In the ideal sales cycle, before becoming a client, your prospect is going to go through several qualification stages. Your prospect will evolve into a lead, then an MQL, Marketing Qualified Lead, then a SQL, Sales Qualified Lead, and finally a client.
What are the real differences among these levels of qualification?
Level 0 to 1: from prospect to Lead
The boundaries between the terms prospect and lead are generally very vague. Some even consider the two terms to be simply synonyms. At Datananas, we prefer to make a distinction between Marketing and Sales Qualified Lead. For us, a prospect is equivalent to our ICP, Ideal Customer Profile. It’s level zero for qualification.
As for a Lead, it’s a prospect whose interest, even minimum, has been identified. For example, it is a prospect who has been the object of an Outbound Sales campaign and has opened or clicked on the link in an email. Or, a Lead is a prospect who has left contact details, like an email address, to download an ebook.
Level 1 to 2: from Lead to Marketing Qualified Lead
Now that your prospect has shown interest, you have to find out whether this interest can materialize or whether it’s just curiosity, which doesn’t fit into your ICP.
For that reason, thanks to marketing automation and scoring, your Lead will amass good and bad points, depending on his or her actions and interactions with your website and your marketing actions. For example, during a trial request for your service, certain questions—like its function, the size of its team, or its line of business—can increase or decrease its score.
Did the prospect see several articles from your blog? Did the prospect visit your website’s pricing page? Did the prospect positively respond to Outbound prospecting request?
When the prospect reaches a certain score determined by your own predefined criteria, he or she moves up in status to Marketing Qualified Lead.
Level 2 to 3: from Marketing Qualified Lead to Sales Qualified Lead
When a prospect becomes an MQL, an appointed salesperson on your team, the Sales Development Representative, will be able to contact him or her.
During this rapid exchange, the SDR will guide the conversation in order to find out if, in addition to being qualified from a marketing perspective, your MQL meets the BANT(Budget, Authority, Timeline, Need) criteria. If the conclusion to this exchange is positive, only at that moment, another appointed salesperson, the Account Executive, will trade with your prospect. If the MQL isn’t mature enough yet, for example if one or many BANT criteria aren’t met, Lead Nurturing will take the reins to keep the relationship going and make sure, when the time comes, he commits to you rather than a competitor.
Level 3 to 4: from Sales Qualified Lead to Client
When a prospect becomes a SQL, this means that all systems are go to contemplate a sale. It’s useless to send out your Account Executive on unqualified, barely qualified, or even cold prospects.
At this stage, a product demonstration is the best way to validate your prospect’s expectations with your solution. As an outcome of this exchange, a budget is clearly defined and your SQL will commit and become a client. If you don’t complete the sale, Lead Nurturing is a precious ally for starting a new conversation when the time comes.
As you will have realized, in addition to these multilevel qualification requirements, it is essential to adapt your sales team!