When Does Your Marketing Qualified Lead Become a Sales Qualified Lead?

When Does Your Marketing Qualified Lead Become a Sales Qualified LeadHow does your company define a lead as “qualified”? Are the leads that fit a demographic/firmographic profile and respond to marketing touchpoints considered qualified?  Your marketing and sales departments may disagree on which leads are truly qualified to become a sales opportunity. In this post we look at when your marketing qualified lead (MQL) becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL).

A marketing qualified lead is a suspect that has advanced through multiple marketing touch points and fits an optimal lead profile. A sales qualified lead requires more to be considered a viable sales opportunity:  it must be ready, willing, and able to pay for your solution.

In order to qualify as a sales opportunity a lead must have the following:

  1. An established need. This can be indicated through online forms or by contact from a sales agent. The need must be solvable with your solution. There are plenty of B2B needs to be met, but if your solution does not directly address the need completely or partially, the lead is not sales-ready. Even the most cash-rich prospects are of little value if there is no need – perceived or real – for your solution.
  2. Money to purchase. a marketing-qualified lead may show substantial interest and be completely engaged, but without capital to make a purchase, your sales agent is wasting time. Even the most inexpensive solution will be unavailable to companies with no budget.
  3. A plan to buy. Many companies understand they have needs that must be met through buying from B2B vendors, but don’t always plan for purchases. A marketing-qualified lead cannot evolve into a sales-qualified lead without understanding where the prospect is in the buying cycle. A lead may be fully marketing-qualified because of fit and interest, but it does not reach a sales-qualified status until there is a firm plan to commit money towards a solution. Your sales agent will be “spinning wheels” until the prospect gets buy-in from decision-makers to move forward with a purchase.
  4. Possesses purchase authority or decision-making capacity. There may be a few layers of authority involved in a purchase. This is where a marketing-qualified lead is clearly different from a sales-qualified leads. Sales agents know that, in order to close a deal, they must be engaged with a buying authority or a decision maker. An influencer may be marketing-qualified but, without purchase authority, he may not be the appropriate contact for a sales agent.

Some – but not all – of these characteristics of a sales-qualified lead can be captured through marketing touchpoints. By implementing a lead scoring system that includes both marketing qualification criteria and sales qualification criteria, your company can more easily differentiate between a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead.

It is important to include sales agents when determining scores that indicate a marketing qualified lead. A few examples of sales qualification criteria include:

  • Funding available immediately                          10 points
  • Funding available within 6 months                   5 points
  • Budget in process                                                2 points
  • No funding available                                            0 points
  • Expressed a direct need                                     10 points
  • Expressed a potential need                               8 points
  • Unaware of a need                                              3 points
  • Expressed lack of a need                                    0 points
  • Lead contact is decision-maker                         10 points
  • Lead contact is purchasing agent      5 points
  • Lead contact is influencer                  3 points
  • Plans to buy immediately                   10 points
  • Plans to buy within 6 months             5 points
  • Plans to buy within 1 year                  2 points
  • No plans to buy                                    0 points
  • Would spend over $1,000                 10 points
  • Would spend under $500                  5 points
  • Would spend less than $100             1 point

Sales and marketing should be aligned in establishing the difference between a marketing-qualified lead and a sales-qualified lead. Implementing a lead scoring system to rank marketing suspects and sales opportunities will improve conversions and enhance the transition from marketing funnel to CRM priority.