Marketers often focus on quantity of leads over quality of leads. This can result in leads being sent straight to sales without any qualifying actions to indicate that a customer is ready to or getting ready to buy. Unfortunately, this can overburden sales teams and lead customers to have a negative experience of being prospected when they are still in an exploratory phase.
As Marketers, it is important to understand the difference between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). Typically a customer is considered MQL if they are early in their purchase phase, near the top of the funnel, and have expressed an interest by clicking on relevant content on your web site. An SQL is a customer who is getting ready to make a purchasing decision and is further down in the marketing funnel, near the consideration and action phases of the buyer journey.
There is no magic formula to distinguish between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) so it is important for Marketing and Sales to work in partnership to define criteria for your specific industry, challenges, and goals. By working together, Marketing and Sales can define when a lead gets passed—it could be something as simple as four clicks or it can be more complicated and dependent on form fill data such as budget or timing information.
Many organizations use buyer engagement on web sites and social channels in order to differentiate between MQL and SQL leads. If you implement a lead scoring program, you can track interactions and assign engagement scores to determine how likely someone is to purchase. This can help you move leads from MQL to SQL.
Some of the things to track include:
- Is this a first time visitor?
- How do customers or potential customers behave when they visit your web site? How long do they stay on your web site?
- Do visitors click on your content?
- What is holding their interest? What type of content are they downloading from your web site?
- Which content is most appealing—traditional white papers, solution briefs, and product data sheets? Or socially-engaging videos, blog posts, and infographics?
- Are they filling out forms? As people engage further with your company, they will become more trusting and more willing to share information beyond their name, email, company, and job title. You can take advantage of this by adding gated pages or serving up a “How can I help you today” chat window.
As you get to know your prospective customers, you can determine if they engage in social channels. If so, it is important to know where they are socially engaged (interact with others, conversational, rate, comment, and critic) and where they are socially passive (have a social presence but do not participate, spectators).
After you implement a program to determine the MQL and SQL criteria, be sure to revisit it often to be sure Marketing and Sales are in sync, and that, ultimately, your customer is having the best prospecting experience possible.