In most business structures, a lead is someone you feel like would be a good fit your products or services. Up until about 10 years years ago a lead was usually defined by a target market, and demographics. Anyone with a need for what you have to offer. Gathering leads was simple, you create a framework of who you would like to sell, then you would reach out to them either through advertising or cold calling. Networking events, trade shows, and conferences were a highly effective way to get buyers and sellers together. As we have pointed out several times, when writing about Inbound marketing and the Buyer's Journey, the internet has changed everything. Buyers are now in control of their own customer lifecycle, and lead generation has become a digital process -- one thsat involves an integrated sales enablement strategy in order to most effectively yield results.
Not all Leads are created equal
With the advancement of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology, came the ability to segment leads into smaller groups. We can now identify which leads are ready to buy and which ones need to be nurtured. Identifying leads as either Marketing Qualified (MQL) or Sales Qualified (SQL) will help determine who is ready to talk to sales, and who is still gathering information.
Marketing Qualified Leads
We can identify MQL's through their behaviour and actions. A frequent visitor to our website is usually a good indication of a marketing qualified lead. Downloading content like e-books and white papers, or frequent social media engagement, are also the markers of an MQL. In retail an MQL is a "window shopper" or "tire kicker" those people who are "just looking". The thing all of these potential customers have in common are:
- They are gathering information
- They are educating themselves on your products and services
- They are not interested in speaking with sales yet
When dealing with an MQL it is important to provide them with answers to their questions without giving them a sales pitch. Marketing automation software can help you manage this stage in the customer lifecycle with campaigns designed to nurture an MQL through this stage. A series of well timed emails, and related content offers are an effective way to engage these leads without annoying them or pushing them away.
Sales Qualified Leads
Sales qualified leads tend identify themselves, these are the people who step forward and ask for products demonstrations, product samples, free trials, or request to speak to a salesperson. All of these actions are clear indicators that this type of lead is ready to talk to sales.
For a lot of businesses this is only the first step to becoming a customer. An SQL still requires nurturing through the sales cycle. This usually involves some more advanced questions from the prospect, and technical expertise from the sales team.
You can help your sales team work with SQL's by providing them with sales enablement tools. A good CRM will help automate a lot of the redundant and time consuming tasks like:
- Scheduling meetings
- Follow up emails
- Tasks, notes, reminders
- Updating contact information
With all the advancement in technology the lines between MQL and SQL are starting to cross. Prospects have more information available to them than ever before, the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in sales will allow many prospects to complete the sales cycle having never talked to a salesperson. When you have limited opportunities to engage with leads it is important to meet them on their terms and provide them with the information they are looking for. Understanding the differences between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead goes a long way to shortening your sales cycle and helping your prospects through their buyer's journey.