How to Maximize Marketing Qualified Leads(MQL) to Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)?

Nilam Oswal

Nilam Oswal

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: February 11, 2021

Traditionally, marketing and sales have always acted as two opposing teams.

In fact, many times, it has been seen that marketing and sales have used negative words to describe each other. While the marketing team finds salespeople as incompetent and lazy, in turn, sales refer to marketing as only academics.

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But, the reality is that sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin. Creating a productive relationship between these two teams can help grow the organization’s revenue by successfully converting leads into customers.

Understanding MQL and SQL

To lay the foundation of how to nurture MQL into SQL, it’s essential that the marketing and sales funnel is well-understood by everyone. The funnel is divided into three sections.

The top of the funnel consists of prospects or visitors and lead. Prospects are website visitors on whom you have gathered very less information or who have subscribed for a blog or an email newsletter.

‘Lead’ is often referred to as a contact who has submitted a form in return for a content offer like a whitepaper, ebook, and more.

The middle of the funnel consists of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).

Marketing Qualified Leads, or MQLs, are contacts who have identified themselves as more extremely engaged, sales-ready leads. When a lead signs up for offers like buying guides, demo requests, or have attended a webinar/event, they are marked as MQLs. Then, these MQLs are passed on to the salespeople to be reviewed by them.

Sales Qualified Leads, commonly known as SQLs, are MQLs that your sales team has identified as ‘ready and able to buy.’ They want you to contact them, and they have very specific questions about your products or services.

And, the last two stages are referred to as the bottom of the funnel. An ‘opportunity’ is an SQL that a sales representative has contacted and found him or her as a legitimate potential customer. The final stage is closing the sale and marking the opportunity as a customer.

If marketing is responsible for the top of the funnel, then sales are accountable for the bottom of the pipe.

Besides, when dealing with SQL, your marketing and sales teams need to remain on the same page. It is typically known as ‘Smarketing.’ 

Sales + Marketing = Smarketing

This is because the middle of the funnel is a shared responsibility of both marketing and sales.

So, what is Smarketing exactly?

The first thing you need to know is that Smarketing is a critical component of inbound success. 

It is the process of aligning the marketing and sales teams around a common goal within an organization. It aims to improve the revenue of a business. 

How to Identify MQLs for Sales to Focus on and Nurture Them Into SQLs

Identifying leads as MQLs and SQLs can get a bit tricky. It may differ from company to company. However, both the team must stay on the same page so that they know which contacts they are responsible for communicating with. In short, they need to speak the same language. 

Now let’s discuss the basic framework that you can use to identify a lead as MQLs and pass it on to salespeople to focus on. 

i. Leads That Do not Fit at all

The most basic requirement is that you must have enough information about the lead or contact to examine whether they are fit for your product or service.

Once you have acquired a lead, you need to define your buyer’s persona and see if they have the demographics of your target audience. You don’t want to waste your sales team’s time by passing off contacts that aren’t a great match for your business.

Besides, it will also help you decide what type of content will help you effectively nurture them. Don’t try to push for a sale too early, you risk losing the lead entirely.

ii. Leads That Fits but Doesn’t Show Much Interest

Leads who are an excellent fit for your product or service but don’t show much interest yet, in such cases, marketing should hang onto them and try to nurture them.

Sometimes the marketing team decides to pass off these leads to sales. But the salespeople should be made aware that their goal is to stimulate interest rather than trying to sell them.

You can achieve it through targeted content emails and phone calls. Now, it is crucial that all emails and phone calls must have a calls-to-action button.

You might ask, why email? We know a lot of people consider email to be either old school or merely spam. But it’s still very effective when it comes to lead nurturing. Don’t believe us?

Today, there are more than 4.3 billion email accounts.

92% of online consumers use email.

91% of online users check their email at least once a day.

The stats say it all. 

How to Nurture MQLs Into SQLs Using Emails

Nurturing is nothing but sending the right email to the right audience at the right time. 

By providing relevant content to your leads that are helpful to them, you can build up a good rapport. They start seeing you as an expert or professional in the industry and start interacting with you.

Here’s how you can effectively use email for your inbound strategy. 

a. Determine Your Audiences First

First up, you need to know who your audiences are. Determine your target group, and then divide your contacts into small groups based on similarities. That way, it allows you to be more relevant and engaging with your content. 

b. Segment Your Audiences and Send Emails at the Right Time

Segment your audiences based on the buyer’s persona and their journey. 

There are three stages of the buyer’s journey,

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

Now you can’t send rebates, coupons, and discounts to a contact who is still in the consideration stage. You will come out as a pushy to someone who is not interested in buying yet.

You need to first help them find ways to solve their issues and earn their trust. The trick here is to send content that syncs up with the buyer’s journey.

Besides, there are other ways you can segment your contacts. Use your contact database to group them based on their role, seniority, location, country, area code, and address. You can also segment your lead by their behavior on your website. Using CMS, you can track their activity and find out about their interests.

So by sending the right email at the right time, you can nurture your leads into customers. 

iii. Leads That Do Not Fit but Shows Interests

Leads who do not fit into your buyer’s persona but shows a lot of interest can be quite confusing.

You might not be able to decide whether to mark the lead as MQL and have the sales team communicate with them. But it’s important to note that depending on your business, it can be a bad decision to bring ill-fitting customers to your company. It can do more harm to your brand image than to the profits for not closing the customer at all.  

Marketing and Sales Funnel Isn’t Always Linear

It’s crucial to know which contacts need to be nurtured by the marketing team and which are the SQLs to be taken to the finish line.

For instance, there is a leader who showed interest in your company’s service by attending a webinar. Thus, they were marked as an MQL and passed to the sales team.

However, after communicating with him, salespeople found out that the contact is still not ready to buy. So what do you do then? Your salespeople forget about the contact and move on to the next.

That shouldn’t happen. It’s probably best to mark the contact back as a lead, and the marketing team continues to nurture their interests.

That’s why marketing and sales need to stay on the same copy, speak the same language, and share a common goal. They should work together in order to achieve a shared revenue goal.

The marketing team should commit to sales in terms of the number and quality of MQLs. Similarly, the sales team should also commit in terms of MQLs follow-up and conversion. 

Some Proven Strategies to Close MQLs Into SQLs by SoftwareSuggest

Everything looks fine in theory, but what’s important is how effective it is when they are put to practice.

At SoftwareSuggest, we have a full-fledged team of marketing and sales who works together to close a lead. We thought we would share some observations that have worked for our team. 

SoftwareSuggest Lead Observation Tips

  • Don’t wait for more than 24 hours to contact a lead

As soon as you mark a lead as MQL, the best time to contact your lead is within 24 hours. Again, why 24 hours?

A study was made by Harvard Business Review, whereby they tracked 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the U.S.

The study revealed that those sales reps who tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving an inquiry were seven times more likely to qualify a SQL as compared to those that were contacted an hour later. And, it’s 60 times higher than the ones who waited more than 24 hours to contact a lead.

  • Auto Responding Technique

Furthermore, our personal observation at the company revealed that responding to your potential lead in just five minutes of the form is filled increases the contact rate by 90 percent.

We call this the ‘auto-responding technique.’ In case, the lead doesn’t receive your phone the first time, you can instantly drop them an automated mail or voice message. The message should contain a brief idea of what you do, how you can help them, and where they can contact you.

For example,

“We, at SoftwareSuggest, help our customers by providing the best software as per their needs at the right price and with the right terms. Each of them has an avg 4.5 stars out of 5. Please feel free to text or call me on (provide your number).”

It will immediately trigger a response from your lead if they are interested.

  • Maximum number of attempts

As explained in the previous point, your first attempt to call your lead should be within the first 15 minutes. If they do not respond, you can drop an automated text and email.

Even after a few hours, if you don’t hear any response, you can make a second attempt to reach out to them. You can put up a reminder in your CRM to send you alerts about calling them again at the set time. That way, it won’t slip your mind even if you are having a busy day.

However, it’s advisable to attempt not more than twice a day. Otherwise, it might irritate them, and you lose your customer forever. Yet again, CRM enables you to restrict calling your contact if you have already called them twice.

  • Train your inbound sales representative

Another important aspect is that your salesperson needs to be thorough with their speech — known as positioning statements before they call the leads. 

The statement should contain an expression of how a given product or service can fill a particular customer’s need. In fact, they should be given two separate positions so that they have twice the chance to resonate with the persona. 

They can ask the contact a question that gets them to elaborate on their experience with the positioning statement. 

Conclusion

Qualifying and converting your leads requires patience and skills. 

You should aim at providing a personal and delightful experience to each of the prospects from start to finish if you want to nurture your leads. 

To conclude, let’s sum up all the points we have learned so far, 

  • Build Good Relationships
  • Know Your Audiences Well
  • Speak the Prospect’s Language
  • Try to Solve Their Problem

So that was it. Are you ready to embrace the challenge of nurturing your leads? 

Tell us your experience, we would love to hear from you. Please feel free to use the comment section below.

Nilam Oswal
Nilam Oswal is a Content Marketing Head and Brand Strategiest at SoftwareSuggest. When she's not hard at work, she can be found wandering, reading, and just generally having a good time in life.

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