Difference Between a Marketing Qualified Lead and Sales Qualified Lead

marketing and sales 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 marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads coming in through the door?

As AI becomes commonplace, marketing gets more complex and automation becomes the norm, not only are there new ways to get more leads to get more leads, there’s also a new set of confusing anagrams and technical terms to grapple with – thanks a lot, HubSpot

In this blog, we’ll run through the difference between marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads, as well as some top tips for securing more, better leads to help grow your business.


What’s the difference between Marketing Qualified Leads & Sales Qualified Leads?

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

The actual definitions for both are as follows:


What is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)?

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is defined as a lead who 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 other similar engagements with your business’ content.

In short, an MQL is a customer who has indicated a certain level of interest in your product or service, but they’re not quite ready for your sales team to swoop in and seal the deal. This happens when they get to the next stage:


What is a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?

A sales qualified lead (SQL) involves a prospective customer who has been qualified by your marketing team. 

Your leads become MQLs, then they progress to SQLs – this is when they’re deemed deemed ready to speak to your sales team. Your sales team can answer specific questions and provide one-on-one time, confident in the fact that an SQL is far more likely to engage with them than cold leads or MQLs.


In actual fact, though, the difference between marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads 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 business, which is where sales qualification comes in, too.

In essence: marketing qualified leads should be thought of as quantity, while qualified leads in sales 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 when they’ve made it through the qualifying stages to reach the final.

Need support generating and qualifying warm leads? Book a chat with our lead generation experts for bespoke advice for your business.


So, Which Leads TEND to be higher quality?

The truth is there is no definitive answer to this.

Marketing qualified leads are key because they’re a lot warmer. If someone has read three blog posts, opened eight emails and download an eBook or submitted an enquiry, they already know about your brand and values.

That said, anyone can enquire. Your grandma might read your blogs and download a guide just because she loves you and is interested in what you’re up to.

As nice as that is, she’s unlikely to need whatever B2B service it is you’re selling, making her a pretty bad lead.

SQLs on the other hand – assuming your salespeople are targeting people who are natural fits for your service – tend to be better quality.

Again though, if the distribution of your marketing is right and your messaging clear enough, your MQLs may turn out to be better quality than your SQLs.

There are a lot of variables involved, including your industry, company size, ideal target and much, much more.

The key is to generate as many leads as you can from different sources and ensure you track and test your results to see which avenues produce the highest quality leads. Once you have the market data, you can allocate more resources to amplify your results.


How to improve the quality and quantity of your MQLs and SQLs

1. Communicate

Your sales team knows first-hand what a good customer looks like through experience of selling. This means they can better advise your marketing team on the trends and traits of a perfect prospect.

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; they’ll know what is a sales qualified lead, and what’s not ready yet.


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 Marketing 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 theirs.


Turn Marketing Qualified Leads into Sales Qualified Leads

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry – at Catalyst, we work closely with our clients to ensure that the leads we’re generating are passed on to the sales team at just the right time. Nice warm leads means lots more sales – maths we can get behind!

Don’t waste time trying to sell to people who aren’t interested. Get in touch  with our team of specialists today; we’re on hand to talk through a tailored marketing strategy that will deliver more sales qualified leads to your team.

Alternatively, reach out to us with the below details:

E: hello@wearecatalyst.co.uk
T: 0121 296 5275

Looking to read more? Check out our ultimate guide on lead generation by clicking below:

Catalyst Marketing Agency - Leads that close guide

How to Generate Leads that Close: The Ultimate Guide

Finding sales-qualified leads that your sales team can actually close? Very, very difficult. In this guide, we outline just how you can find more leads that close.

Download guide

About the author

Paul Houston has been in sales and marketing for 25 long years.

In that time, he’s learned a thing or two about sales and marketing. Now, he’s imparting some of that wisdom through his crack team of marketing masterminds. He’s gathered the best talent across copy, design, SEO, PPC and strategy, providing you with the most cost-efficient way to grow your business and thrive. 

Outside of work, you’ll find Paul either at the gym, or treating himself to a well-deserved pint of Guinness at his local. He’ll take any opportunity he can to spend time with family and friends (but would usually prefer to be with Dave, his dog!).