MQL vs SQL: What’s the difference? AUGUST 24, 202210 MIN READ
MQL vs SQL: What’s the difference?

The world of sales can be a confusing one. There are many factors, people, and metrics to consider, and with limited resources, businesses need to understand and address their leads efficiently. However, with the vast data available, it can be hard to decide who to target and how.

This is where marketing qualified leads (MQLs), and sales qualified leads (SQLs) come in.

In this article, we'll discuss Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads, explain why differentiating them is crucial to business growth, and show you how to start selling on with this knowledge.

What are MQL and SQL?

MQL and SQL are different types of leads or people who have shown an interest in your product or service. MQL stands for Marketing Qualified Lead, and SQL stands for Sales Qualified Lead. An MQL is a potential customer who has expressed interest in your product and is someone you can nurture into a future sale, but they're not ready to buy right now. An SQL is prepared to speak to the sales team and make a purchase.

What is an MQL?

Marketing Qualified Leads1, or MQLs, are leads brought in through marketing efforts. They are individuals who have expressed interest in a brand or product based on marketing campaigns and are considered more likely than the average shopper to make a purchase.

Marketing teams identify MQLs by revising and comparing inbound leads to predefined criteria. If and when factors like interest, engagement, and demographic qualify them as viable customers, they get tagged as MQLs to sales teams who pursue them further.

What is an SQL?

Sales Qualified Leads2, otherwise called SQLs, are leads that have already been vetted and researched by a business' marketing and sales teams. These prospective customers have demonstrated a genuine interest in buying whatever a brand has to offer, and are considered ready to engage with sales representatives directly.

An SQL is the highest-quality lead a salesperson could ask for. Not every SQL will guarantee a sale, but SQLs are much more engaged in what a company sells and are easier deals to close.

MQL vs. SQL: the difference

MQL vs. SQL: What's the difference?

These terms often get mixed up, so it's important to understand that there is a distinct difference between MQL and SQL.

A marketing qualified lead is a prospect that has been identified and vetted by marketing teams as having potential value for a company. An MQL will have engaged with the company in some way, through a web form or white paper download. Usually, an MQL has only shown interest in the company's products or services up until this point.

On the other hand, an SQL will usually engage with the company directly, such as through a phone call or meeting, and has shown explicit interest in the company's products or services. These are the hottest leads and are most likely to convert into paying customers.

Examples of MQLs and SQLs

Let's look at a few examples to understand the difference between MQLs and SQLs better.

Example #1

A furniture store is looking to increase sales and has been running a marketing campaign to attract new leads. They've been sending out emails, running ads, and promoting special deals through their social media channels.

Someone who clicks on one of the store's ads and visits their website would be considered an MQL. At this point, they've shown some interest in what the store sells but haven't committed to anything.

If that same person were to fill out a form on the website requesting more information about a specific product, they would then be considered an SQL. Now the store knows that this person is interested in buying and is more likely to make a purchase.

Example #2

A real estate company has been running a targeted ad campaign on Facebook for new leads. One of the ads catches the eye of a potential customer who clicks through to the company's website.

From there, the customer looks around and clicks on a few different listings. Based on their interactions, the real estate company's marketing team considers this person an MQL.

The customer then fills out a form requesting more information about one of the listings. At this point, they become an SQL as the real estate company knows they are interested in buying a property.

Example #3

A clothing retailer is looking to increase sales and has been running a marketing campaign centered around a new line of fall jackets. They've been using various online and offline channels to get the word out and have seen a surge in website traffic.

The retailer knows that not all this traffic will result in sales, but they also understand that some of it will. They pull the data from their website and see that several visitors have been looking at the new jackets, adding them to their cart, and even starting the checkout process. These indicate that these individuals are interested in what the retailer is selling.

Based on this information, the retailer can now identify these individuals as MQLs and send them targeted marketing material to turn them into SQLs.

Example #4

A software company has been running a blog series on the various benefits of its product. They've seen a steady increase in web traffic and have generated a few leads.

The company's sales team reaches out to these leads and finds that most of them are already familiar with the product and are interested in learning more. Based on this, the sales team can determine that these leads are SQLs and can begin working on closing the deal.

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Why is knowing the difference important?

Knowing the difference between an MQL and SQL is essential for a few reasons. Here are some of the most notable:

Strategized efforts

First and foremost, differentiating MQLs and SQLs helps businesses to focus their efforts on the right leads.

There's no use in sales teams trying to sell to someone who has shown no interest in what a company offers. Likewise, there's no use in marketing teams trying to generate interest in qualified leads who are ready to buy.

Focusing on the right leads at the right time is the key to a successful sales and marketing strategy. By understanding the difference between MQLs and SQLs, businesses can optimize their efforts to ensure they're always working towards the ultimate goal: generating revenue.

Better ROI

Another reason to differentiate between MQLs and SQLs is that they can help improve the ROI of both the marketing and sales processes.

If businesses can focus their efforts on MQLs that are more likely to turn into SQLs, they'll be able to increase the number of deals they close. This, in turn, will lead to more revenue and a better ROI for the marketing team.

Similarly, if sales teams can focus their efforts on SQLs that are ready to buy, they'll be able to close more deals. This will also lead to more revenue and a better ROI for the sales team.

Increased efficiency

Finally, understanding the difference between MQLs and SQLs can help businesses to increase the efficiency of their marketing and sales efforts.

By knowing which leads are more likely to turn into customers, businesses can focus on those leads and quickly convert them into customers. This, in turn, will save time and money and make the marketing and sales process more efficient overall.

The MQL and SQL pipeline

The process of moving a lead from MQL to SQL status typically looks something like this:

  • A lead comes in through marketing efforts (such as a webform3) and gets added to the database.
  • Lead scoring criteria get applied to the lead; if they meet the qualifications set by marketing and sales teams, the system tags them as an MQL.
  • The MQL gets forwarded to the sales team, who will reach out and attempt to qualify them further.
  • If the lead continues to express interest and meets specific criteria (such as budget, authority, need, and timeline), they are considered an SQL.
  • The SQL is moved into the sales pipeline and nurtured until they convert into a paying customer.

MQL vs. SQL: the difference

How to move a lead from MQL to SQL

While SQLs are the best lead you can get, they're not as easy to find. In many cases, you have to convert them from MQLs first.4 Luckily, there are a few things you can do to increase the likelihood of this happening.

1. Nurture your leads

Nurturing your leads is an important step in moving them from MQL to SQL. This involves regularly sending them targeted content and keeping them up-to-date on what's going on with your company.

One of the best ways to nurture your leads is with an email drip campaign. This is a series of automated emails that are sent out over time and are designed to slowly move the lead down the sales funnel.

Drip campaigns can be very effective, but they only work if you have high-quality leads to begin with. So, make sure you're only nurturing those who are most likely to convert.

2. Create targeted content

One of the best ways to move a lead from MQL to SQL is by creating targeted content. This could be anything from blog posts and e-books to webinars and helpful guides. Whatever it is, it should be relevant to what the lead is interested in and offer them value.

If you're not sure what kind of content to create, start by taking a look at the buyer's journey. This will give you an idea of what type of content is most relevant at each stage.

3. Use lead scoring

Lead scoring is a method of rating leads based on their likelihood of becoming customers. This can help move leads from MQL to SQL as it allows you to focus your efforts on those most likely to convert.

To score your leads, start by assigning points to different criteria that indicate interest or purchase readiness. For example, you could give leads a point for each time they visit your website, download a piece of content, or fill out a form.

Once you've assigned points, you can rank your leads from highest to lowest. This will help you identify those most likely to convert and allow you to focus your efforts on them.

4. Send them to a landing page

Another great way to move leads from MQL to SQL is by sending them to a targeted landing page. This is a page on your website that's designed specifically for leads who are interested in what you're selling.

Your landing page should include a relevant offer, such as a free e-book or trial, and a form for the lead to fill out. This will help you capture their contact information so you can follow up with them later.

Final thoughts

Navigating the sales world can be tough but it isn't impossible with the right help.

Investing in your professional knowledge and taking the time to understand the difference between an MQL and SQL makes you one step closer to success. Once you understand your leads and how to nurture them, your marketing and sales teams will be streamlined and better than ever. You’ll no longer waste time on leads that aren’t going to buy, and instead, you can focus on closing those deals.

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