What is the difference between a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead?

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    A lot of people get confused with the terms “sales qualified lead” and “marketing qualified lead.” So, we decided to put this comprehensive guide together to give you a better understanding. One thing that everyone understands, though, is that consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated with every day that passes by. This is something you will know no matter whether you are in B2C or B2B sales. This is why it is imperative that all of the moving pieces of your sales processes are given clear names and definitions. Without this, you can end up with a messy sales process and money lost, which is something that no business wants. With that in mind, in this post, we are going to help you to understand a Sales Qualified Lead (SQLs) and a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQLs), as well as breaking down the key differences between the two and providing you with lots of useful information regarding how to utilise these leads at your company. So, continue reading to find out everything you need to know.

    What is an MQL?

    So, let’s begin by taking a look at marketing qualified leads. This is a lead that is deemed more likely to become a paying consumer when compared with other leads. This decision is reached based on lead intelligence, typically informed by closed-loop analytics.

    So, marketing qualified leads are high-value, as you know they are more likely to become a customer. But, how do you know that this is the case? There are a number of different ways that you may have come to this judgment.

    The first is through marketing. You may have drawn this individual to your landing page via inbound marketing, ads, or another means. This also means that they have already taken the bait, so to speak. They may have signed up for something or given you their email. They could have even requested an interaction with you.

    The second way in which the value of such a lead is determined is by hand. What this means is that you have utilised your ideal buyer personas, which has enabled you to create a highly-targeted buyers list. This is more of a hands-on approach and it tends to be used by reps in B2B sales who are looking for brands that fit a specific firmographics data set.

    These are the two main ways in which a lead is judged. Nevertheless, there are, of course, other ways that these sorts of leads may have come your way, for example, through referrals.

    Marketing Vs Sales Qualified Leads

    Section 2:

    What is an SQL?

    You now know what a marketing qualified lead is, but what about sales qualified leads? This is a prospective customer that has been researched and vetted. Initially, this will have been carried out by the marketing department at your team, and then the sales team will have also carried out their analysis. The result of this is that they believe the lead is ready for the next stage in the sales process.

    Because of this, you can understand that a lead will progress from a MQL to an SQL, and this is when the lead has been vetted and it is deemed that they are ready for the next stage. This means that the lead has been checked out and that your team has determined that the prospect is genuine. This is a lead that is ready for a conversation and has been educated.

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    The process of acquiring a MQL can often take a bit of time. However, once the sales team get involved, the process can often go a lot quicker. Because of this, though, it highlights why it is imperative that there is an exceptional system in place for determining when a lead hits that plateau and is ready for interaction with one of your sales experts.

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    The importance of SQLs for marketing and sales

    Although a sales qualified lead will be handled by your sales team, it is still important for your marketing team too. After all, when your marketing teams qualify leads, they will then be moved onto the sales team. If you segment all elements of the lead qualification process, rather than viewing them as a whole, you will have employees that are working to different goals. Moreover, each team will not be held accountable for their efforts. If you do not have a clear series of events that alerts both your marketing and sales teams of when a lead is fit, you will end up pitching to leads that are not ready, as well as losing those leads that were ready sooner than you approached them. This is why the SQL process is such a critical step for everyone involved in lead generation and management at your business.

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    How do you put a price on an MQL?

    The cost of your lead should never be more than your lead value. Nevertheless, you do need to be careful to make sure that the value is not outrageously higher when it comes to the amount of money that you would be willing to spend on an individual lead. It is advisable that your analysis is narrowed down into separate advertising channels within your overall campaign, as this enables you to have full clarity regarding the relative cost of each. There are a number of steps you will need to take in order to determine the value of a lead and put a price on it. This includes:

    Lead Value

    • Developing an agreed-upon definition of an MQL
    • Using your buyer personas as a starting point
    • Getting anecdotal sales feedback
    • Determining qualification factors in terms of firmographics and demographics
    • Determine behavioural qualification details

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    How to mark something as a MQL in HubSpot

    If you use HubSpot, it is important to know how to manage your sales process with lead status. So, let’s provide you with some instructions on this. The first thing you need to do is make sure you update the lead status property. There are a number of different ways you can go about this, including:

    • Using a form hidden field
    • Using a ‘set a property value’ action in a workflow
    • Import to update the lead status property for a list of contacts
    • Manually update the lead status property for your contact.


    Once you have done this, you need to understand the default statuses. These are as follows: bad timing, connected, attempted to contact, unqualified, open deal, in progress, open, and new. This will enable you to easily identify MQLs and leads to work on.

    For example, connected leads can often be MQLs. these are leads that you have made contact with, yet you do not believe they are ready to turn into a paying customer just yet. This could be because the lead is still in the early stages of the buying funnel or that they are waiting on a key decision-maker in their team.


    You can also use HubSpot to customise the lead status property. After all, the default statuses mentioned above do not actually have a MQL within them. So, why not create your own one? To do this, you simply need to click the settings icon in the main navigation bar on your HubSpot account. You should then select Properties, which is on the left. After this, choose the tab entitled Contact Properties. You can use the search bar to search for the lead status. You can then edit the property by clicking Lead Status. Scroll to the Radio select options in the property editor screen. This then gives you the ability to edit or add new options. Think about your outreach process when you are customising this property to create an MQL. What qualifies a lead as a MQL in your eyes? Is it a certain number of website visits, for example? Is it a visit to a certain page on your website? You can use all of this criteria to create an MQL status, making it easier for you to track these.

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    How are MQLs measured?

    There are a number of different ways that marketing qualified leads are identified and measured. This includes analysing how these leads have behaved compared to other leads that have resulted in being a paying customer. You must examine historical behaviour. What do your customers-won and customers-lost do when they are ready to buy? By looking at how sales have gone in the past, you will be better placed to understand what path a lead is on and whether they are worthy of being a MQL. As already touched upon, you can also put a number of specific criteria in place to determine the value of an MQL. For example, elements like how many times this lead has visited your website, how many times they have visited certain pages, and how long they have spent on your website each time can be considered. You may also want to consider demographic factors to ensure that the lead fits into your target consumer base. Aside from this, looking at what your successful leads have in common in order to find trends can be helpful. Which ads, offers, and pages convert the highest quality MQLs? This can be used to determine the value of leads you are assessing at the moment.

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    How can I optimise my MQLs?

    Now, we are going to take a look at the different steps that you can take in order to optimise your marketing qualified leads. Here are some tips:

    Qualify Leads Properly

    The first thing you need to do is make sure you are qualifying leads properly. If you’re not, you won’t be able to optimise your leads because you will have a bad bunch to begin with. Why should someone become a lead? This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself. Once you have put together a list of qualifying factors, which is based on careful research and assessment of your business goals, you will have the right foundations for qualifying leads.

    Target Visitors with Case Studies

    Driving your visitors to targeted case studies can help. A lot of businesses find that they have a huge number of leads, yet these leads are not qualified. This is why sending people to testimonials and case studies can help. By showing these leads what type of client you usually work with in terms of need, industry, and size, you can expect your number of leads to plummet, which doesn’t sound good, but you’re left with more MQLs. Your qualified lead ratio will increase considerably.

    Create Content That Visitors Want to Read

    Next, you need to create content that visitors are actually going to want. You will increase your conversion rates if you send exit pop-ups based on the content the visitor was reading or if you send very specific content upgrades.

    Segment Lead Forms

    Lead forms should be broken up into numerous steps. If you have all of your lead forms on a single page, it can be too daunting. Instead, if your lead form only has an email and a name, it is much more inviting.

    Make the Most of Thank You Pages

    You should also make the most of Thank You pages. Once an individual has opted in for a lead magnet, it is a good idea to get them to take another action on the Thank You page. This could be to sign-up for a free consultation, for example, or to watch a webinar. If you have already convinced them to take an action, they’re likely going to take another one. You need to ensure that these people are being segmented and that your messages are being tailored to them. This will enable you to tag them based on the Thank You pages they have seen, blog posts they have read, e-books they have downloaded, and so on.

    Use Lead Scoring

    lead scoring-1

    Make the most of lead scoring. Whenever a lead gets qualified, they should also get lead scores. This is a methodology that is utilised for ranking prospects alongside a scale, which is a representation of the lead’s perceived value to your business.

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    Why it’s important that sales and marketing understand the difference between MQL and SQL

    Determining and understanding the difference between an MQL and an SQL is critical for the relationship between sales and marketing. This initial step of differentiating a lead as either being an MQL or an SQL is the ultimate foundation in terms of lead hand-off. So, we’re going to break this down so that you can understand why marketing and sales teams need to know and understand the difference between both types of leads.

    Lead Funnel

    Let’s re-establish these two leads. So, marketing qualified leads look for engagement levels or specific behaviours, for example, websites visits, to determine leads that are likely to convert into customers. A sales qualified lead is the next part of the process. This means that your sales team have determined this lead is a potential customer. The MQL is not ready to buy just yet, but the SQL is. Once your teams understand the difference between the two, you can practice lead scoring, which means you can give higher lead scores to those who have viewed your site numerous times, filled out high-value forms, and visited high-value pages, for example, sales guides.

    It is imperative that your sales and marketing teams are on board with this because sales and marketing alignment is the biggest opportunity for you in terms of improving the performance of your business. When your sales and marketing teams are unified around a single revenue cycle, they are able to boost growth, sales productivity, and marketing ROI. If you are to have everyone on the right track to the same revenue-generating goals and your teams are going to hold each other accountable, they need to come together, and understanding the difference between MQL and SQL plays a prime role in this.

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    In summary…

    As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to determining marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads at your business. We hope that the information that has been presented above has helped you to understand the difference between the two, as well as some of the important steps that you need to take in terms of pricing leads and optimising them.