When business leaders want to maximize sales, one of the major challenges is ensuring that marketing and sales work together effectively. One important point of coordination is how leads will flow from marketing to sales. To maximize sales, each department needs to identify how they will define leads to streamline the process of turning leads into customers.
This is where the topic of converting Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) comes into play. If the marketing department sends bad leads to the sales department, the sales staff will find it difficult to turn those leads into customers.
The marketing department and the sales department need to agree on the criteria that will be used to determine when a lead has the potential to turn into a customer. The marketing department will then turn leads that meet that criteria over to the sales department. This process is like an athlete passing a baton in a team relay race; both require careful coordination.
What is an MQL?
The marketing department is responsible for attracting leads and then turning them over to the sales department. Let’s take the example of leads that come from your website. The marketing department would drive traffic to your website and create landing pages that encourage visitors to contact you.
You could say that anyone who visits your website is a lead. But, there are things marketing needs to know about that lead before it should be considered an MQL. If a lead completes a contact form on your website to download an eBook, that lead could be considered an MQL. They’re not usually ready to buy, but the marketing department has an opportunity to nurture that lead because they have contact information.
Marketing can use several different tools to get an MQL ready to be sent on to sales. Marketing can use marketing automation systems to continue your relationship with the lead, including:
- Email campaigns
- Website content tailored to the lead
- Website push notifications
- Targeted advertising
- Lead scoring
Each marketing department must define when it’s time to send a lead to the sales department. That decision should be based on the type of information it has available. For example, an MQL may be passed to sales when the lead has responded to email marketing. On the other hand, it may be necessary for the MQL to provide a telephone number and to meet your target audience criteria as determined by your lead scoring system.
The marketing department also needs to work closely with the sales staff to obtain feedback from that staff. Your salespeople can help identify the target market criteria based on their experience in turning leads into customers.
What is an SQL?
The marketing department continues to nurture leads until they turn into SQLs. At that point, the lead is ready to go to the sales department. Again, each situation is different depending on the tools that the marketing department has.
A simple example of this is when leads come from your website. If a lead completes the decision stage on your website, they probably qualify as an SQL. Let’s say a lead requests an audit of their website, or they review a comparison of your product versus your competitor’s. Those are the types of things that indicate a lead is entering the decision stage in their buying process, and it’s time to get salespeople involved.
Again, marketing and sales need to work together to define the signals that a lead is entering the decision stage. Some businesses prefer to send strong MQLs to sales to speed up the process. Let’s say that a lead has visited your website to read content that helps them solve a problem. They’ve commented on your posts on Social Media sites and attended your webinars.
It’s possible that a quick telephone call from a salesperson could determine how close the lead is to making a decision. If the lead is ready to talk, the salesperson would consider them SQL. If the lead isn’t close to making a decision, the salesperson could put them into a lead nurturing campaign.
Best Practices for Converting MQLs to SQLs
Success at converting MQLs into SQLs and SQLs into customers is dependent on creating the right definitions for MQLs and SQLs. If your definitions aren’t accurate, your sales team will be inundated with low-quality leads. You need to start with what you already know.
Create MQL and SQL Definitions
Start by looking at your existing customers to find trends. Your marketing and sales departments need to work on this analysis together. For example, let’s take a look at a business that designs websites. That business may find the following trends among their existing customers:
- They have revenue of $1 million or more
- They have a minimum of 25,000 web visitors a month
- They use a modern Content Management System (CMS)
Some of the things you’ll want to include in your definitions:
- The Lead’s Activities. Assuming you have the ability to track their activities, you might find trends in the number of times they visit your website, the types of content that interest them, or whether they’ve provided a telephone number.
- Demographics. If someone’s company size or industry quickly defines them as a hot lead, you may move them right into an SQL category.
- Lead Scoring. This combines attributes and activities to give each lead a score indicating potential. If you have an effective system in place to do this, it can be very helpful.
Once you have identified the characteristics of your target market, you can include that as the criteria for your MQL definition. Then, you need to define the characteristics that would indicate an SQL. Keep in mind that your definitions may change over time as you gain experience with the process.
Align Sales and Marketing Messages
Make sure that your sales and marketing departments agree on the messages they’re using. This may sound like a given, but it is a very common problem. For example, if your marketing department nurtures leads based on one set of benefits, and your sales department promotes a different set of benefits, your leads will become confused as they make the transition from MQL to SQL.
To avoid that situation, sales and marketing departments should collaborate on messaging. Each department may have different ideas based on their perspectives, but it’s critical to get them together to agree on a unified approach.
Track the Right KPIs
Calculating the MQL to SQL conversion rate isn’t complicated. The calculation looks like this:
Number of SQLs/Number of MQLs = Conversion Rate
However, if you have a long sales cycle, you need to take that into account when you calculate the conversion rate. For example, if your average sales cycle is three months, change the calculation to:
Number of SQLs in month 3/Number of MQLs in month 1 = Conversion Rate
If your conversion rate is extremely high, consider whether your MQL definitions are too limiting. If your conversion rate is extremely low, your MQL definitions may be too broad.
Monitoring your MQL to SQL conversion rate will help you maximize sales. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of how you can tweak your digital marketing efforts to make them as effective as possible as your leads move through their buying journey.
Symphonic Digital can help you improve the effectiveness of your digital marketing across multiple channels and devices. If you’d like more information, call us at 888-964-3498 or send an email.