketing(ABM). The basic concept behind it is to discover ideal leads without wasting time on unfit ones. The approach also helps to zoom into marketing qualified accounts(MQAs) rather than MQLs. Once you are ready to adopt it, the number of contacts matters the least.

The stage between MQL and SQL

Since MQLs and SQLs are two extremes, something must be drawing a line between them. And that is called sales accepted lead(SAL). The meaning of the term is pretty simple. At times, leads have to go through a phase of transition before passing on from MQL to SQL. When the qualifying criteria are met by the leads, the sales team accepts them. This step is called SAL.  

An MQL might get rejected by the sales team based on 3 parameters- 

  1. The lead data isn’t accurate and to the point
  2. They don’t match the buyer persona- your products or services might not solve their issues or address their demands
  3. The lead isn’t mature enough to get into SQL

In the U.S., 84% of customers with the readiness to buy have faced longer journeys than expected.

  • How do MQLs behave within the funnel?

An MQL is always bound to ask basic questions, which answer their problems in the initial stage of the buyer cycle. While they might not be eager to buy your products immediately, your offering gets thought of at the back of their mind. They fit the buyer persona to be considered as prospects.

  • How is it for SQL?

Since SQLs pass on as potential leads after a lot of research, they would be more interested in buying your product or service straight away, rather than asking general questions to your brand.

Key Takeaways-

  1. What is an Mql?

An MQL is someone interested in a brand’s offering who’s reached out to by the marketing team. They are more likely to convert into customers in the future.

  1. What is SQL in marketing?

An SQL is defined as a prospective customer who has gone beyond the engagement stage for a brand. They are considered ready by both sales and marketing teams for a direct sales push.

  1. How do I qualify for Mql?
  1.  Ask whether the target is MQL or not 
  2. Assess the buyer persona
  3. Consider the feedback given by the sales team
  4. Take a look at demographic or firmographic factors
  5. Take a note of the qualifying behavior
  6. Predict whether marketing can bring in enough qualified leads

4. Is SQL an opportunity?

An SQL turns into an opportunity when they confirm a brand can address their problems, thereby going forward with the sales process.

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