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Everyone and their mother wants more MQLs in the new year.

But the getting-them part is the very first step in a long process that no one ever seems to fully understand. So let’s get clear on what a Marketing Qualified Lead really is, how it’s different from a Sales Qualified Lead, and how to make sure you don’t burn half the ones you get.

MQLs and SQLs are consecutive “Lifecycle Stages” in the customer journey.

Here’s the Coles Notes:

Marketing Qualified Leads are contacts that have been identified as “more likely to buy” than the average lead based on their demographic information and their behavior, but they have NOT YET indicated intent to buy.

Sales Qualified Leads are when an MQL demonstrates through their activity that they are ready to buy, and therefore ready to speak to Sales. For example: visiting your pricing page, downloading a buyer’s guide from your website, or booking a demo.

Depending on the resources you have on hand, how full your pipeline is and how many leads are pouring in, you can decide how early sales gets involved in the process. But heads up: pitching contacts over to Sales to have a conversation the lead isn’t ready for will frustrate all parties, and waste critical resources.

So how do you identify MQLs and SQLs?

Implementing Lead Scoring can help your CRM automatically define a lead’s Lifecycle Stage so there’s no confusion.

A Lead Score is a total point-value assigned to each lead, typically based on:

-Their demographic (ex: Job Title, Age, Gender, Seniority)

-Their company info (Does their employer fit in your ICP’s industry, company size and revenue range?)

-Their behavior (What pages they visited, links they clicked, resources they downloaded, emails they read through)

Each characteristic or action adds points to your lead’s total score, and when they hit specific thresholds they become MQLs, then eventually SQLs. Score can also help your teams prioritize SQLs to speak to first by focusing on the ones with the highest scores.

Lead Score formulas should always be catered specifically to your business and include the most important indicators of your ideal buyer.

To get started, look at a list of successful buyers from the last year of business. If it’s a big list, filter down to only the customers that you would want to copy/paste 1000x if you could. Maybe the ones who bought the most, the fastest. Maybe the ones who kept coming back for more. Maybe the ones who made the fulfillment process the easiest.

Once you have your list of ideal customers, look at what they have in common and use it to draft your first set of lead score criteria.

We recommend starting simple, and accepting that this process will continue to evolve as you get clearer and clearer on who you really want to target. Revisit it every 3 months and ask your reps if they’re having more valuable conversations and with whom.


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