In a sales person’s ideal world, all potential leads would be ready to close the deal when they answered the phone. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case. A given customer could be at many different points along the sales funnel. Understanding the difference between SQLs (sales qualified leads) and MQLs (marketing qualified leads) can help your sales team decide its next moves.

MQLs and SQLs both play an important role in the sales process and they require different techniques to move a customer along through them properly. These processes also vary somewhat depending on the industry and it’s important to understand these differences. Employing this analysis to your sales cycle can have a strong positive impact on lead generation.

Understanding SQLs vs. MQLs

Typically, MQLs and SQLs happen at different points in the sales cycle. MQL stands for Marketing Qualified Lead. Typically, these customers are higher up in the sales funnel and require a softer selling approach. You can think of this as the first checkpoint along the sales vetting process. This person may have filled out a form on your website in exchange for an offer. They aren’t ready for a direct outreach yet.

The sales team is then given the list of MQLs and vets them again to rank how worthwhile it would be to pursue that lead. This is the next step, the SQL or Sales Qualified Lead. By performing this analysis the sales team determines whether reaching out to a particular contact would be worthwhile by gauging factors like interest and suitability.

In some cases, a customer may bypass the MQL phase entirely by reaching out to the company directly to ask about a product or service. This SQL would likely move ahead in the funnel as they have demonstrated an interest. Consequently, they may receive a call sooner than other potential leads in the queue.

Although the basic categories of SQL vs. MQLs serve a purpose in most sales funnel analysis, the process works differently depending on the industry. In this article, we compare three industries:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) Sales 
  • Healthcare Sales
  • Insurance Sales

MQLs vs. SQLs in SaaS

SaaS is a form of service where a company hosts technology on a cloud which it then provides to other businesses that want it. It’s a rapidly expanding market and thus can be a highly competitive space for sales teams to break into. Understanding the difference between MQLs and SQLs here can make a big difference in the overall success of the sale. Generating an MQL would work like this: a person provides some information, perhaps in exchange for a discount. Now that person is registered as an MQL.

It’s crucial here to analyze the company you will potentially sell to before moving along to the SQL phase. A lot of companies are still very reticent about this kind of technology. One reason may be that they don’t understand it. They may also have a service provider already and are reluctant to go through the process of changing over to a new company. Patience is key. You should take time to learn about them and what their needs are before you pursue them as an SQL.

On the flip side you also want to ensure that what you’re offering is going to make sense in the long run. Hosting integrated cloud services requires a fair amount of initial set up and access to the data of the company you’re selling to. If the potential lead is reluctant to provide that access or doesn’t seem interested in what you are selling then it may not make sense to pursue them as an SQL. You always want to focus your sales energy on areas with a high likelihood of return and the last thing you want is a client who is frustrated three months later because you aren’t able to deliver the services to them.

MQLs vs. SQLs in Healthcare Sales

Healthcare sales is perhaps the most unique of the industries we will discuss here. This is the practice of selling medical devices to hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. Typically, there isn’t an MQL phase in the way we’d normally think of it. Instead, a healthcare salesperson is assigned a region or territory that they cover. The leads are the hospitals and pharmaceutical companies in that geographical area. It may be helpful to think of every medical care provider you visit as an SQL.

Hospitals and pharmaceuticals are generally excited about new products that come on the market especially when they save time and money. The most important thing as you deliver these kinds of pitches is to demonstrate expertise about your product. Salespeople in this field are extensively trained to explain the applications of the products they sell and give the medical providers context about their everyday use. You want to demonstrate to the potential lead that you know your product well and understand how it would work practically.

Because of the nature of these products, sales calls typically happen in the form of presentations. When you’re meeting with the decision makers at a particular company, you’ll want to have some samples of the equipment and a deck of powerpoint slides ready to go. You should also be prepared to be asked a wide variety of questions and do expect the hospitals to do their research on you as they usually like to see companies with a few years of experience in the field.

MQLs vs. SQLs and the Insurance Sales Field

Despite the limited barrier to entry and positive job growth prospects, insurance sales can be a time consuming and complicated sales funnel to weather. Clients may not be interested in what you have to say due to people’s tendency to avoid negative topics such as life insurance or property damage.

It’s useful to think of potential customers as MQLs. Most people are going to need insurance at some point whether they acknowledge it or not. You should begin with the soft sell approach and learn what you can about the customer’s needs. Having a solid grasp of what benefits the insurance you’re selling actually provides is crucial here. You don’t want to promise things you can’t deliver.

Take time to build a solid sales relationship with the customer. Gradually, you can start to employ the methods of dealing with an SQL as trust is gained. Insurance sales can be a long and trying process, but understanding where you are in the sales cycle can help.

Working with an Outsourced Sales Agency

Ultimately, the better your sales team understands the differences and roles of MQLs vs. SQLs, the more successful they’ll be at growing sales and driving leads. Understanding how these concepts apply to your sales funnel can prevent situations where time is lost on customers who aren’t ready to convert.

Do you want to improve your sales performance to the next level? Consider hiring an outsourced sales company like LeadJen. At LeadJen, we provide scalable, cost effective solutions such as month-to-month contract models and sales automation. We’re dedicated to helping businesses improve growth and reach their sales goals. Contact LeadJen to learn more about how we can help.