The Need for Leads

Determining the Right Leads for Sales & Marketing

Sales needs more leads, marketing provides more leads. Sales flies through those leads only to determine the majority won’t be a good fit. So sales needs more leads, marketing provides more leads, again. Sales flies through those leads only to determine the majority won’t be a good fit … again. And the cycle continues. Sound familiar?


The issue here is not miscommunication between sales and marketing, nor is it sales asking too much or marketing not providing enough leads. The problem is many companies are still concerned about lead quantity rather than quality and many don’t have a solid definition place for marketing qualified leads (MQL) and sales qualified leads (SQL). And on top of that, some still don’t even know there is a major difference between the two.

MQL vs. SQL – Identifying and Distinguishing the Two

The difference between MQLs and SQLs is important to understanding your sales funnel, and perhaps most importantly, the potential bottlenecks within it.

MQL is basically shorthand for engaged leads. – Marketing brings clicks to the website landing page and captures leads engaging with content. These people are initiating contact, but their level of interest is undetermined. As marketing engages and provides relevant information, these leads can be scored based on the actions they take. These individuals become a Marketing Qualified Lead at the point they are deemed ready to be handed over to the sales development team.

SQL is basically shorthand for prospects vetted. – After the initial contact from the marketing catalyst, the sales development team is the group who continues the interaction and vets the customer for interest and capability to purchase. It’s called a Sales Qualified Lead once the contact is “qualified” as a viable prospect with problems that fit the solution offered by the seller.

Four Steps to Defining MQLs and SQLs

Step One: Bring in the sales team to identify your MQLs.

If sales doesn’t tell marketing what actually converts into revenue, marketing will never know who to direct initial acquisition tactics toward.

Step Two: Check sales reports against buyer personas.

You should already have “buyer personas” created. If you don’t, here’s a great template to help you get started. It should be drilling down into your target market so thoroughly that you identify with them as an individual with a name, age, hobbies and a job. Most companies will have 4 to 5 main buyer personas.

Step Three: Understand your sales team’s needs.

Now that you have really drilled down into your buyer persona, it’s time to determine whether or not a prospect who fits the criteria should be considered a “lead”. Here are some questions you can ask sales to help understand:

  • How likely is it that anyone who fits this persona would convert?
  • What are other qualifiers that would need to exist in order to feel confident that a sales representative could close the sale?
  • How many of the criteria could NOT exist while still remaining a viable prospect?
  • How many of those qualifiers need to exist in order to make it worth it for my sales team?
  • Can we use marketing tactics to weed out those who would normally be our “buyer persona” but are missing those other qualifiers?
  • How many of the qualifiers is the sales team willing to leave up in the air before they tackle the lead?
  • Is the sales department getting enough leads right now or are they overrun with leads that don’t convert?

Step Four: Document your MQLs and SQLs.

Depending on the answers to the questions above, you should now have a very solid foundation for determining what your sales team considers an SQL. The only thing left to do is determine what your marketing department considers an MQL. Here are the questions you should be asking:

  • Has the lead filled out a form on my website?
  • Has the lead subscribed to my blog or newsletter?
  • Do I consider each lead just because they fit the right demographic?
  • Have they reached a certain scoring threshold to show intent to buy?

Come Together … Right Now

So maybe the Beatles weren’t talking about marketing and sales alignment when they wrote that song but getting to two teams to work more efficiently together is one of the most vital steps you can take to correctly identify quality leads and putting them into the MQL or SQL category. You don’t want excited salespeople to scare off marketing qualified leads that may just not be ready to buy yet. Better collaboration between the two departments will ultimately generate stronger, more qualified leads and in turn, successfully earn new business for your organization.