A lead is a lead, right? Maybe so, if you look the same way at anyone who expresses interest in what you sell. The downside to this view is that some of these leads are further along the buyer’s journey. They need a different message than those leads just starting to express interest.
It’s why successful organizations sort leads and respond to them based on what’s been discovered about intent. Leads tend to fall into two distinct categories this way:
- Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). A lead determined likely to become a customer because of the interaction they’ve had with marketing tools such as your website and its content.
- Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). A lead that has shown a much stronger intent to purchase, which usually is indicated by a conversation or interaction with a member of your sales team.
MQLs and SQLs want different things, and you need to deliver
It’s true that both types of leads are hungry for more information but understanding which category to place a lead helps you decide who should take responsibility for keeping up the conversation.
MQLs are at the start of the customer journey. They may just recently have become aware of your product or service. Or, they might be a bit further along, where they’re at the phase of evaluation. In both cases, it’s more efficient to engage them with informative marketing content – ranging from social media posts and email campaigns to blogs, eBooks and webinars.
On the other hand, SQLs have taken an action that puts them squarely in the buying cycle. These leads need personalized interactions – usually the type that only a sales representative reaching out can provide.
Consider what could happen, though, if you applied this stronger interaction to someone who’s still in the passive awareness stage of a customer journey. They’re likely still interested only in self-directed exploration. A potential sale could be derailed. Likewise, applying deeper and stronger interaction too late could result in lost sales opportunities.
The handoff from MQL to SQL
They begin as MQLs and based on their interactions become SQLs. The timing of the handoff between marketing and sales – defining a MQL and an SQL for your organization – is crucial. Filling out a form to get more information doesn’t necessarily express buying interest. You’re going to need more insight into a prospect’s overall behavior to determine that someone is ready to be an SQL.
This is usually accomplished through a process known as lead scoring, which assigns values to the information you know about a prospect. It helps to determine who – sales or marketing – should be leading the conversation. Higher lead scores typically indicate someone is farther along the customer journey and closer to a buying decision.
What this means is that your sales and marketing efforts have to be in alignment. Interested in learning how we can help you increase sales by deepening your understanding and identification of SQLs in your market right now?