Marketing Qualified Leads vs. Sales Qualified Leads

When it comes to marketing and sales teams, there is always this fight for the significance of each team’s work to the added value of the company they work for. As to profits, both teams love to take credit for their contribution and when there are losses, they usually try to blame the other one. 

The key difference between marketing and sales is that they do completely different jobs over the customer journey, but the resemblance is that their job paves one single way – the one leading to more profits. 

Talking about marketing and sales there is no way not to mention “leads” as they define the results for both teams’ efforts. Their purpose is to transform the audience into leads and eventually to buyers. From one side the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is what the marketing teams fight for, in order to pass them to the sales team, whose purpose is to turn them into Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) and eventually customers.

Marketing Teams vs. Sales Teams 

If we have to define the differences between MQL and SQL, we first must define those for the role of marketing and sales teams when communicating with potential clients. 

Marketing communications establish basic information for your brand, offers, costs etc. The marketing team also showcases what your company has to offer to the audience and explains how the products/ services can solve the audience’s problems.

Marketing teams target the so-called suspects, who are basically all users with any chance of buying their company’s product. No one really knows whether they are interested in the offer, but there is a slight chance they will need it at some point. The marketing team’s job is to turn them into prospects throughout the marketing funnel. This happens after the so called qualification process. A prospect who is interested will engage with you consistently, while a suspect will only engage with you if it’s safe. 

The prospect becomes a qualified lead as soon as they answer to the “call-to-action” of the marketing campaign, regardless of being an online publication, a content marketing article, or a print ad. Leads are prospects that satisfy your criteria. They need your product or service. They have the budget to buy it and the right to expend the budget and get the purchase. The more urgent the need, the hotter the lead.

Sales teams focus on working exactly with the qualified prospects, who are potential customers having already gone through a qualification process, to get them to convert. 

Essentially, marketing is the first step to getting leads interested, while sales take that interest and nurture it.

The approach of sales and marketing teams is different but when it comes to the entirety of a campaign, they are a whole. You have to think of marketing as the precursor for the sales team.

So, what’s the difference a MQL and a SQL? 

A good way to explain the difference between MQL and SQL is to break the process of approaching the potential customers into small steps.

  1. Need: All marketing funnels start with a problem that your potential clients may have. In order for a company to offer anything that comes with a price tag, it has to be able solve this problem. Then comes the need to solve it so the potential buyer makes research for the available opportunities which can improve the existing situation. The marketing team here has the job to make their products/ services visible for suspects that seek for a solution of their problems.
  2. Interest: The potential client runs into your company’s solution to their problem. Once introduced, they now know about you and see that you may be able to help. This is also the marketing team’s job. They must have a clear vision on how to resolve the client’s problem.
  3. Consideration: The client knows they need the product by now, but they need more information to determine if it’s the right one to solve their problem. That involves a lot more in-depth , focused and personalized information. Here, the suspect becomes a prospect. If he reached you through your marketing correspondence and campaigns – this is an “official” Marketing Qualified Lead. Marketing Qualified Leads have shown interest in buying. They’re open to the idea of a sale and have taken an initial step to engage with your business, without buying.

Examples of Marketing Qualified Lead actions:

  • Clicking on a “call to action” button
  • Clicking on your website’s link (direct, search, remarketing)
  • Launching a free version/ trial of your product
  • Requesting your product’s demo
  • Submitting form for a newsletter
  • Filling out any other online form
  • Adding any of your items to a wish list
  • Adding any of your products to a shopping cart
  • Visiting your website on a regular basis
  • Clicking on any of your ads
  • Contacting you directly to request additional information

In other words, when a potential client is aware of your product and is already convinced that they need it, they become a prospect and if that happens throughout the marketing campaign that you set, they are Marketing Qualified Leads. 

  1. Intention – The consumer has now essentially made the choice to make a purchase, but needs to determine whose product exactly is their best match. This is where your product’s demo takes place. It is part of your sales team to showcase it to the potential clients, offer them a free trial/ sample and begin their process of convincing them of buying it. This is a good time to include content and the right branding in forms that actually compare one thing against another, and show why your brand is superior.
  2. Evaluation – The buyer is already convinced they need a product like yours, but now they need to know for sure that yours is the right one for them. More info for the business value, phone talks and here comes the price. In this part of the marketing-sales procedure, prospects become Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). They have the budget to buy it and the right to expend the budget and get the purchase. The more urgent the need, the more hot the lead.
  3. Purchase – This is where your audience makes some sort of commitment or makes an actual purchase. The purchase phase can actually involve several other stages of the funnel in terms of your audience purchasing entry level products to try you out. Here, the prospects go to the final level, eventually becoming customers – a real paying business units or an individual who must be kept satisfied and happy in order to convert into a loyal lead – the end goal of every marketing-sales funnel.

The transition from MQL to SQL can vary depending on the company but usually begins with a lead scoring, or personalized segmentation. This is the process of assigning values to each lead to determine their willingness to make a purchase. Leads are scored based on demographics, the information they provide, and the type of engagement with your campaigns. Having proper lead scoring helps your sales team save time which they can spend for the most potential leads.

In conclusion, we can say that the most important difference between MQLs and SQLs is the intent to buy. While there are other factors that will affect whether a lead is categorized as marketing or sales-ready, the biggest tip-off for marketers when deciding whether to pass a lead on to sales is the intent to purchase. That is a surefire sign that they are ready to talk to sales and tells you that passing them onto sales is the best way to serve that lead.

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