MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference and Why Do SQLs Matter?

If you want your business to succeed, you have to be good at finding leads. However, it’s not enough to locate new potential customers. You have to qualify them first. Otherwise, you will wind up wasting precious time, energy and resources on leads that never buy. 

There are two primary types of lead qualifications: marketing qualified lead (MQL) and sales qualified lead (SQL). Although both of these categories are valuable to your company, SQLs matter most. Keep reading to find out why. 

What’s the Difference Between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Sales Qualified Lead?

The primary reason to qualify your leads is to determine which prospects are most likely to buy from you. Here is a quick breakdown of both lead types: 

  • Marketing Qualified Lead – This person has interacted with your business in some way. For example, perhaps they subscribed to your email newsletter. This interaction shows interest, but the lead may not be ready to buy. 
  • Sales Qualified Lead – SQLs have been vetted and are more likely to purchase your product. They are ready to talk with the sales team to move onto the next stage of the funnel. 

As you can imagine, both leads are two sides of the same coin. The goal should be to change as many MQLs into SQLs as possible. Here are a few different strategies you can use: 

Lead ScoreLead Score

As your business accumulates more and more leads, your team must rank and qualifies them quickly and accurately. One way to do this is by lead scoring. Since each company has unique offerings and sales funnels, there is no “right” way to score potential customers. However, you will need data to come up with your own scoreboard. 

The elements of lead scoring are: 

  • Buyer Persona – Categorize your customers into different buyers based on their needs and the problems they face. By creating these personas, you can identify ways of selling your product to solve those issues. 
  • Lead Interaction – Your sales funnels should have various touchpoints where your team interacts with new prospects. Mark these interactions down and assign score values to each one. To determine which touchpoints are the most valuable, look at previous data to see when past leads converted to customers. Your point values are arbitrary, but try to keep them simple. 

Building Your Scorecard

At first, it can be tricky to get an accurate lead score. However, the goal is to determine the point value where a marketing qualified lead (MQL) becomes an sales qualified lead (SQL). Look at past data and assign points based on interactions with previous customers. 

For example, look at the last 50 clients and determine what their minimum score was. That number becomes a good baseline for future leads. Once a new prospect reaches that score, you know to have your sales team reach out. 

Lead Behavior

It can be challenging to qualify leads accurately because individuals have different reasons for interacting with your business. Some prospects may be comparing prices and options with competitors, while others might just be “window shopping.” 

To help your team understand when a marketing qualified lead (MQL) becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL), look at behavior and develop a step-by-step qualification process. 

For example, the first step could be to sign up for your subscriber list. From there, the second step could be to request information about a product. Next, a sales rep makes contact to see what interests the lead the most. By building a progression of steps, you can make sure that all leads are moving forward in the pipeline. If you lose a lead during the first few phases, you know that that person is unlikely to buy anyway. 

Without this process, it’s too easy for sales reps to throw a bunch of information at a lead to see if anything sticks. However, since each person is unique, a representative could turn a lead away before trying the right approach. 

Overall, when you create sales systems, it’s much easier for your sales team to qualify leads and close deals. If reps are making it up as they go, success is often out of reach. 

Likelihood to Buy

Likelihood to Buy

Another process your team can use is the BANT system. BANT stands for budget, authority, needs and timeline. Here is a quick breakdown of each component: 

  • Budget – Can the prospect afford your product? 
  • Authority – Is your prospect a decision-maker? 
  • Needs – Does your product solve the prospect’s unique problem? 
  • Timeline – How soon does your prospect have to make a final decision? 

Although each piece of this system is valuable, you should not approach each question at once. Instead, incorporate them into different parts of the sales funnel. For example, during an initial phone call, a rep can ask about the lead’s authority (particularly if you’re a B2B company). In a follow-up email, the representative can discuss the features that address your lead’s specific needs. 

As with lead scoring, you can assign values to each part of the BANT system. Once you have identified all four pieces, then you know that the lead is likely to buy. Until then, however, your team has to continue nurturing the lead or cut the lead off entirely. 

Incorporating Leads Into Your Sales Process

Realistically, your marketing team should find out as much information about leads as possible before passing them onto the sales team. Whether the data comes from email blasts, social media or product demos, the more details, the better. 

Overall, you need to merge your marketing and sales teams so that one flows smoothly into the other. These departments often do not work in sync, which can make it hard to qualify leads and close deals. 

So, rather than developing a marketing funnel and a sales funnel separately, they should be part of the same system. That way, as leads move through, sales reps know when to take over from marketing. Until a lead reaches that specific point, your salespeople do not have to do anything. 

Why Do SQLs Matter?

How many times have your sales reps worked hard to close a deal, only for it to fall through? How many phone calls have led to dead ends? If you’re not qualifying your prospects, your reps are wasting their time and energy. 

Instead, it is far better to focus your resources on SQLs. If your reps only deal with these prospects, they can achieve a better success rate, which boosts your bottom line. 

We have outlined various steps and strategies you can use. However, you have to analyze each element to determine which ones work the best. Remove any actions or processes that do not yield results. Over time, your sales process will become so streamlined that only qualified leads move through the funnel, delivering a far better ROI. 

Which of These Leads Tends to Be the Higher QualityWhich of These Leads Tends to Be the Higher Quality?

Both options are the same because one leads into the other. However, SQLs offer the best ROI since they are the ones buying your products. 

While you will likely have more marketing-qualified leads, a refined sales funnel ensures that only the best prospects move through to your sales team. Overall, the point is to put as much time and effort into the best customers possible. 

First, you cast a wide net to capture as many leads as you can. Next, you use marketing materials to determine which prospects become MQLs. From there, you can move them through the funnel until they become SQLs, and then, presumably, they buy. 

Key Takeaways

If you want to get the most out of your lead generation and qualification process, keep these elements in mind: 


Selling is a two-way street. You need to know as much about your prospects as possible to capture their attention. Communication is also critical between marketing and sales departments so there is no gap where leads can fall out. 

Don’t Rush

Not every interaction has to result in a sale. Instead, focus on nurturing qualified leads until they are ready to buy. In some cases, a longer sales process can yield a better ROI since the average sale could be much higher. No two leads are identical, so do not approach everyone the same way. 

Allow Marketing to Do Its Job

All too often, leads are pushed onto the sales team before they are qualified. Instead, let your marketing department spend time on each lead to determine who can be considered an SQL. While it is tempting to move forward on more prospects, do not waste tons of time and energy. 

Contact SellingRevolution Today

Building a quality marketing and sales funnel is easier said than done. Not only that, but your reps may not know how to qualify leads correctly. At SellingRevolution, we can help your teams refine their processes and build a better funnel that works. Contact us today to find out more.