What makes a sales qualified lead?

Image depicting a baton passed between runners in a relay race

Transforming an MQL into an SQL is like passing a baton in a relay race

What makes a sales qualified lead (SQL)? Not all leads are the same. If you consider HubSpot a reliable website, the following definition of a “sales qualified lead” helps us get started:

“A sales qualified lead is a prospective customer that is ready to talk to a sales team. Typically, this lead has expressed enough interest in your product or service, that they’re ready to move into your sales process.”

As your lead generation team can tell you, many prospects are “ready to talk to a sales team”.  But few of these prospects meet the “prospective customer” test.

What is a “prospective customer”?

A decision-maker “[who] has expressed enough interest in your product or service that they’re ready to move into your sales process”.

When your prospective customer shares with your lead generation team a need she/he has for a product like yours they have “expressed enough interest” (as long as they have a budget and a time frame to satisfy the need).

Your lead generation team should have had some conversations to certify the prospective customer as a “sales qualified lead”. Don’t skip this step. Jumping on a sales plan before speaking with enough people (meaning marketing qualified leads – MQLs) to make sure you are targeting the right “prospective customer” can end up costing you. If selling your product takes a long time, finding out at the last minute your customer isn’t what she seemed to be amounts to a big drain on resources. Just think about it, your sales team could have been spending the same time working with a genuine “prospective customer”, not the disappointment you find on your doorstep.

Also, you should not allow your definition of a sales qualified lead to be “squishy”. Either a contact is a “prospective customer”, or isn’t. There isn’t a “no man’s land” in the middle. You shouldn’t expect your sales team to do the job of qualifying prospects. They need to be out there selling.

Any conversations with prospects not yet qualified as “prospective customers…ready to talk to a sales team” should be handled by your lead generation team. You should label these contacts “marketing qualified leads”. Meeting are OK, but you should be represented in them by lead generation personnel. They should use the meeting to further qualify the prospect, not to sell.

If you are doing things correctly you will end up with highly qualified prospects. The more detail, the better your process is working. If your lead generation team does not include a lot of writers, be sure to ask them to record calls and then use a transcription service to produce the written detail your sales team will need to pick up the ball.

If you want to explore more of our content on related topics, you may want to read:

Are Outside Sales Teams Still Necessary for Enterprise IT Software Sales?

Use a Call to Action in a Variety of Different Landing Pages to Motivate Web Site Visitors to Submit Names for Lead Generation

Finding Leads for Complex Sales on a Limited Budget Part I



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