MQL vs. SQL: What are the Factors That Differentiate the Two?
What is the first crucial step in the long, and at times, arduous and challenging sales journey? It is inevitably the lead acquisition, isn't it? However, are all leads qualified enough to turn into your loyal buyers? The answer to this question needs to be explored by understanding the concept of two important types of leads—MQL and SQL—which stand for marketing qualified lead and sales qualified lead, respectively.
What are these leads? What are the factors that make these two different from each other? Why is it important to know the difference between the two in the context of the sales and marketing process? Let us examine all these questions one by one.
What is an MQL?
In the simplest terms, a marketing qualified lead is an individual who visits your site with some amount of interest and curiosity in the products or the services you sell. This individual fits in your buyer persona as defined by the marketing team. As per this definition, this individual may have expressed interest in your products or services without revealing their pain points or objectives to buy.
An MQL is typically defined by the sales and marketing team based on the customer lifecycle. But, broadly, an MQL is an individual who is interested in buying your products or services but is not yet absolutely ready to buy. The MQLs have the potential to be your buyers if nurtured rightly.
What is an SQL?
A sales qualified lead is an individual who intends to buy and seems interested in your company as the potential seller of the desired products or the services. Following an initial connect call from the sales team, an individual is classified as a sales qualified lead. This classification is made based on their level of seriousness and motivation to buy.
An SQL is an individual who is ready for one-on-one consultations with your sales team and is looking forward to receiving sales-focused content and support. The SQL is naturally the priority of the sales team when it is reviewing the customer lifecycle in the context of MQL vs SQL.
The Differentiating Factors between MQL and SQL
The MQLs and SQLs are not absolute concepts. They are quite relative and may vary for every industry and even for companies in the same industry. However, some general factors separate an MQL from an SQL. Following are some of the most important differentiating factors:
● Intent to buy: This is the most important factor in differentiating an MQL from SQL. An SQL is the one who surely intends to buy whereas an MQL hasn't yet decided.
● The number of site visits: A lead who visited your site just once is an MQL while a lead who keeps coming back to the site and downloads bottom-of-the-funnel content offers is an SQL who is ready to be approached directly.
● Content consumption patterns: A lead who reads your website content that informs and educates is an MQL. A lead who reads, downloads your website content, and keeps coming back to know more tips to buy the product or service is surely an SQL, waiting to be your potential buyer!
● Conversion count: A lead who has downloaded just a couple of pieces of content is an MQL whereas a lead who has filled out a form on your post-click landing page offers is surely an SQL who might have converted on other offers of your website too!
● Contact requests: A lead that has made a request to be contacted is a surefire sign of an SQL against a lead whom the sales team needs to approach to set up a call or a demo.
Why Is It Important to Know the Difference between MQL and SQL?
Knowing the difference between MQL and SQL helps companies prepare effective sales and marketing strategies. When there's total clarity about MQL and SQL, specific teams can offer the right content at the right time. For example, when a sales team offers bottom-of-the-funnel content and makes a sales call to a lead who is only researching what your product is and how it works, it may seem pushy and backfire. Similarly, offering content outlining the basics of your product to a lead who has decided to buy seems quite irrelevant in the overall ecosystem of sales prospecting. Following are some other reasons why it is important to know the difference between MQL and SQL:
● Helps teams provide a better lead nurturing experience with minimum efforts
● Saves a lot of time for a sales team that ultimately improves the cost of the sales and marketing process
● Increases ROI of sales and marketing teams
● Boosts overall business growth with improved customer satisfaction.
Converting an MQL into an SQL
As per the studies, 90% of MQL sales are never converted into SQLs because it was too early to classify them as SQLs. The process of converting an MQL into SQL is fraught with a lot of challenges. But, it is possible to navigate through these challenges quite smoothly. Following are some of the ways to make this happen:
● Both the marketing and the sales team agree on the definitions of MQL and SQL.
● Upon the classification of the lead as an MQL, the marketing team runs a few lead nurturing campaigns through various targeted marketing campaigns.
● The marketing team passes on the information to the sales team once the lead is reasonably considered an SQL.
● Regular meetings and discussions with the sales and marketing teams to identify the issues in this entire process and solve them effectively.
Hence, the process of converting an MQL into an SQL is all about trust, clear communication, and careful timing. When the marketing team and the sales team are in alignment, this transition becomes quite smooth and productive.
Identifying MQLs and SQLs correctly plays a significant role in the overall marketing and sales strategy of a company. Knowing the difference between the two is also crucial to reducing the marketing and sales costs of the company. While the advanced sales prospecting tools help achieve the desired business goals, a conscious collaboration between the marketing and sales teams is essential. When both these teams are in perfect agreement about the classification of MQLs and SQLs, it empowers them to develop more relevant content and offer better lead nurturing experiences to the leads.
The clarity on the definitions of MQLs and SQLs, thorough knowledge of the differences between the two, and open communication help the teams close more deals. It also helps the company reap higher ROI and greater customer engagement and gratification.