Defined: Sales Qualified Leads vs. Marketing Qualified Leads

Lawrence R. LaBee IV works with a number of B2B companies who struggle to understand the difference between a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).  As with many challenges, this one is best solved over a lunch meeting.

This challenge in defining an MQL & SQL occurs for two reasons:

First– how each company defines a MQL vs. SQL is different based on a number of factors from sales structure, customer lifecycle, random philosophies, marketing’s role and most importantly the KPI’s (key performance indicators) and incentives the marketing and sales teams are accountable for reaching.

Second– the delta between MQL and SQL is generally placed into a nebulous bucket of  “disqualified”, which brings us to the issue of lead quality.  In my experience, most company’s disqualified leads are either a) hard to tie to a root lead source or b) difficult to determine why they were disqualified on a systematic basis.

Understanding MQL & SQL Over Lunch

So the task of closing the delta between MQL & SQL becomes an exercise in better defining the two terms and understanding lead quality in a qualitative way.

To do so, I recommend the marketing team buy the sales team lunch.  In starting this lunch, ask the sales team for some stories of the least qualified leads.  This should get the conversation going, as sales teams rarely lack opinions.

While the conversation is buzzing, ask the sales team for the three questions they are most sick of answering from prospects.  Listen.  This is the good stuff.  They are talking about the quality of MQL’s.

Get The Most Out of Your Sales Stories

Getting the sales team to agree on the three questions they are most sick of answering, never mind in order, is a fool’s errand.  However, using sales input, build your own list of the three questions they’re sick of answering.

Most commonly I hear: “Aren’t you guys like [fill in the market leader]”,  “I don’t have time to make a change” or  “I don’t have a budget right now”.  In marketing, the answers would be product differentiation; ease of use; creating urgency.

Let the conversation for the remainder of lunch wander as it may.  Before adjourning, pose a question to sales: “If I could reduce the number of times you’re asked these three questions before the end of the quarter by 25%, would you guys buy lunch next quarter?”

Sales shouldn’t turn down a challenge so, the answer should be a “yes”.

Then, get to it.  Answering those three questions becomes marketing’s task for the month or quarter, depending on business size. I believe it makes for a pretty good content strategy.

Give me a call if you need help facilitating.  Lunch may end up on me.

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