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Refining Marketing Qualified Leads

5 Steps to Refine Your Marketing Qualified Leads for Performance

high peforming mqls are defined by sales and marketing

Marketing Qualified Leads get a lot of attention and it’s often not very positive.  The Marketing Qualified Lead or MQL is a lead that has been processed and engaged to the point that marketing is ready to hand them off to sales.  MQL’s are highly criticized as “ineffective” and “dead” and that is just a function of not understanding what they are.  The MQL is an individual moving through a sales pipeline and the definition of what is “qualified” is the joint role of sales and marketing.  Here are 5 Steps to Refine Your Marketing Qualified Leads to drive higher conversion and create demand for your solutions.
  1. Review what “Qualified” means to Sales.  The definition of a “qualified” lead should be jointly shared between sales and marketing.  If Marketing continues to jam out anyone who looks at a download as qualified and conversion is lacking, then marketing is really not doing its job.  Sales should clearly define their activities to get a customer to close and their expectations of the quality of the leads they receive.
  2. Review the Sales Pipeline.  The sales pipeline reflects the stages of the deal.  Often, CRM applications confuse an individual in the same stage as the deal.  The pipeline is about the business processes used to move a deal forward and what required information and actions are necessary to get to Closed Win. Review your pipeline every year using metrics like Sales Velocity, time in the stage, and deal abandonment by stage.  Understanding these metrics can help you build a better pipeline and overcome lost deals and make your pipeline more efficient.
  3. Have Multiple Sales Pipelines.  The single biggest mistake most businesses make is they have a single sales pipeline for everyone.  By default, that means the buying process to the organization is the same for all customer segments.  That is normally, 99% false.  The sales pipeline should reflect the buying process of the customer so that you can automate and structure requirements to move customers through successfully.  Sales forecasting is easier when you have multiple forecasts that are aligned to the buying process and known customer behavior and qualifications to get through them.
  4. Revise Your Pipeline with Revised MQLs.  When you revise your MQL, adjust your pipeline stages to reflect the state of qualification.  By doing that you can see where the qualification process is stalling and how to apply additional tools and tactics to move deals forward.  Take a look at this example where Intent is moved into the MQL definition and how it saves the business money.
  5. Update your Tactics.  Once the MQL status has greater clarity, review your targeting tactics, your content, digital ads, and keyword strategy should all now align to getting customers through the MQL process and acquiring the right information to improve the quality and conversion rate of your pipeline.

Example: Moving Intent into MQL from SQL

A firm that has 4 salespeople and a $2400 AOV with 3600 deals a year has just shy of 1200 deals that transfer to SQL and require the salesperson to qualify them.  With compensation, the cost for the sales team to qualify the leads for intent to buy is $21.5k.  The intent is based on the presence of a budget, an idea of timing for the solution, the use case the customer has in mind, and knowledge of the buyer and executor of the agreement.  While this is not difficult, and sometimes a function of Discovery, the company believes they can convert higher if the Intent information is collected by Marketing.

Marketing deploys digital calendars that set appointments and asks the potential the qualifying questions on the use case, budget range, the proposed timing, who is buying and signing.  Once that information is collected – the lead becomes an MQL and the stage moves to Discovery.  The digital calendars cost $600/year to deploy and save the company over $20k in unproductive time and accelerate the pipeline using a scheduling tool.


Managing the sales pipeline is an essential component to drive exceptional performance.  If you are using the “out of the box” sale pipeline defined by your CRM you need to review it and look at your business process for how a customer buys and segment the pipeline accordingly.  More accurate forecasts on materials, products, time, talent, revenues and profits depend on it.

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