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MQL vs SQL vs SAL: Explaining 3 B2B Lead Scoring Terms

5 min read2023-04-04Grant Hendricks

Marketing and sales perform their best when they work together as a team. Teamwork requires knowing who’s responsible for what. When does a lead get handed over from marketing to sales? Who is responsible for qualifying leads, and what does it mean to properly qualify them? These questions may be answered by defining MQLs, SQLs, and SALs: Marketing Qualified Leads, Sales Qualified Leads, and Sales Accepted Leads.

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)?

A marketing qualified lead is a lead whose actions and behaviours show purchasing intent, as determined by marketing staff or technologies. Examples of marketing qualification criteria include demographics profiles particularly conducive to purchasing or tracked web behaviour that shows the prospect is highly interested in the product, such as repeated visits to a particular product page.

Marketers may manually qualify leads for the sales team, exploring CRM and web analytics data to determine good fit. In modern digital marketing, automated systems will often determine a lead score based on a variety of factors. Prospects above a certain scoring threshold will be marked as marketing qualified.

Examples of Marketing Qualified Leads

  • Your CRM collects data about a user and finds that they have visited your website four times in the past week, exploring a particular product range and downloading a PDF resource. The user is automatically marked as marketing qualified and added to a list for further prospecting.
  • A user arrives through a targeted social media advertising campaign. The marketing team have carefully set the targeting for the campaign to attract users similar to your best customers. All users that arrive through the ad campaign and engage with your website content are marked as marketing qualified.
  • The marketing team uses LinkedIn Sales Navigator to prospect potential leads. They filter the contacts list based on criteria like industry vertical, sales regions, and estimated company revenue. Contacts that are deemed a good fit become marketing qualified.

What is a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?

A sales qualified lead is a customer who has entered your sales funnel. They have connected with your team via lead forms, live chat, phone, or email to request more information. Sales qualified leads include anyone who has explicitly demonstrated purchasing intent. Marketing qualified leads become sales qualified once they take action to connect with the sales team in any manner.

Examples of Sales Qualified Leads

  • A user from one of your marketing qualified lead lists replies to a cold email from the marketing team requesting more information. The user is connected with the sales team and marked as sales qualified.
  • After viewing your YouTube channel, a user visits your website and submits a lead form requesting a quote. They are marked as sales qualified and assigned a contact on the sales team.
  • Head office receives a phone call asking about pricing for a specialized product. The operations team connects the caller with the sales team.

What is a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)?

Sales accepted leads are leads that have been personally evaluated for fit by the sales team. If the sales team can confirm the prospect meets all criteria to purchase a product, they may be marked as sales accepted.

Purchasing intent is a good start, but insufficient for evaluating leads. Many contacts demonstrate purchasing intent but are a poor fit as a customer. They may wish to purchase a product, but lack the budget needed. Or, they may have an appropriate budget but operate outside of your sales region, or in an industry you don’t service.

Sales accepted leads receive VIP treatment from the sales team. These are the contacts most likely to generate revenue for your business.

Examples of Sales Accepted Leads

  • After submitting a lead form, a prospect receives a call from a sales rep. They demonstrate a keen interest in the product and meet all targeting criteria. The lead is marked as sales accepted and prioritized by the sales team.
  • The sales team cold calls prospects from a list of marketing qualified leads. Several leads express interest in learning more. The sales team sends these leads product brochures via email and marks them as sales accepted leads.

Why Do MQLs, SQLs, and SALs matter?

Defining prospects by their stage in the sales and marketing funnel helps define roles within your business. Marketing teams are responsible for feeding sales teams MQL lists, either through campaigns or direct customer research. Sales teams are responsible for further qualifying MQLs and connecting with SQLs to accept or reject them.

Prospects in each sales and marketing stage require different information and materials to push them down the funnel. MQLs may need to be presented with informational content such as product videos and case studies, as they are in the early stages of product consideration. These materials should help push them toward sales qualification by offering clear calls to action for the user.

SQLs need more granular information to proceed with their purchasing decision. These may include product demos, live Q&As and webinars, and pricing estimates.

SALs need personal care and attention from the sales team. They should be communicated with frequently and offered tailored content that directly speaks to their needs.

By segmenting the customer journey, we can appropriately plan content and resources for each stage of the purchasing process.

Cover Photo by Leeloo Thefirst:

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