When does an MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) become an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)?
Before we answer that question we should first look at the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey consists of three stages: awareness, consideration and decision. Let’s take a quick look at each of these:
This is when a buyer has identified a need for a product or service for their business. At this stage, they are researching what they need, most likely through the internet. They may be trawling through websites, reading blogs, downloading whitepapers and generally investigating areas that provide a solution to the need they have.
Savvy marketers know that at the ‘awareness’ stage it is critical to create and distribute content pieces that provide answers to the questions that a customer might have. This will then have the effect of attracting sales leads.
At this stage, the buyer may have narrowed down what they’re looking for and they’re now going through the process of making comparisons. They are not ready to buy yet, but they will be interested in finding out the differences between various products and services, what the prices are etc. This is when content such as product comparisons, expert guides and videos come into their own and help the customer to reach a decision.
At last, the customer is ready to buy and now it’s the job of marketing to work with sales to move that customer closer to the sale. This is when content such as testimonials, case studies, product brochures, free trials etc can be used to finally convince the customer that your solution is the best one.
So, to get back to the original question – When does an MQL become an SQL?
It becomes an SQL once Marketing has taken the customer through all of the above stages and it’s ready to pass on to sales. Sales then must determine if the customer is ready, willing and able to pay for the solution.
An MQL cannot become an SQL without knowing where the prospect is within the buying cycle. Even though the prospect may be highly engaged with the content and seems a ‘good fit’, they don’t become an SQL until sales have had the opportunity to speak to the customer and determine if there is a genuine commitment to spend money on the solution.
In order to complete the transformation to an SQL it needs to go through the BANTA qualification process - confirming budget, authority, need, timescale and attitude. This final qualification can be carried out by an inside sales team or an external agency, but whoever does it, the transition from MQL to SQL isn’t complete until the prospect has been spoken to and there is a firm commitment to buy.
The process of moving an MQL to SQL can be a tricky one and it’s a process that sales and marketing need to work together on to make it a success. Both departments need to agree on the criteria of a genuine sales lead and there needs to be feedback from sales to marketing if a lead that has been passed doesn’t match up to expectations. This is how best practices can be forged. For further detail on how to convert MQLs into SQLs, download our guide: