Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL) | Glossary

Sales-qualified lead is a term every business owner and marketing team leader should understand.

What Is a Sales-Qualified Lead (SQL)?

A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is a prospective customer that a sales team identifies as an opportunity. An SQL is someone ready to talk to a salesperson and has been moved into the sales pipeline.

How the SQL Fits in the Sales Process

There are many ways to describe the sales process as it pertains to leads. The typical wine-glass-shaped sales funnel makes it seem like there are three times more prospects at the top than at the bottom. However, a successful sales pipeline is actually shaped like a wide-mouthed cocktail glass — prospects drop off only after the qualifying stage.

In the case of a sales pipeline, most prospects should become customers after that critical point in the buyer"s journey, where they become SQLs. This is what separates qualified sales leads from the unqualified prospects you don"t want to waste time on.

What Makes a Lead Qualified?

Typically, a qualified lead is one who"s already expressed a certain amount of interest after becoming aware of your products or services. They may have learned about your offerings through your website, paid ads, blog articles, social media posts, sales emails, direct mail, word of mouth, and other marketing channels. Now, they"re ready to move forward with the sales process.

At this point, a marketing team has already researched and vetted the marketing qualified lead (MQL). The prospect may have scheduled a demo or signed up for a free trial. Now, marketing sends them to the sales team, where they"re categorized as a sales qualified lead (SQL). During this portion of the sales process, salespeople take an active role in converting the SLQ into a paying customer.

Differences Between SQL and MQL

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Sales and marketing are frequently confused concepts because they overlap in the customer journey. A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is similar to a marketing-qualified lead (MQL). However, there are a few key differences between an SQL and an MQL — this involves the prospect"s intent to buy.

An MQL is a prospect that a marketing team identifies as most likely to buy a product or service compared to other leads. The prospect isn"t ready to buy yet but has expressed interest in various ways, such as:

  • Visiting product web pages
  • Clicking on CTAs
  • Downloading special offers
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Interacting with social media posts

An SQL, on the other hand, is a prospect that"s ready to be directly connected with an actual salesperson. They"ve decided to buy but may need additional information or assistance. This becomes apparent when the lead takes specific actions like:

  • Downloading company guides
  • Scheduling a demo
  • Booking a sales call
  • Responding to an email
  • Signing up for a free trial

For example, say someone visits a website and downloads a guide on the best AI content creation tools. They become an MQL because they"ve expressed interest in AI tools. However, they aren"t ready to buy because they"re still researching what suits their needs. Now, say that same prospect returns to the website and signs up for a free AI content writing membership. This indicates they"re looking for something to fulfill a need and potentially buy, which makes them an SQL. As an SQL, they"ll likely upgrade their membership to take full advantage of a combination of AI and human content writing services.

Qualifying Prospects With Lead Scores

Knowing when prospects are ready to move into the sales pipeline isn"t always easy. There are many ways to determine when they go from being an MSQ to an SQL. One of the most common and effective ways is called lead scoring.

Lead Scoring
Lead scoring is the process of assigning numerical values to each prospect. You can set up a point system based on different criteria. Following are three types of lead scoring models you can use:

  • Objective Criteria (e.g., job title, company size, industry, location, etc.)
  • Behavioral Criteria (e.g., contact form submissions, webinar participation, product demos, etc.)
  • Negative Criteria (e.g., unsubscribing from an email list, working for a competitor, their role is outside your industry, etc.)

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Qualifying a Lead
No matter where a prospect falls in the sale pipeline, they don"t qualify as an SQL unless they fit certain criteria. When deciding whether to move a prospect from being an MQL to SQL, consider the following question:

  • Do they need your product or service?
  • Can they afford to purchase it?
  • Is the proper infrastructure in place to use the product or service?
  • Does your product or service adequately address their pain points?

Importance of Sales Qualified Leads

Quality is usually better than quantity when it comes to lead generation, so this sales concept mustn"t be overlooked. Although not every SQL will make a purchase, designating them as such is a crucial part of the sales process for many reasons.

Qualifying leads helps increase the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your sales process. You can track your SQLs and gain insights to determine what"s working to bring in and convert leads to buyers (and what"s not). It"s a great way to assess and improve your marketing and sales efforts. This also gives you opportunities to tailor your messages to specific audiences. In turn, you place your company at a competitive advantage in your market.

You may get excited when a potential customer expresses interest in your products or services. Be careful that you and your marketing team don"t prematurely label them as an SQL. Doing so could push a potential lead away and into the arms of a competitor. Also, it might cause you or your sales team to waste time on a prospect who"s not ready to buy (and may never buy).

Maximize Sales-Qualified Leads (SQL) With Content Writing Services

SQL, MQL, sales pipelines, sales and marketing funnels, and other terms can make even the most savvy business owner"s head spin. But it"s imperative that every business, large or small, understands the concept of sales-qualified leads and how it fits in the sales process. You must also understand the difference between a marketing-qualified and a sales-qualified lead — that way, you know who to spend your time and energy on.

Every business needs great content, especially those in the sales industry. Scripted is a one-stop platform that offers a comprehensive content solution with access to subject matter experts (SMEs). We embrace a mix of artificial intelligence (AI) and human expertise — we"re the only platform offering both human and AI content writing. While AI won"t replace humans, those who use AI will replace those who don"t. Scripted helps you stay ahead of the curve and future-proof your content.

Are you interested in learning more and seeing how you can boost your sales-qualified leads with Scripted human-written and AI content? Sign up for a free account or schedule a demo.

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