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Difference Between a Marketing Qualified Lead and Sales Qualified Lead


It’s no secret that every salesperson has a longing for more leads. After all, that’s the only way a business grows. But how can you use your team’s marketing and sales skills to get more leads coming in through the door?

Thanks to the automated marketing revolution, not only is there a new way to get more leads, there’s also a new set of confusing anagrams and technical terms to grapple with - thanks a lot, HubSpot.  

What are MQLs and SQLs?

There are plenty of confusing, long-winded definitions online for marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads, as well as the difference between the two.

The actual definitions for both are as follows:

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead?

A Marketing Qualified Lead is one whom has been deemed more likely to become a customer compared to other leads. This qualification is based on which web pages a person has visited, what they've downloaded and similar engagement with your business's content.

What is a Sales Qualified Lead

A Sales Qualified Lead involves a prospective customer - who has been qualified - being deemed ready for the sales team of your company to get in contact and close a sale. Your sales team can answer specific questions and provide one-on-one time.

In actual fact, though, the difference between marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads - or, in HubSpot speak, MQLs and SQLs - is simple.

In an ideal world, almost all of your leads will come through marketing before they get to the sales team; MQLs are always warm in some way, as by their definition, they've already engaged with your company through your marketing efforts.

That means that any communications between your sales team and the lead won't be completely cold; if marketing have done their job right, when your salesperson says where they're calling from, the lead should respond with an "Oh yes" rather than a "Who?".

That said, not all MQLs will be a fit for your company, which is where sales qualification comes in, too.

In essence: marketing qualified leads should be thought of as quantity, while sales qualified leads are more about quality. MQLs still need to be qualified by sales before they can be contacted.

In the same way that Usain Bolt needs to get through the heats to qualify for the Olympics, an MQL becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL) when they've made it through the qualifying stages to reach the final.


So, which lead is more effective?

The truth is there is no definitive answer to this.

Marketing qualified leads are key because they are warmer leads to follow up on. If someone has read three blog posts, opened eight emails and download an eBook, they already know about your brand and values.

That said, only one in ten MQLs might be decision makers. MQLs that turn into SQLs are the easiest to close as they aren’t cold, so the key is creating a marketing strategy which drives high-quality MQLs to ensure the pipelines of your sales team are supported by a constant flow of  MQLs to explore.

Key takeaways:

1. Use your specific skills and communicate

Your sales team knows first-hand what a customer looks like through experience of selling and can therefore advise the marketing team on the trends and traits of a perfect prospect client. This should be used to inform your marketing strategy in the first place and drive the right kinds of marketing qualified leads for the sales team to qualify.

2. Don’t rush 

Not all leads are made equal and not every lead the marketing team generates is sales-ready. Some prospects have a lot of potential, but aren’t ready to be closed, whereas others are ripe for the picking immediately.

To prevent losing a lead because of rushing the process, trust your marketing team to nurture the client a bit more until they’re ready for the sales pitch.

3. Allow the marketing team to do their job

Pretend your marketing team are pirates (go with it) and they find troves of treasure across the sea for the sales team to hunt out.

Your pirates need time to sift through the treasure maps and find the routes that are worth going after. When they’ve found them, the sales team turn up and dig up the treasure.

Jumping in too soon on a lead before the marketing team has been able to work out if X really does mark the spot, will mean a waste of both your time and there’s.

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