In sales, generating leads is not an end in itself. After all, what’s the point of having leads if you can’t convert them into customers? You make profit from customers not leads. However, many businesses early on learn how costly low-quality leads can be-your organization spends time and money, and in the end no purchase is made! Therefore, not all leads are made equal.
In order to be certain that your leads will eventually become your loyal customers, you need to apply standards to the kind of leads you’re generating.
Your leads should meet the 3 criteria:
- Fit your buyer personas
- Express interest in your product or service
- Are able to buy
Following the criteria outlined will help you identify prospects that are most likely to add value to your business. Also, you won’t be spending resources trying to convert prospects who aren’t likely to make a purchase.
This is where the process of lead generation begins. It helps you rank your leads according to importance, and filter out irrelevant leads. As a result, your lead generation strategy will become more effective.
You need to be aware of 2 major forms of lead qualification:
- MQL: Marketing Qualified Leads
- SQL: Sales Qualified Leads
We will take a deeper look at both forms of lead qualification, and show you how you can implement them to increase your conversion rates.
What is Lead Qualification?
The process that assesses the quality of your leads is referred to as lead qualification. It identifies qualified leads or disqualified leads according to criteria you specify.
For instance, if you’re offering services to people in Australia, then lead qualification will disqualify prospects from all other countries. This way you can focus your resources on prospects that can convert.
Of course, your actual lead qualification criteria will be far more detailed than this example. The first task of your lead qualification task is to target your buyer personas. This process should be deployed during the early phases of your lead generation strategies and lead nurturing campaigns.
This will help you weed out unqualified leads, which will make your marketing efforts and sale processes more efficient.
This is just the tip of the iceberg-you can improve your lead qualification by automatizing the process at every stage of the sales funnel. Your leads’ requirements alter as they move along the sales cycle. As a result, the value that these leads bring to your business might also change, which means that your messages should change accordingly.
Understanding Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
These are the leads you believe are very likely to convert into being your client. However, leads only become MQLs if they meet your pre-defined criteria for what you think pass for a valuable lead.
In order to identify qualified and unqualified leads, your business must implement a mechanism that will make this selection process effective.
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation to illustrate the importance of this point.
Imagine a digital marketing agency that publishes an eBook on best practices for optimizing landing pages. This eBook was written to attract leads from potential clients. It was not intended for use by journalists writing for various online publications.
Therefore, this business will have to implement an MQL process which will not allow resources to be spent on money on ads for journalists who will not be their clients. This also means that the agency’s sales team won’t waste time on the phone with leads that are not likely to convert.
Your business can identify MQLs by offering tutorials, guides, eBooks, or any other downloadable content for the website visitor’s email address or other forms of contact information.
Bear in mind that not all MQLs will be beneficial to your business. If you are in the B2B space, then your criteria for selecting MQLs should include: revenue range, number of employees and industry.
On the other hand, if you are in the B2C field, then set your search filters for: income levels, demographic information, interests and challenges.
Make sure that both the marketing and sales teams are aware of these criteria so that you’ll be able to rank leads appropriately.
What are Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)?
Sales Qualified Leads are leads your team believes are likely to convert into a client. The same point holds true for SQLs as it does for MQLs- leads only become MQLs if they meet you pre-defined criteria for what you think passes for a valuable lead.
However, don’t immediately get rid of leads that fall short of your criteria. You can still try to engage leads of a lower quality through automated marketing; these types of leads might eventually convert or display signs that meet your SQL standards.
MQL vs. SQL
The biggest difference between the two is that MQL processes come into play in the early stages of the sales funnel.
An MQL is a lead that is sales-worthy, but still not ready for personal attention from your company’s sales team. By contrast, an SQL is prepared for direct sales and should be engaged directly by your company’s sales team.
MQL does the heavy lifting in the early phases of your lead generation and lead nurturing. MQL processes you implement will allow your company’s sales team to identify leads that have a high chance of converting.
On the other hand, SQL processes begin at a more advanced phase of the sales funnel. Typically, MQL hands off leads to SQL process, which then assess of they meet your requirements before the sales team can step in and guide them towards the end of the sales funnel. SQLs should be on the verge of converting. In other words, your sales team will only engage leads that are worth the resources of your business.
A Deeper Look at MQL and SQL
One of the most useful ways to distinguish a Marketing Qualified Lead from a Sales Qualified Lead is from their actions on your webpage or with your business. Each company can place different amount of emphasis on certain actions, which in turn feed into ranking of your leads.
For instance, a company may frequently receive business from first time visitors to its website. Another company by contrast will have to wait 3 or 4 times before a visitor is converted into a customer.
Regardless of the importance of certain actions, there exist some common attributes which differentiate MQL from SQL:
- 1st time visitor or repeat visitor
- The number of times they filled out a form
- What stage of the sales cycle are they in? You can usually determine this by monitoring the type of content they look at on your webpage. For e.g. they could be reading your About page.
This is a method that assigns value to each lead by analyzing different characteristics and behaviors of leads. The ranking can give a company a way of prioritizing some leads over others, in addition to labeling them as an MQL or SQL.
However, while lead scoring sounds like a useful tool that will help streamline your lead qualification process, it’s definitely not for everyone. In fact, only 44 % of B2B companies implement lead scoring as part of their marketing efforts. For many businesses, the upkeep associated with this process outweighs its value. Therefore, you should research whether lead scoring is beneficial to your business. There are two criteria you should look at when deciding whether to start lead scoring:
- Enough Data: In order for lead scoring to be effective, your company needs to have access to an enormous amount of data. Typically, behavior and demographic data of your prospects and customers is most useful. So find out if you have enough data to find this machine.
- Too Many Leads: If your team members are able to personally evaluate leads, then you don’t have enough leads or data to run an effective lead scoring system.
Why Are MQLs and SQLs So Critical To Your Business?
In a nutshell, both MQLs and SQLs improve the efficiency of both your marketing and sales teams. Lead generation consumes a lot of time, energy and money when done properly. This means that you want to be dealing with valuable leads which are likely to convert.
However, there is always a limit to everything. This also includes how much automation should be a part of your sales processes. The sales team should focus its resources only on high-quality leads which are extremely likely to convert into clients. The rest of the time should be spent convincing customers to make new purchases.
These are the primary tasks of MQLs and SQLs.
However, there are other ways in which these processes can contribute to your marketing and sales efforts.
You can convert lead qualification into an exceptional lead nurturing technique by implementing a series of processes throughout each phase of the sales funnel. You can send targeted messages to leads based on how they interact with your company.
As a result, you will greatly increase the value of your leads, and eventually convert your prospects into loyal clients.
Converting More Prospects with MQL & SQL
The most common MQL processes are the web forms on a company’s website. A popular tool companies like to use is Leadformly, which installs multi-step forms on webpages. These types of web applications generally use a technique known as conditional logic to get pertinent information from prospects.
These forms are a phenomenal tool for lead qualification because they sort out leads immediately. Therefore, right off the bat you know which ones don’t make the cut. Also, these forms give the ability to rank the quality of leads according to the services they need, their company’s size and budget.
The web forms will allow you to focus your marketing efforts on potential the most profitable leads.
Email marketing is our next MQL process where we reach out to prospects and check on their needs and willingness to establish a business relationship with us. Here again the process is automated and filters out leads that meet your requirement based on their engagement with your emails.
You should rely on several email lists to send targeted to messages to leads. Based on their engagement, you will able to determine whether it makes sense to intensify interactions with them.
At this stage, the quality of your leads has improved as have your odds of increasing the number of potential clients. However, only the leads that show a willingness to establish a business relationship make it to the next phase.
We now arrive at an interesting and critical part of the process because this is where the MQL system hands the baton off to SQL system. At this stage, a list of leads for your sales team is being put together. Typically, leads with a particular budget size and project demands that have expressed an interest in doing business make it to this stage.
The leads that are filtered out, but could possibly meet your criteria sometime in the future are placed on a separate email list. You will target these prospects with emails designed to help them pass your SQL filter.
Everything up until now is automated, giving your sales team the ability to focus their attention converting high-quality leads. It also gives your marketing the necessary resources to improve the quality of emails you send along with enhancing the automated processes.
Get the Most Out of Your Leads
Your business will sustain serious damage if your marketing team is mostly generating low-quality leads. That is because generating the right kinds of leads is the foundation of a successful marketing and sales strategy. Return-on-investment, revenues, conversion rates, and net profits all follow from properly executed lead generation.
Leveraging the benefits offered by MQLs and SQLs, you will hone in on your marketing strategies and dramatically increase your conversion rates.
In the space of lead generation, there is always room for improvement. Make it a habit in your business for marketing and sales to sit down a couple of times a month and discuss whether the process needs modification.