What is a sales qualified lead (SQL) – and how do you get more of them?

Identifying SQLs is all about determining how well a prospect is suited to your product or service.

Without a sales qualification process, sales teams instead spend hours on prospects who aren’t ready to buy, and maybe never will!

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Not only is this bad for the business, it’s going to take a toll on your team morale too.

That’s why we’re going to guide you through how to bring in more SQLs, so your sales team can focus on prospects that are ready to buy.

 

What is an SQL?

A sales qualified lead is a prospective customer that has been researched and vetted — first by an organization’s marketing department and then by the sales team – and is deemed ready for the next stage in the sales process.

An SQL has displayed intent to buy a company’s products and has met an organization’s lead qualification criteria that determine whether a buyer is a right fit. The label is applied to a prospect that has gone past the engagement stage and is ready to be pursued for conversion into a full-fledged customer.

 

How do SQLs differ from MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads)?

An MQL is a prospect that your marketing team considers more likely to eventually turn into a sale than other leads, but isn’t quite ready to buy yet. This is usually decided based on lead intelligence, often informed by closed-loop analytics. These leads require additional marketing assistance before they’re ready to receive a sales call.

An SQL is a prospective customer that has progressed past the engagement stage, has been thoroughly analyzed by both marketing and sales, and has been deemed ready for the next stage in the sales process — a direct sales push. These leads have displayed intent to buy, and have met lead qualification criteria determining that they’re a right fit for the product or service. All they need now is more lead nurturing for conversion into a paying customer.

While a sales qualified lead has been researched and vetted by your marketing department and is ready to talk to your sales department, a marketing qualified lead is a lead who has engaged with your company and could become a customer if nurtured correctly. An MQL becomes an SQL once they’re ready to talk to the sales team.

Understanding MQLs and SQLs is important for your sales team because the system can save your salespeople time so they spend more of their time selling to the right people at the right time.

At its best, the process of converting MQLs to SQLs gives your sales team more qualified prospects so they’ll have more meaningful conversations.

 

How do you get more SQLs?

 

Use data analytics to refine your marketing funnel at each stage

With robust reporting and analysis, you can refine your funnel to drive more MQLs and eventually SQLs. Examine data to determine the kinds of content and events that are most likely to convert inbound leads into SQLs.

As you analyze reports on each stage of the funnel, you can also apply any key learnings to improve your sales close rates.

Some tools give you additional insight into your website data. For example, Lead Forensics identifies the company that a website visitor is from, and provides contact details for key decision makers at that company.

 

Optimize the entire journey from lead to MQL to SQL

Just like the buyer’s journey, there’s a prospect journey from lead to MQL to SQL. Looking closely at the hows and whys of past leads who converted into SQLs can drive higher quality leads.

Look for opportunities to improve conversion rates for each of these lifecycle stages. Extend what you know converts leads with valuable data from your CRM and your sales team. After conversion, refine targeting to create new audiences based on past MQLs who converted to SQLs.

 

Use lead scoring

Lead scoring is the process of identifying and moving leads from MQL to SQL. Leads are assigned scores based on attributes and metrics that are customized, personalized, and prioritized for your company.

You gather as much information as you can about your lead like job title, company size, industry, and geographic location.

Also, track the amount and quality of their interaction with your content and specific webpages, as well as target audience views and number of pages viewed.

Research shows more than 60% of companies set clear criteria for moving leads to SQLs, which also helps in implementing strategies to drive more SQLs.

 

Automate lead scoring to make reaching potential customers easier

A marketing automation tool can help you move leads faster and more accurately, reducing human error and saving time.

Automation is also a cleaner, more efficient way of nurturing MQL leads into SQLs and alerting your sales team of changes in lead status.

 

Keep CRM, automation, and marketing platforms in sync for more insight

Whether you use multiple tools or one platform for marketing automation and customer relationship management, make sure each is in sync with the other.

This way, you can get more insight into lead quality and traffic from each of your marketing campaigns and track the exact campaigns that are driving SQLs. Plus all contact details will be available across your system so sales teams are ready to pitch to an SQL at any time.

 

Unite sales and marketing

Sales qualified leads don’t just appear out of thin air. After all, every lead is drawn in by a marketing effort. Recognizing this makes it valuable for the marketing and sales teams to work together.

Converging information about leads while strategizing together helps the process of turning a marketing qualified lead (MQL) into an SQL. Marketing begins the jobs, and sales reps finish them.

Some ways to operate jointly are solidifying and standardizing the brand messaging, content focus and objectives, and sharing data across teams.

 

Establish buyer personas

Specific buyer personas will document what defines a sales-ready lead for both marketing and sales. Knowing who your ideal buyer is makes it easy to target and sell to the right audience, whether you’re motivating or making a sale.

Alignment between marketing and sales can significantly accelerate lead qualification to SQL. As customers provide more data and feedback, revisit and align your buyer persona to accommodate any updates.

 

Increase conversions with social proof

When prospects rely on their social networks to find advice, referrals, and reviews on your business, product, or service, that’s called social proof. Use it to build trust with your prospects and find out more about their interests and opinions.

By vetting prospects through social media, you’ll find relatable ideas for content, events, deals, and packages that will likely inspire them to qualify as MQLs, convert to SQLs, and eventually to paying customers.

 

Institute an account-based marketing and sales program

An account-based marketing and sales program optimizes data such as what you already know about how an SQL behaves and what an SQL looks like for your business to target similar accounts for new SQLs.

Marketing and sales teams agree on a list of target accounts, then run targeted ads and offer personalized digital experiences that also prospect new accounts for new sales opportunities.

 

Segmentation

Segment leads into groups based on similar attributes. Focusing on your leads’ firmographic, psychographic, and behavioral information.

Firmographics data describes company details (for example, the type sector or industry they operate in), psychographic data refers to the company’s values and attitudes, and behavioral information is about how the target company uses a product or service.

Using data on past leads or customers (and even non-customers), you can decide what information is most important to use to organize your lead.

 

Know your ideal prospect

Once you have set standards for identifying and scoring leads, it’s time for even more research. In this case, you have to use the information you used to create an SQL to get more familiar with this buyer persona.

The pool of SQLs is relatively small, especially for B2B companies. To propel the sales cycles and nurture customers, get to know SQLs on a personal level. Investing time in lead scoring isn’t for nothing. It saves extra time and energy, opening up that productivity to truly focus on the SQLs that are already intrigued by your business and close to making a sale.

What do you need to know about your most pertinent leads? Study their interests, needs, and budget; use past data to estimate the sales timelines. Knowing as much as you can helps close the gap between company and customer and speed up the process and improve customer trust.

 

Focus SEO strategy with long-tail keywords

First, make sure you address all your search engine optimization tactics. Since we’re talking about sales-qualified leads, focus energy on long-tail keywords. To draw out the exact, fine-tuned buyer persona most likely to become an SQL, long-tail keywords are crucial. Search queries are not always broad, general keywords. Some might type in longer sentences or more specific, descriptive versions. If you can get in the head of a prospective SQL, figure out their intent and language, you can utilize fitting keywords that are less competitive and don’t waste searchers’ time (or yours either).

 

Ramp up the content marketing

The best way to get high-quality leads is by offering high-quality content. By curating informative, useful ebooks, webinars, email sign-ups, guides, case studies, and so on, you can really attract the right people who sign up because they are purely interested.

While social media followers can potentially be important leads, your lead magnet material shows a higher level of engagement and intrigue in your brand. Optimize the landing pages for these lead magnets with clear calls-to-actions and great user design to improve SEO and conversion rate.

 

Create different content based on where prospects are in your marketing funnel

Creating content that’s relevant to a person’s current situation will resonate with them and entice them to want more.

It enables more opportunities for leads to qualify as MQLs and move on to SQLs. Use the chance at every stage to start a relationship by offering relatable content of value in exchange for more information about the prospect.

Use marketing automation tools to track the buyer’s journey and send out content at the right time in their pattern of buying, whether it’s for awareness, consideration, or nurturing.

Focus your production of content on attracting more SQLs with specific solutions that address their pain points and their intent on buying the right solution. This is different from attracting a large number of leads.

You’re concentrating the messaging for people who are ready to buy. This means more comprehensive product or service videos, case studies, ebooks, online learning, and webinars, with data that backs up your claims.

 

Use the topic cluster model for your content

Topic clusters rely on a three-part architecture to organize information on your website for prospects who are searching the internet for solutions.

By providing the best answers for today’s refined type of search queries, you can build broader search engine authority while getting more of your web pages ranked.

For prospects, the pillar page content outlines the main topic they’re searching, while the cluster page content gives more detailed information related to that topic.

Since the content is all hyperlinked together, it helps people find information on your site more easily to get their questions answered. And search engines are noticing, which helps you rank higher on first-page SERPs.

 

Continue driving traffic to your website

While getting SQLs requires more focused work, it’s important to continue your top-of-funnel strategies. This means to maintain and continue investing in the goal of gaining more traffic. Increasing awareness of your B2B brand is the only way to attract more leads in general, increasing the number of sales-qualified leads.

One way to boost your traffic is continually ensuring your SEO is top-notch and increasing your social content. Encouraging more social posts and engagement on social media is a great way to get more organic leads since social media has proved to be a powerful lead-generating machine. Furthermore, it’s quick and relatively less costly than other paid ways.

 

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