Marketing Qualified Leads vs. Sales Qualified Leads

MQL vs SQL – What’s the difference?

Before defining marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads, it’s important your company has leads from the very beginning: someone indicating interest in your product or service in some way. They may show interest by downloading a piece of content, clicking on a contact page, or inquiring for more information. Don’t waste your sales team time by sending them all your leads. Instead, determine where they are in the buying process and more specifically, if they are a MQL or SQL. 

This chart shows the typical life cycle stage of the average customer:

Depending on your company or type of business, the customer life cycle may be different; however, it is important to define each stage with marketing and sales aligned. 

MQLs are engaged leads that should turn into SQLs. Hopefully, your marketing efforts are bringing more people to your page and capturing leads with your effective content. Since MQLs are engaged leads, they are more likely to become a customer compared to other leads based on lead intelligence and closed-loop reporting (using data from CRM to identify which leads have become customers and tracing their actions back to original marketing efforts). MQLs can be tracked by looking at their behaviors and levels of engagement with your content (website visits, downloads). MQLs are contacts that are sales ready, but not someone the sales team should work with immediately as an opportunity.

SQLs are leads that are ready for a sales follow up, made a priority, and are a vetted prospect. SQLs have problems that fit the solution offered by your company, allowing the sales team to qualify them as a potential buyer. Essentially SQLs are in the buying stage, while MQLs are not there yet. In an ideal world, MQLs would have a high conversion rate but that’s not typically the case.


To determine which leads are MQLs or SQLs, keep these factors in mind:

  1. Lead behavior:  This is one of the most critical factors in determining where your lead is in the customer lifecycle. You should always track their behavior on your website and how they engage with your business. This includes whether they are a first or repeat visitor, how many times they fill out a form, and where they are in the buying cycle (are they looking at the pricing page?).
  2. Lead demographics: It’s very important to see if your lead fits the ideal customer profile by looking at identifiable form submissions or 3rd party data insights. By looking at the company size, industry, pain points, and persona of your lead, it will help determine if your solution is the perfect fit for them. If so, pass them to your sales team!
  3. Lead scoring: Once you have clearly defined what a MQL and SQL is for your business, lead scoring is a way to assign a value to each lead based on various attributes and behaviors you have collected about them. In order to effectively do lead scoring, you need sufficient data and enough leads. Qualifications for scoring your leads could include: demographic and company information, online behavior, email engagement, subscription status, and social engagement. Lead scoring is an essential method to strengthening your revenue cycle.

Learn what happens once a lead turns into a sale opportunity by checking out this white paper.

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