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Understanding SQLs in B2B Marketing and Sales: How to Identify and Convert Them

Marketing teams often believe their job is done soon after they push a prospect into the sales funnel. And it causes inefficiencies in sales processes.

That’s because sales teams need to spend a lot of time (and effort) understanding the buyer’s motivations before making a sale. They must figure out buyer intent, and the sales funnel stage too.

Add to it, buyers don’t want to get on sales calls and prefer self-service. This makes engaging with a prospect trickier than it ever was– one misstep and you lose a prospective customer.

Sales qualifying leads before selling to them solves all of these problems. And this blog tells you all you need to know about it.

What is a Qualified Lead?

A qualified lead is a prospect who matches your company’s ideal customer profile and intends to buy the service or the product. Now, there are two kinds of qualified leads- marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads.

Marketing-qualified leads, or MQLs, are prospects who have explicitly shown interest in your product or service. They are typically at the top of the sales funnel. Hence, they are less likely to buy your product immediately. But you can target them through marketing efforts and eventually convert them to sales-qualified leads.

In contrast, sales-qualified leads, or SQLs, are prospects in the middle of the sales funnel. The marketing team qualifies them because they show strong buying signals. Naturally, interactions with them can make or break a sale. Engage well, and you can form a long-term customer relationship with them.

But how do you identify them?

How do You Find Sales Qualified Leads?

You can find sales-ready leads using the BANT framework. Here, you look for prospects that match your ideal customer in four key respects. Their spending budget, their job designation (or authority), the need or the motivation for buying the product, and the timescale or the urgency for the product.

A sales qualified lead ideally:

  • Has the necessary budget for buying your product
  • Can make a purchase decision
  • Needs your product to solve their pain points
  • And needs your product on short notice to help with this

A C-Suite executive that wants your product on a tight timescale and has the funds to purchase your product is a great sales-qualified lead example.

To meet your revenue goals, you must ensure you have enough sales-ready leads in your pipeline. But what if you have more leads at the top of the funnel?

How to Improve MQL to SQL Conversion Rate?

Collect consumer data

According to a report, 56% of marketing teams relied on incomplete customer data for marketing and sales. As a result, their campaigns were most likely not targeted to their customers or their interests, costing them leads.

So, check if your customer data is complete. If fields are missing or outdated, update your data after interviewing customers and observing their behavior. This will help you create high-quality, targeted marketing campaigns that make the customer sales-ready.

Create BOFU content

Take it from PPC owner Zach Balby that high-quality long-form content will not always get you sales-qualified leads. Even more so if your content archives are aimed at educating your prospect more than converting them. You must ensure your content marketing efforts attract your ICP, who are ready to buy your product to convert them. And for that, you need to increase the bottom-of-the-funnel (BoFU) content on your website.

Remember that such content is designed to move a prospect from the consideration stage to purchase. It includes product pages, comparison pages, case studies, and webinars that strategically position your product as the viable solution to your buyer’s pain points.

Send Outbound Emails

If you run content marketing efforts, you have your prospects’ email addresses. So, check if they match your ICP first. Then ensure that they are in the middle of the marketing funnel. This way, you can be assured that these prospects turn to sales-qualified leads. Finally, send out a personalized outreach email. Include the receiver’s name, connect with empathy and systematically show how your product can address their pain points.

Expert Institute, a legal service platform, used this exact approach to nurture its leads to conversion. They sent over a personalized email to email subscribers depending on their engagement levels – informational content to disengaged subscribers, blog posts to engaged ones, and BoFU content links to highly engaged ones. The result? The campaign led to 200% more conversions!

Don’t have a robust inbound marketing strategy in place? Well, you can rely directly on outbound approaches to collect sales-qualified leads instead.

How to Increase Sales Qualified Leads?

Run Paid Ads

In a 2022 report from LeanData, 46% of respondents revealed that paid search delivered them 11-30% of their total sales pipeline. The same report revealed that for 17% of respondents, paid social ads delivered 20-40% of the sales pipeline.

So run targeted ads on Google and channels like LinkedIn, FaceBook, etc., where your prospective SQLs frequent. Direct them to your landing page through this route. Re-market aggressively to leads that show interest through site behavior. This will get you more SQLs.

Make Warmer Cold Calls

Traditional cold calling won’t help you get SQLs.

Today, you need to ensure your buyer is intent on making a purchase before calling them and pitching your product. This means you must gauge their intent from their past behavior, keep a keen eye on buying signals, and even connect with them on other platforms before making a call.

Moreover, when you make the call, ensure you empathize with the prospect. Focus on their pain points, pay attention to their motivations, and build a healthy relationship with them. This will generate more SQLs. 

Have a Long-Tail SEO Strategy

Prospects use long-term keywords in search when they are ready to buy a product. So, it’s no surprise that a study by Conductor found that they drive 2.5 times more conversions. For instance, your buyer’s queries could look like “Is product A better than product B?” or “Customer reviews for product A” when they are closer to conversion.

Now, you can create content around such search intent by using these queries as long-tail keywords. A long-form, informative blog post that answers your prospects’ most pressing questions is bound to rank higher. Besides, you get to position your product as the solution to their problems.

Check Your Lead-Conversion Metrics Regularly

The above approaches will get you qualified SQLs, but you must ensure you have enough of them to meet your revenue targets. So, remember to check your MQL to SQL conversion rates and the quality of your SQLs. Conduct joint sales and marketing team meetings for this. Take suggestions and tweak your processes if required. This is the only way you’ll reach your revenue goals.