What is an SQL (Sales-Qualified Lead)?
An SQL is a lead that has graduated from a marketing qualified lead, and is ready to be contacted by the sales team. They will have been checked over by the sales team, and confirmed ready for the next stage in the sales process. Typically, you will have specified criteria that qualify a lead as sales-ready based on previous deals. What qualifies a lead as sales-ready will be different for each business.
Need Help With Your B2B Strategy?
In B2B marketing, it’s important to know your buyers. That’s why one of the first steps in building a marketing strategy is to generate a clear buyer persona. If you don’t know who your marketing is targeting, it’s almost impossible to resonate with them. Casting a wide net is unlikely to bear fruit.
Not only that, but audience segmentation is a particularly popular approach in B2B marketing. Not every solution will have one specific buyer persona. There might be a variety of use cases for your solution.
Qualifying your leads according to their interactions with your business is just another example of this. The more details you have about your buyers, the better experience they will have with your marketing and your sales process.
The best sales and marketing strategy personalizes the leads’ experience according to their qualification level. So, how do you know whether someone is an SQL?
The Importance of SQLs
As mentioned, adapting marketing according to the individual is a key marketing and sales approach. Qualifying your leads contributes to the success of the marketing and sales funnel.
Under this methodology, every lead travels through a certain process with your business. Generally, there is considered to be four stages: awareness, consideration, conversion, and nurturing.
By separating the journey into these steps, you can identify what each lead needs from you at the stage in their journey. Qualifying your leads according to their level of interaction with your business helps to personalize their experience in a similar way.
If you keep sending marketing materials to a lead and never progress in their journey, they’re extremely unlikely to convert. It’s important to specify at which stage a lead is considered to be ready for the sales process, so that that process can begin.
If you’re not qualifying leads, at best your buyers remain engaged with your business but at a low conversion rate. At worst, your buyers completely disengage over time and find another solution.
How To Qualify Leads
What you consider a qualified lead, whether marketing or sales-qualified, will be entirely down to your business. Some businesses will have a longer sales cycle than others.
For instance, SaaS companies often have a longer sales cycle due to the level of education needed for each lead. Typically, leads aren’t exactly looking for a software solution to their problems. The key with software buyers is to establish their pain points, and educate them on the solutions, and your solution.
In this case, leads are more likely to remain marketing-qualified for a longer period of time. You might need more engagement from a lead in order to qualify them as sales-ready.
Comparatively, other tech businesses may be able to move leads through the buyer’s journey a little faster. These will be leads that know their problems, and are just comparing solutions.
Take a look at your previous sales and the deals that converted. Is there something that these leads share in common? Was there an interaction that your converted leads carried out, that your lost leads didn’t? This data will help you to establish your criteria for qualification.
However, remember that this process will require some educated guessing, testing, and learning. Over time, the more accurate your qualification criteria, the more conversions.
SQL vs SAL
Isn’t an SQL the same as a SAL then? Why differentiate? There is a minor difference between these two qualifications, but it’s important for sales to segment these leads to maintain efficiency.
An SAL is a sales-accepted lead. This means a lead that has met all the criteria to be sales-ready, according to either the marketing or sales team. This hasn’t been confirmed with the lead yet, but they have been passed from marketing to sales.
An SQL is sales-qualified. Just as it sounds, this means that sales has qualified this lead as ready for the sales process, and individual attention from the sales department. Qualification typically occurs via telephone or email communication. During this process, the lead can either be passed back to marketing as an MQL, or moved to an SQL.
Generally, leads follow this basic journey:
MQL → SAL → SQL
This is why it’s so critical that marketing and sales work together to streamline this process as much as possible. Contacting a lead that has barely interacted with your business with sales material is just likely to turn them off. The right contact, with the right message, at the right time, is the key to successful communication.
At Nituno, we work with B2B SaaS and tech companies to generate clear marketing and sales processes. Are your sales dropping off at a higher rate and you’re not sure why? Or, are you simply looking to streamline your buyer’s journey? Get in touch to discuss your wider strategy.