Is your business generating so many leads but not converting enough? Time to choose quality over quantity in managing your leads.
Prioritize who you must sell to, particularly the sales qualified leads (SQL) that are most likely to convert.
That is how you improve the conversion rates. After all, the whole point of generating leads is to convert them into customers.
In this guide, we flesh out what an SQL means, what makes it different from other types of leads, and how you can bring in more SQLs to your business.
What is a sales qualified lead?
A sales qualified lead is a potential customer who has shown enough interest in your products or services and is ready to make a purchase.
The term “qualified” sets SQLs apart from other types of leads.
If a lead is sales qualified, the sales team has confirmed the lead to be qualified for conversion. It means that the SQL meets the sales team’s qualifying criteria to move on to the next stage in the sales process.
This involves initiating a sales call with the SQL.
Sales Qualified Lead vs. Marketing Qualified Lead: What is the difference?
To better understand what SQLs are and why your business should have more of them, it is important to distinguish them from marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
Knowing the key differences between the two types of leads helps make your marketing and sales operations more efficient and effective.
You can identify which leads should go to the marketing team for nurturing and which ones to send to the sales team for sales calls.
Let’s take a quick look at the typical journey of a lead to have a clear idea of the SQL vs. MQL difference.
The customer journey starts when a site visitor provides their information to you in exchange for an offer or valuable gated content (e.g., ebook, white paper, newsletter, webinar, etc.).
At this stage, the visitor has become a general lead after expressing their interest in your company.
General leads become MQLs when they start engaging with your marketing efforts and learning more about your company.
They explore your website, read your blog posts, and sign up for more information about your products or services.
At this stage, MQLs are interested in what you sell but are not yet ready to talk to your sales reps.
To convert MQLs into SQLs, you should build trust and lasting relationships with them through lead nurturing.
Once the marketing team has determined through a vetting process that an MQL is ready for a sales call—and the sales team agrees with it—the lead is then passed on to Sales.
At this point, the lead has become an SQL.
Here are some examples indicating that a lead can qualify for conversion:
- Visiting your website multiple times, particularly the product and pricing pages, for more sales information
- Sending inquiries about your product or service
- Increased downloads of buying guides and other types of content that addresses a certain pain point
- Increased email open rates and click-through rates
- Request for product demos and free trials
In short, the difference between SQLs and MQLs lies in whether they are sales-ready or not.
The chance of making a sale is higher with an SQL than an MQL, so it’s more profitable for your business to focus on generating more SQLs.
4 lead nurturing tactics for Sales Qualified Lead generation
The key to getting more SQLs is having the right lead nurturing strategy. You want your leads to progress from considering your product to actually buying it.
If nurtured properly, an MQL could become an SQL and ultimately, a paying customer. Research shows that lead nurturing campaigns drive sales opportunities.
Two-thirds of B2B companies with nurturing programs saw a 10 percent to 30 percent or greater increase in sales opportunities, based on a 2018 survey by Demand Gen Report.
Nurture your leads organically with these five tactics that will help increase your SQLs.
1. Send personalized and insightful emails
Email marketing is still the most effective way to nurture leads.
In particular, email newsletters perform the best for lead nurturing, according to 31 percent of marketers surveyed for the B2B Content Marketing 2020 study.
Why is that so? Because email allows for personalization.
Compared to sending a generic email blast, it is easier to connect with your leads if you tailor each message to their interests and needs.
Some tips to personalize your lead nurturing email campaigns:
- Segment or split your email list to send targeted messages to specific groups.
- Send triggered emails when a lead engages with your brand (i.e., clicks on a link in your email, browses through specific pages on your website, downloads your content, etc.).
- Address each lead by their first name on the top of the email.
- Provide highly relevant and useful content with valuable insights.
- Include details related to the lead’s location, job, company, or industry.
- Ask a few questions to know more about the lead’s preferences, needs, and pain points.
- Respond in a personalized manner, like how your product or service can help solve their specific problem. You can even consider their IP locations in your tailored responses. You can use a geolocation tracker for this.
2. Invest in marketing automation and CRM tools
In 2019, 68 percent of marketers said their businesses used automation in some way, found a HubSpot global survey.
There is certainly a good reason companies are taking advantage of marketing automation for their lead generation efforts.
Make sure you don’t miss out on opportunities to engage and convert leads.
Use the right software and tools for your lead nurturing campaigns. You may check out the most recommended marketing automation tools here.
Here are just some of the benefits you’ll get from using marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms:
- Gain deeper insights into your leads, so you can plan an effective campaign for nurturing them
- Easily track, classify, and rank your leads according to quality or likelihood to convert
- Automate tasks like sending email newsletters, responding to inquiries, and measuring the ROI of leads
- Manage your emails efficiently, so you can follow up with a potential customer at the right time
- Get real-time alerts when someone is engaging with your content
- Improve conversion rate by 53 percent and revenue by 77 percent (based on Pardot research)
3. Provide bottom-funnel content
This type of content is called as such because it targets leads at the bottom funnel of the buyer’s journey.
Leads at the bottom of the funnel are those who are already considering your product or service as a solution—and they are very likely to get converted into revenue-generating customers.
Offering bottom-funnel content to these leads gives them the nudge to become sales qualified leads.
They are looking for more information about your product or service, so they can understand how it will meet their needs.
Free trial offers, product demos/tutorials, and case studies (or customer success stories) are among the most effective types of bottom-funnel content in persuading a potential customer to buy from you.
4. Ensure a well-aligned sales and marketing management
All your lead nurturing tactics, no matter how promising they seem, are doomed to fail if the efforts of your sales and marketing teams are not aligned.
Without proper alignment, Sales and Marketing will always play the blame game instead of producing results.
Marketers will blame salespeople for failing to convert the leads they pass on, while the sales team will blame the marketing team for sending poor-quality leads and not nurturing them enough.
Sounds familiar? Shape up the way your two teams work.
So that they work toward a common goal—which is to generate sales-ready leads—identify their shared expectations and responsibilities.
Then document them in a service level agreement (SLA), which will help Sales and Marketing hold each other accountable for lead conversion.
Particularly, the SLA must clarify the following for the sales and marketing teams:
- Specific buyer personas
- Criteria that define an SQL
- A structured lead scoring system
- A feedback system that allows salespeople to explain why certain leads don’t qualify for conversion and return them to the marketing team for further nurturing
A lead nurturing strategy, if implemented right, enables you to generate more sales-ready leads, so you can sell to the right people at the right time.
Focus your resources on leads that are likely to convert—this will help you improve your conversion rate and ROI.
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