How to Convert Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales Qualified Leads
Let me get one thing out of the way.
Not all leads are at the same stage.
Some are just visiting (leads), some know their problems (MQLs) and some are considering your product or service as a solution to their problems (SQLs).
The first two categories are nurtured to become the third category and finally, to become a buyer. You need a strategy and a detailed lead nurturing workflow to be able to convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads and then to a buyer.
This image from Hubspot report simplifies the importance of MQL to SQL conversion
Marketers use a range of tools (drip campaigns, newsletters, content etc) to convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads, but all of it centered around one single idea
Do you know developing an effective lead nurturing campaign is essential because according to MarketingSherpa 79% of marketing qualified leads never convert to sales?
But, before we talk more about how to convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads, let’s briefly discuss MQL vs SQL
40% marketers do not even know what MQL or an SQL is
MQL vs SQL
Marketing Qualified Leads are in their early phase of buyer journey. They are aware of their pain point but most they are not ready to buy. However, they can start seeing your product or service as the solution if nurtured strategically.
On the other hand, an SQL knows they have a problem and your product might be a solution to it. SQL may be at a stage where they are weighing their options and could turn into your customers within the next 24 hours if provided with right incentives and information.
Now that we understand MQL vs SQL, it will be easier to discuss how to convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads.
94% of the salespeople feel that marketing hands them over questionable prospects
This makes qualification of a lead as MQL and SQL a significant factor in MQL to SQL conversion. If you qualify them correctly, each lead you pass to the sales is likely to become a buyer.
Now, leads are generally qualified based on two broad criterion
- Do they fit?
- Is the lead well suited for your business
- Do they fall into your buyer persona
- Are they interested?
- Are they engaging regularly with your content?
- Have they downloaded any whitepaper or case study? etc
Let’s understand this in terms of MQL and SQL
There are certain parameters which will always help you understand whether a lead is an MQL
- Do they fit in your ideal client type? For example, are they the right type of company
- Are they decision makers
- Have they been constantly engaging on your website or content?
Similarly, if you add on a few other parameters, you can understand whether the lead is an SQL
- Do they have a budget
- Are they authorized to take a decision in this matter
- Is your product or service a solution to their pain point?
- Do they need your solution right now
This is also called the BANT qualification method.
The next question is logical, how do you put this in practice?
By drawing a neat lead scoring mechanism.
Break down this entire discussion into objective questions. If they meet the minimum criteria that you set, they are an MQL or SQLs. For example, a marketing director in a retail company with over 1000 employees who has visited the website 10 times in the last month and downloaded an ebook can be termed as an MQL.
Every action taken on the website (for example, visiting, downloading a white paper etc) should be given a score. For example, factors relating to need and budget are critical (meaning, more points!) while watching a seminar or downloading an ebook can be an influencing factor (meaning, lesser points)
While we all love to score “positive” actions, “negatives” will increase your accuracy while qualifying leads. For example, if an MQL has not visited your website for months at the end, you should deduct scores.
Do not forget to decide a threshold so teams can pass on the lead on time.
How to convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads?
As long as Marketing team is obligated to deliver a certain amount of leads, it is the job of the Sales team to forecast sales for the upcoming Financial year. Before you give a read about how to convert a Marketing Qualified Lead to Sales Qualified Lead, it is imperative to consider for Marketing budget and forecasting which could be tentative from the Sales.
Targeted content which aligns with every level of your buyer’s journey
Remember the first sentence of this post?
Not every lead is at the same stage. Meaning, you need to know where they are if you want to take any action.
Action includes content that you share, send or make available to these leads using any medium. The more targeted your content is, higher are the chances of them converting.
Let’s say you are targeting Top Of the Funnel leads (TOFU). TOFU leads and not ready to buy so there is no point in sending them “salesy” content. Instead send them content on latest trends, educational guides, ebook etc to address the pain points that are usually experienced by your target audience
Similarly, middle of the funnel leads are well aware of their problem and looking for a solution. It is best to share content that helps them decide, for example, a comparison sheet, checklist, case studies etc
Bottom of the funnel leads is interested in knowing what the product can do for them. So, demos, trial periods, presentations, consultations etc are your best options.
It is simple, you can convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads only if you know where they are in their journey
Creating a Lead Nurturing Workflow
It is time to set up your lead nurturing workflow to effectively convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads.
Your lead nurturing workflow should be a documented process that each team follows.
But what does this include?
It includes details of any one or all the strategies that you are planning to implement
- Email campaigns
- Automated emails
- Educational content
- And potentially even phone calls from a Marketing team member. For this purpose, ensure that you have a sales script. The purpose of this call is to learn about them and listen.
According to Marketing Sherpa, a lead nurturing workflow helped Crowe Horwath, a public accounting and consulting firm to hit a 133% ROI after just 7 months. It also got 75% to 80% open rate for nurturing emails.
It is one of the most common and successful tools to convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads. It is triggered by a specific action, for example, downloading an ebook or signing up for a webinar.
By having your emails “drip” into a lead’s inbox, you tend to build trust and move the lead down the sales funnel by providing timely and relevant content
Tailor your campaigns and content based on the information available (for example, persona and lead score) and previous action taken by the visitor.
Did you know that 79% of consumers say they are only likely to engage with an offer if it has been personalized to reflect previous interactions the consumer has had with the brand. (Marketo)
A drip campaign workflow will look like this
According to Mark Rothwell, “Big deals are worth focusing on, but not at the expense of other revenue. Quick conversions are ideal, but ignoring leads outside of this is wasting potential opportunities.”
There are endless ways to nurture a lead. A lot of it also depends upon the type of business, the length of sales cycle, personas etc. Lead nurturing tools, such as blog subscriptions, newsletters, etc are a great way to keep leads interested in your brand—even if they’re not ready to make a purchase yet.
It is important to engage in optimization efforts on an ongoing basis.
What does your lead nurturing workflows currently look like? How do you convert marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads? Which tool, in your experience, gave the highest MQL to SQL conversion ratio?