As you know, the B2B sales world is teeming with acronyms. We’ve got SDR, BDR, AE, ABM, CRM, KPI, and the list goes on and on. Alphabet soup, anyone?
But two of the most critical acronyms to know are MQL and SQL. Understanding these six letters can literally make or break your sales organization.
In today’s guide, I’m going to share with you the ins and outs of these acronyms and how to level-up your outbound efforts.
To get us started, let’s quickly define the terms and cover the main differences. Then we’ll get right into some high-octane sales strategy.
What’s an MQL?
An MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) is someone who has shown interest in your offering. They may have clicked on a paid advertisement, or downloaded a free guide, or maybe even participated in a webinar or workshop. These are colder leads and are usually acquired through marketing efforts, not outbound sales activities.
What’s an SQL?
The SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) is often an MQL that has gone down the sales funnel to become a “qualified” lead. In other words, this person meets all the parameters (B.A.N.T. – Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) that you’re looking for in a prospect. They have a need for your product/service and are ready for a sales meeting. These warm-to-hot leads are generated through outbound sales activities like cold calling or cold email.
RELATED: Cold Calling vs. Warm Calling
So What’s the Difference Between MQLs and SQLs?
The main difference between an MQL and SQL is their location in your sales funnel. The MQL is at the top of the funnel (often just “tire kickers”), whereas the SQL is at the bottom of your sales funnel and likely to convert to a customer.
Now, you do not want to confuse these two types of leads. If you get your lines crossed here, you won’t be catching any fish, so to speak.
If you mistake an MQL for an SQL, you’ll be wasting your time on someone who’s probably not your ideal buyer… doesn’t have the authority to buy… or the need… or the budget… etc. Trying to sell an MQL can be like trying to squeeze water from a rock.
On the other hand, if you let an SQL fall through the cracks thinking it’s an MQL, then you’ve left a potentially hot sales opportunity on the table, along with thousands of dollars in most cases. SQLs are like the salesperson’s gold mine. You still have to mine for the gold, but you can bet it’s in there.
So as you can see, it’s critical to know the difference between MQLs and SQLs and to act accordingly.
Now that you understand the differences, let’s talk about how you can capitalize on MQLs and start moving them further down the funnel into SQL territory. After all, an MQL is a future SQL if you take the right approach.
When Does an MQL Become an SQL?
Remember, an MQL becomes an SQL only after they’ve been qualified as a buyer. Some sales organizations have their SDRs tackle this (good!), while others sit on their hands and hope the MQL magically becomes an SQL on their own (bad!).
One helpful strategy is to look at HOW they became an MQL in the first place. They must have engaged with your company’s ads or marketing content in some way, right? Sure, but here’s something you have to remember: Not all ads and marketing are created equal! Don’t worry, I’ll unpack this.
Someone who comments on a social media post (passive engagement) is typically less qualified (colder) than someone who downloads your whitepaper or industry report (active engagement).
And someone who opens 5 of your 7 cold emails is more qualified than someone who accepts your LinkedIn connection request. You get the idea. Let’s dig deeper into this in the next section.
How to Take the Temperature of Your Leads
One method of tracking and measuring MQLs and SQLs is to use something I call a temperature gauge, or temp gauge. This lead scoring mechanism puts your prospects in the right bucket depending on their potential interest and likelihood to convert from prospect to buyer.
This gauge goes from 0-100. And you can track all of this in your CRM. You may already be doing this in some fashion. If not, it’s time to get started.
How does it work?
Well, you might assign someone a temperature of 15 if they liked your Tweet or commented on your YouTube video. Obviously not ready to cold call.
On the other hand, you might assign someone a temp of 65 if they download your whitepaper or case studies. This lead is showing real interest in your company or offer. Wouldn’t hurt to call them.
And you’d give someone a temp of 90-100 if they filled out a discovery call form, a demo form, or responded positively to your cold emails. I hope your sales intuition is screaming “call this person ASAP!”
When in Doubt… Just Pick Up the Phone!
There are some gray areas when you’re not quite sure if it’s an MQL or SQL. In those cases, just pick up the phone and call them. The worst that can happen is they say “No.”
If you burn through a few MQLs by calling, you will only lose a few minutes out of your day. No harm, no foul. BUT… there is harm in not calling SQLs. That’s a deal that died on the vine. It’s like having a freezer full of meat and not plugging in the freezer. Please, just “plug in the freezer” by simply picking up the phone and dialing.
Remember, if you’re unsure of where your prospect is in the funnel, just call them and find out!
If you’re a sales manager, it’s vital that you train your team on first knowing the difference between these two types of prospects, and then also on qualifying MQLs into SQLs.
The more clear you are on the nature of these leads, the better the strategy you can put into place on securing real sales ready opportunities. And of course, once your strategy is dialed-in, the sales are guaranteed to follow.
This is one area of sales that pays dividends to invest time and energy. And as they say, clarity comes through engagement. So set aside a couple of hours today and take a sober look at your sales funnel, from top to bottom. And start scoring or taking the temperature of your leads so you know who’s ready to contact, and when.
Until next time…