MQL vs. SQL - 5 Rules for handing leads off to sales

By Noa Eshed
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Have you ever paused to define what qualifies as a MQL vs. SQL in your company? (marketing qualified leads vs. sales qualified leads) If not, let's set some ground rules and improve your marketing and sales approach to incoming leads. 

Rule no.1 – not all leads should be transferred directly to sales!

If you are selling a product or service that requires the lead to make a significant investment in time or money, you can count on the fact that most of your incoming leads are not ready to make an immediate purchase. Sending incoming leads directly to sales, simply because they filled out a form correctly (i.e. information qualified) and with no regard to who they are and their state of readiness is a waste of your sales team time.

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Rule no.2 – not all leads are MQLs, qualify them and let go of the rest!

That begs the question, what qualifies leads as MQLs?

The answer will always be different from company to company. In essence, MQLs are leads who match your company's buyer personas. As you are probably well aware, your company is not targeting "everyone". If you do not yet have a clear understanding of who your buyer personas are, I urge you to first read this post and learn how to define and live by them.

Say your company is a B2B company, targeting CTOs at startups, would you agree that a marketing manager of a private college is not an MQL? No. That's a no brainer right? Look closely. If you don't have a clear definition of your buyer personas, you're making such mistakes in your day to day marketing efforts.

Rule no.3 – not all MQLs should be transferred directly to sales!

As the name infers – MQLs require marketing action. Be sure to nurture those MQLs using lead nurturing best practices. Send them relevant blog posts to read, eBooks, whitepapers, surveys, webinars. Make sure you are creating a personal journey and taking into consideration the buyer's journey. Only once your lead is at the decision stage of the buyer's journey, is it time to get sales in the picture.

The following pyramid will help you get an idea of the type of content that is relevant for MQLs on each stage of the buyer's journey:


Source: Hubspot

Rule no.4 – Not all MQLs are opportunities!

Sales calls should also be evaluation and qualification calls. Make sure to have a clear understanding of what makes a lead an SQL. 

Most salespeople are already familiar with the IBM BANT method for qualifying prospects:

Budget – can they afford your product or service?

Authority – is your lead the one making the decision or are there other decision makers that should be part of the process

Needs – what are your leads needs and can you help them reach those needs

Timeline – When do they want to take action (and why then)

However, in our current rapidly changing markets, BANT isn't enough. Your prospects are informed and educated. Qualifying them requires a further drill down. That's where the Hubspot GPCT method comes in handy:

Goals - what are their goals and can you help them achieve them?

Plans - how do they plan on achieving their goals? are you under the impression that their plan is the best way forward? does their plan require your product/service?

Challenges - what are they challenges they're facing? can you help them overcome their challenges?

Timeline - drilling down further than the timeline discussed under BANT - what's their timeline for achieving their goals by implementing their plans? do you find that timeline realistic?

No need to waste time on leads that are not worth more sales follow up and will not become real sales opportunities in your CRM.

Rule no.5 – once an lead becomes a customer, get marketing back on board

Marketing needs constant feedback from sales and vice versus. Companies with a healthy smarketing approach, report 20% more annual revenue growth. Be sure to measure conversion rates, understand which of those SQLs became customers and always improve your definition of your buyer personas. Then, adjust your buyer's journey in accordance.

Also, once a lead becomes a customer, make sure to keep providing valueand delighting the customer with relevant VIP premium offers such as discounts, customer events, webinars and so on. This will also help sales up sale and crossable when relevant.


Sales cycles should not be taken lightly. In order to make the most of your time and budget, be sure to understand who your buyer personas are, what makes a lead an MQL, how to nurture MQLs, when a lead becomes an SQL and when an SQL is a right fit for your company. Yes, it's lots of work, but trust me, it will pay off.

If you found this useful, and you're curious to learn more and find out how to create a long lasting inbound marketing strategy, we invite you to download our How-To guide for creating an inbound marketing strategy

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About Noa Eshed

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Noa is the co-author of the Amazon no.1 Bestseller "The Smart Marketer's Guide to Google AdWords" and co-host of the podcast "Real Life Superpowers". She's a content lover, certified journalist & lawyer (Hebrew U). She practices martial arts & yoga. She's been consulting and helping businesses create a significant presence online since 2010.

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