MQL (em kyoo el) noun Also known as a Marketing Qualified Lead. A prospect that has indicated a level of interest in your organization via a set of actions and is deemed to become a likely future customer after additional nurturing.
SQL (es kyoo el) noun Also known as a Sales Qualified Lead. A prospect that has demonstrated high levels of interest in your organization via a set of actions and is deemed highly likely to convert into a customer. These are prospects that are ready to speak to sales.
If only defining the process was just that easy.
While the cold-to-close process should be a seamless transition, the fact is many companies have either not spent the time to define the prospect stages or have discrepancies in their definitions based on which department you are asking.
It really boils down to the age-old struggle of quantity vs. quality. Marketing wants to pass sales a large volume of leads because it shows they are doing a great job of digging up new prospects. Sales teams always want more prospects. It’s a numbers game after all.
But if this quantity of leads is lacking quality, both teams are just spinning their wheels. A prospect must become “qualified” and eventually move to “sales ready.” If not they are just another email cluttering up your database. Creating sales and marketing alignment around lead qualification will create common goals for both teams to achieve.
Tracking and Interpreting
With leads going through 60% of the buying cycle before being ready to talk with a sales rep, today’s buying cycle creates a digital footprint that must be tracked, monitored, and interpreted by both your marketing and sales teams.
Behaviors such as an open or click in an email creates this first digital footprint, but the trail is a long and winded path. Your team may understand that a page view, especially of a certain length of time, shows interest, but does the team understand the difference in blog and pricing page views? Filling out a form demonstrates an even higher level of interest. But how do you account for the difference between a form filled out to download a best practices white paper and a form filled to request a quote?
Tracking and interpretation must go hand in hand. Establishing a lead scoring process allows your organization to quickly translate these behaviors. Once the scoring matrix is established you are now ready to do the work of bridging the gap between the teams to create sales and marketing alignment.
Defining the Funnel
To create a seamless process marketing and sales must come together (GASP!) to define the funnel and what actions should be taken at each stage.
Marketing must gain a clear picture of when a prospect goes from just being an email in the database to becoming an MQL that needs a higher level of content to propel them through the funnel.
Sales must clearly communicate the actions that take a MQL across the great divide to becoming an SQL. At the same time those prospects that get thrown back over the divide because they aren’t sales ready yet should also provide great insights.
When examining this, marketing and sales should answer the following types of questions:
- What are your signifiers that a prospect is becoming a “qualified” lead?
- At what score does a prospect demonstrate enough interest to be considered a MQL?
- Once being defined as a MQL, are there any actions that marketing should take at this stage?
- Should the type of content marketing alter based on a prospect’s score?
- At what score does a prospect become a SQL?
- Once a SQL is designated, how does that lead get passed to sales?
- What types of alerts and workflows are triggered at this point?
- What is marketing’s ongoing role in the SQL process?
- If a lead is not “sales ready” how does this lead get passed back to marketing?
- How are leads charted through the process and how is the effectiveness of the process monitored and communicated?
Creating this process will have growing pains, but the foundation that makes it effective is that silly little thing called communication. Both sales and marketing must define and hold to these common-interest goals. Once established, each department must be held accountable for their part in the process.
Establishing closed-loop reporting and scheduling regular check-ins for each team to examine the process will shed light on its effectiveness in producing sale-ready leads and/or where it might need tweaking.
So while defining both MQLs and SQLs may seem easy, the process behind each remains a fairly complex operation that requires communication, flexibility and monitoring.