Everything you need to know about sales qualified leads (SQLs)

3 Minutes Read

We'll admit it, some of the marketing terms nowadays can be hard to understand, even if you're a marketer. For example, when life hands you terms like Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL), how are you supposed to know the difference? After all, they are almost the same type of lead in a few different ways. But, we're here to clarify the differences for you and help you become a Sales Qualified Lead expert. We're here to talk about what an SQL is, the basics, how to identify them, and how to get these leads into the sales process.

The difference between an MQL and an SQL

In the sales funnel, a Marketing Qualified Lead is a potential customer that has willingly offered up their email address or other contact information, been reviewed by the marketing team, and is ready to be passed on to the sales team. If nurtured in the right way and approached at the right time, MQLs can turn into customers. But, as an MQL, they aren't ready to go into the buying process yet.

Next, we have a Sales Qualified Lead. This is a prospect that has been analyzed by both the marketing and sales departments and has the highest likelihood out of all types of leads to purchase a product. They have essentially made it through the initial stages and are ready for an offer.

When you think about it, the lead process is similar to an assembly line: once one widget is taken care of (in this case the MQL), then the product is moved to the next stage (the SQL). Chances are, if you've landed a bunch of SQLs to sift through, you probably did something right in your blog posts, search engine optimization (SEO), or marketing strategy.

Identifying a sales qualified lead

Long story short, sales are essential for any business and lead generation is a key part of sales efforts. Once you have identified the lead, you're first going to want to determine if the lead is a good fit for your company.

In order to do this, it's important to use the BANT System (Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline) when determining if the lead will purchase the product or service you are selling. The BANT System is basically the standard for identifying Sales Qualified Leads.

Here are a few things to think about when determining if someone is a good candidate for your company's offerings:

  • Does the potential lead have a need for your product/services?
  • Can the lead afford your product/service and will they actually use it?
  • Will your product/service solve your lead's pain points?

Lead Scoring

The sales process can be a beast sometimes and it can take a long time to manually go through each SQL to determine their readiness and be brought through the sales pipeline. This is where a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool can come in handy for lead automation. With a reliable CRM such as Zendesk, Monday, or Insightly, you can start lead scoring to determine sales qualification and lead qualification guidelines. Here are some explicit and implicit lead scoring models that don't require you to manually follow up, but allow you to find some valuable information to rank your potential qualified sales leads.

Explicit in (Objectives):

  • Company size
  • Job title
  • Experience
  • Industry
  • Geographic location

Implicit (Behaviors):

  • Website activity
  • Newsletter/email marketing opt-ins
  • Whitepaper downloads
  • Blog views
  • Free trials/product demos

Now that your CRM has qualified your lead, you've done some lead scoring, and have determined there's a high probability the person will purchase your product or service, it's time to start a sales conversation with them. If you're messaging or calling them for the first time in a discovery call, you're going to want to come up with a few questions to ask them. Chances are, if the lead lines up with your ideal customer profile and expresses enough interest, the sales reps should be able to work their magic and get the lead through the sales cycle.

How to follow-up with an SQL

After verifying that the lead is a good candidate, follow up with them to get more information about their needs and wants. Have your sales reps continue the conversation they started in the discovery call to see if they line up with your business' buyer personas. Once you have a better understanding of the lead's needs, you can then create a proposal that meets those needs.

Be sure you qualify them first and keep up the good work in building a relationship with them so that sales can come in naturally! While there's a lot that goes into getting a prospective customer to purchase your product or service, it can be done. A great way to get the person into the sales cycle of your company is by offering a free trial or demo of your product or service, if possible.

When you follow up with a lead, follow your company's sales process. Even though there is a privacy policy, the lead gave you their information and therefore, contacting their email address or phone is fair game at this point. Understand the path the lead took to get to this point and you will be able to map out their buyer’s journey for them in order to sell them the product or service in an effective way.

Lead generation is crucial for any business to succeed. By qualifying leads through sales activity and identifying if they're sales-ready, you can increase the chances of converting these leads into sales.  But keep in mind that the sales process can look a little different depending on the company. If you're looking for some assistance in the SQL world, we'd be happy to help. (And yes, this is a shameless plug to get you into our sales cycle. But hey, you did view our blog.) Seriously though, if you're looking for a little assistance in the MQL/SQL realm, don't hesitate to reach out to us today!

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Stephanie Milne

Stephanie is a digital marketer passionate about storytelling and content creation.