Your prospect’s behavior and expectations can be evaluated (by you) and sorted into one of two camps: either a sales qualified lead or a marketing qualified lead.
Marketing v. Sales Qualified Leads
A Marketing Qualified Lead is a prospect who is more deeply engaged, sales-ready than your usual leads, but has not yet become a fully fledged opportunity. They’ve taken action that indicates interest: maybe they’ve downloaded information from your website, or subscribed to your email campaign. Simply put, an MQL is a lead who likely isn’t ready to buy—yet— but will respond to nurturing campaigns.
A Sales Qualified Lead is ready to buy. Often this is the result of being nurtured by marketing, but they may have entered your sales funnel of their own volition
But wait. Being ready to buy doesn’t guarantee anything. Despite the idea of a nice, neat sales funnel, customers are erratic beings who may bounce up and down the funnel several times before they’re finally ready to buy.
How Sales Qualified Leads Can Go Awry
Things can really go awry when sales and marketing are not communicating and working with each other. These two departments need to make this their first priority, starting with establishing alignment. Does Marketing know explicitly what Sales is looking for in a lead? That will help Marketing design their campaign.
Communicate & Collaborate
By defining funnel stages together, you reduce the chances of Marketing handing off an opportunity too soon to Sales. Having a prospect talk to sales before they are ready is pretty much a foregone conclusion: no sale.
Bizbible believes that the only way for Marketing to deliver a lead to Sales that is truly qualified is by implementing account-based marketing. By collaborating and building the target account list together–defining who your ideal customer is–and building your prototype from there. You can segment, in other words: grouping your customers and clients by their shared properties: characteristics, needs, or interests. The main reason you should be segmenting your leads is so that you can create more personal, timely, effective messages.
The Psychology of Sales Qualified Lead Behavior
By knowing what leads you want and who they are, you can start to analyze their motives and behavior.
Understanding how your personas naturally move through the sales funnel can help inform sales discussions and marketing programs, according to Gina Ruscio. For example, she says you can infer that your top of the funnel efforts are very effective if, say, 80% of prospects convert from a visitor into an MQL. But if the percentage is on the low end, and only 5% of those MQLs are converting into SQLs, it may indicate gaps, misalignment, or other inefficiencies in the middle and bottom of the funnel efforts and could severely hinder the ability for sales to close deals.
Amber Kemmis at Smartbug Media says one of the most important factors you can use to determine whether a lead is MQL or SQL is their behavior on your website and how they engage. Some general characteristics to monitor and use in lead scoring includes:
- First time visitor vs. repeat visitor
- The lead’s conversion count or the number of times they fill out a form
- The lead’s stage in the buying cycle
- The lead source (i.e. are leads from LinkedIn more likely to become customers?)
Closed Loop Marketing
Another tool to avoid SQLs from going awry is closed loop marketing. By tracking a customer’s journey through your site — from a first time visitor to a lead to, eventually, a customer — closed loop marketing helps you understand which ‘half,’ so to speak, is being wasted, allowing to you focus in on the ‘half’ that’s hitting home with your prospects.
By analyzing the path a person takes to reach the critical buying point, you can gather insights about your target audience and what makes them click. That data can help you nurture your buyer personas by allowing you to better understand your customers’ pain points and challenges. And, of course, having better, more accurate and well rounded target personas affects everything from your marketing strategy to your social media voice to your brand.
Data, Data, Data
Finally, keep sales and marketing aligned and your qualified leads landing by using data that is frequent, public, and transparent. Artillery Marketing says that marketing needs to have an always-on dashboard with website traffic and leads.
And, they add that leads should be tracked by source and by campaign. The number of marketing qualified leads should be tracked on the dashboard, too. Similarly, with closed loop reporting, all the sales activity should be visible and analyzed.