MQL vs SQL: What’s the Actual Difference?

A MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) is a lead that matches with one of your customer personas and, most importantly, has engaged with your business and shown interest in your product. Hence, such leads can be termed Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) A SQL (Sales Qualified Leads) is a lead ready to become your prospective customer and who has been vetted by the marketing team. In short, this is lead who is prepared to make a purchase. Hence, such leads are Sales Qualified Leads (SQL). Difference between an MQL and an SQL is the lead’s intent to buy. Regardless of your business, both types of leads are essential to your pipeline. Still, it’s important to differentiate between those two to know where to allocate your time and what sort marketing efforts to implement to keep your leads flowing. In this blog post, we will go through mql and sql definitions, mql vs sql differences, and talk about lead transition of how mql becomes an sql. The acronym MQL stands for “Marketing Qualified Lead” In the shortest definition we could find, courtesy of Hubspot, an MQL is a person who is more likely to become a customer when compared to a typical person. Think of it this way: Many people may connect with your company. They may visit your website, attend your webinars, or chat with you at a trade show. For some of these people, the products and services you offer are exactly what they’re looking for. But for others, your product or service may not be a good fit. They may never be in the position to buy anything from you at all. The people in that first group — those who are interested and have the potential to buy your product — are considered as MQLs. Separating MQLs from unqualified leads typically involves using a lead-scoring program. LeadBoxer assigns a score based on lead interactions and behavior with your business, between 1- 100. This score can be efficient for ranking a lead’s sales readiness in your pipeline. The acronym SQL stands for “Sales Qualified Lead.” This person has not only shown a deep interest in your products and services, but they have also shown some intent to purchase. They not only like what you offer but also need to buy what you sell. They also may need to make that purchase soon. While defining an MQL can be done through automated software that assigns scores, defining an SQL is a little trickier. To move leads to sales, this involves a conversation between someone in sales and the potential lead. An SQL is someone in the marketing funnel:-
  • Who may has some specific questions about how your product works or how much it costs.
  • Who may not understand how your product fits into their other products.
  • Who may not be entirely sure the solution is right for them.
  • Who may be unable to find the answers they need in the marketing materials they’ve seen.
At the end of that discussion, if the salesperson senses a real opportunity, this he pass leads to sales hence moving mql to an sql.
MQL vs SQL 1
Difference between MQLs and SQLs is essential because it ensures sales team to spend time on right qualified leads for sales, that can lead to more efficient sales processes and better conversion rates. Also, at the same time, it helps the marketing team to understand which marketing channels and what type of marketing angle can bring in more qualified leads for their business goals. Hence they become more efficient in nurturing every lead. Therefore understanding the difference between mql and sql helps a business drive both marketing and sales efforts in the right direction. As you should know, there are various stages of the funnel that leads goes through before a lead becomes an MQL and later an SQL. MQLs are typically at an earlier stage of the decision-making process. They are aware of their problem and know there are solutions out there in the market to help them. Hence, you can say MQLs are in a sales funnel’s ‘awareness’ stage. They are more in a ‘consideration’ stage because they are interested in your company’s products or services but not ready for sales yet. Also, they have engaged with your marketing content, such as downloading an e-book, signing up for a webinar, or subscribing to a newsletter. However, they have not yet clearly intended to purchase or enter a sales conversation. Most of your MQLs are open to options and might not be interested in a purchase right away. Basically they are in a lead nurturing phase. Whereas SQLs are in the bottom stage of the sales funnel, they are in the ‘Decision Making’ stage. They might not even engaged with marketing content but have also taken actions that indicate a readiness to consider a purchase, such as requesting a product demonstration, filling out a contact form with specific inquiries, or engaging directly with sales material. Their decision-making is more focused on selecting a vendor or product, comparing different offerings, and making a final purchasing decision. Another great way to differentiate MQL vs SQL is the type of marketing content they interact with. MQLs are more about seeking information and educating themselves, they are trying to understand their problem better and are looking for potential solutions. They interact with top of the marketing funnel lead magnets and content like:-
  • Reading your blog post on ‘Best X Tools for lead generation’
  • Signing up for your lead magnet, which said ‘Generate Leads on Automation’
  • Signing up for your newsletter
  • Following you on social media
On the other side, SQLs are more focused on consuming content that targets the bottom of the bottom-of-the-funnel audience. The content can be relevant to selecting a vendor or product, comparing different offerings, and making a final purchasing decision. For example:-
  • Reading your blog posts on ‘Your Tool vs Competitor Tool’ or ‘X Alternatives For Competitor 1’
  • Requesting for a demo call on your website
  • Enquiring for your product features on social media (or) through contact form
Engaging and interacting with sales materials, which are more precise and designed for a bottom-of-funnel audience, indicates and differentiates the lead as an SQL. BANT is a system (or) framework for Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline. It’s a B2B framework used by sales reps to qualify leads and prospects during their journey, and it can be applied while assessing MQLs vs SQLs. It’s another great way to distinguish between lead as an MQL (or) SQL If a lead is BANT qualified, it’s an SQL rather than an MQL. In the following, let’s see how the BANT looks different for MQLs and SQLs. For MQL’s:-
  • Budget:- At the MQL stage, the potential customer may not have a defined budget yet. Maybe they are still exploring solutions and may not know how much they should spend on their answer.
  • Authority:- If a mid-size business’s junior or senior executive employee interacts with your business, they might not have the authority to make a final purchasing decision for their organization.
  • Need:- The need for leads to purchase your product depends on their pain points and how your product (or) service can help them solve them. Also, it is majorly important for your marketing strategy to define their pain points and educate them. For an MQL, some might not be aware of these pain points; hence, there is a long way to go to educate them.
  • Timeline:- MQLs typically do not have a set timeline for making a purchase and are not under pressure to make an immediate decision.
For SQL’s:-
  • Budget:- SQLs are expected to have a clearer picture of their budget or at least have a range in mind. Most importantly, they can afford your product or service. It’s just that sales teams have to negotiate with them on pricing.
  • Authority:- SQLs are usually the stakeholders of the company or someone from an organization responsible for their final purchasing decision. Hence, they have the authority to buy from you.
  • Need:- SQL’s know their problems and what are the existing solutions for their issues in the market. Their pain points are clear, and often, it nails down to what specific features and benefits your product offers to help them feel the need to choose you over your competitors.
  • Timeline:- SQLs have a defined timeline to make the purchase. By offering them discounts and any other benefits with their purchase, they are more likely to buy immediately.
Transitioning a Lead from MQL to SQL
Transitioning an MQL to SQL in your pipeline isn’t something that will happen on your own. Your marketing and sales teams must communicate and coordinate to make this happen. If you’re using software like LeadBoxer to track leads, it becomes easier to note down the MQLs with a higher probability of becoming a sales lead through lead scoring. However, lead scoring is a critical process most businesses use while transitioning a lead from MQL to SQL.
  • Setting Up a Scoring System: As you identify the lead actions and lead behavior, you assign points/scores to each interaction. For example, downloading an e-book might score lower than requesting a product demo.
  • Demographic Information: As we discussed earlier, not every lead has the authority to purchase even though they match your ideal customer profile. Factors like job title, industry, company size, and location can significantly determine the lead’s potential to buy.
  • Engagement Scoring: Track how leads interact with your emails, social media, and blog posts. Repetitive and frequent interactions tell you that leads in your system are MQLs, and some might be ready to be SQL.
  • Lead Score Thresholds: Establishing a threshold score is essential to help sales teams understand when a lead is ready to move to SQL. This threshold should be based on previous data of information with your business and marketing content.
  • Regular Review: Sometimes, SQLs who get on a call with you are not ready to purchase. Hence, do not fill your pipelines with leads with improper attribution. It’s essential to review and adjust your scoring criteria continuously. The best way to make it happen is to arrange regular meetings with both sales and marketing teams to help them understand better lead qualifications to help your business grow.
  • One-time visitors to your website are most likely not a lead for your product (or) service. Those returning visitors who interact with your content are the ones who can termed as leads. Using LeadBoxer’s lead identification feature, you can specify what is a lead for you, and it identifies such specific visitors.
  • As these leads interact increasingly with your business, they can later be qualified as an MQL or SQL. Hence, using a leads scoring system and enriching those leads are great ways to qualify and differentiate leads.
  • For example, you know that leads interacting with Top-of-funnel marketing content (Reading your blogs) can be termed MQL, and leads interacting with Bottom-of-funnel content (Requesting demos) can be termed SQL.
  • Both MQLs and SQLs need to be in a lead management cycle where, with workflow automation, you retarget MQL leads with your marketing (It can be through emails or retargeted ads), whereas SQLs are given to the sales team to contact. Integrating your lead management tool with your existing CRM makes it more accessible.
  • As MQLs are being retargeted, potential buyers in your MQL segment will start to interact more with your business, like reading your email and asking questions with your marketing teams.
  • Once these MQLs are warmed up, Lead scoring suggests they are ready to move to SQL. Then, you move those leads and ask your sales teams to contact them.
  • Remember, not all SQLs will convert. The ones who didn’t convert should be moved to MQLs again so that the marketing team can nurture them with more marketing material.
We knew from the start that the distinction between Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) is crucial for the efficiency of your sales funnel and the effectiveness of your marketing strategies. Differentiation MQL vs SQL doesn’t mean you need to neglect one set of leads, both are important for a b2b lead generation. Thus, both marketing and sales teams need to identify these leads and not get stuck up with the thought that ‘I am not gonna handle their lead’ Effective communication and coordination are essential between the sales and marketing teams to identify, nurture, and pitch their leads. Here, tools LeadBoxer are going to help them successfully.