In the world of B2B SaaS, MQL stands for Marketing Qualified Lead. It represents a lead showing a genuine interest in your product or solution. But it’s more than that. It’s the bridge that connects the efforts of your marketing team with your sales team, allowing them to work in harmony to convert prospects into customers.
Why is it important to define MQLs?
The answer is simple—clarity. Without a clear definition of an MQL, you risk confusion, missed opportunities, and resources invested in the wrong efforts. Imagine this: Your marketing and sales teams are like two ships passing in the night, missing the opportunity to collaborate effectively. Defining MQLs is the compass that ensures they sail in the same direction.
The MQL Journey in B2B SaaS
A Lead That Fits the ICP (Ideal Customer Profile)
Whether they come from inbound efforts or cold outreach, ensuring that a lead aligns with your ICP is the first checkpoint. After all, if a lead doesn’t resonate with your core customer persona, should you invest your sales resources in nurturing them further down the funnel?
Marketing Team Qualification
While your marketing team is the gatekeeper of intent and interest, determining whether the lead is MQL material, the consensus remains: it’s a collaborative effort. Your marketing and sales teams need to be on the same page, defining what qualifies as “intent.” This alignment evolves with your sales function’s maturity, whether you have SDRs, BDRs, or Account Executives.
Readiness for Handoff to Sales
So, what happens when a lead earns its MQL badge? It’s handed off to the sales team. Your marketing and sales teams must align and determine the specifics. The goal? A swift handoff. And in the world of B2B SaaS, speed is gold.
Importance of Fast Follow-Up
When a lead becomes an MQL, the clock starts ticking. Aiming for a five-minute follow-up for hot inbound MQLs is an admirable goal, especially when a prospect is in the market for a solution. Immediate routing to a booking link for scheduling a demo is a move that showcases your commitment to addressing their needs, pronto.
However, just because a lead moves into the sales realm doesn’t mean marketing’s job is done. Coordinated efforts are key. Avoiding overlap between your sales and marketing teams will ensure your prospect feels valued and understood. Read more about sales and marketing alignment in B2B here.
What are the criteria for validating MQLs?
A Marketing Qualified Lead must:
- Be an ICP Fit
- Have accurate contact details
- Express valid intent & interest
- Be sales-ready
The blueprint of your ideal customer is what we call the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). When validating MQLs, the first question to ask is, “Does the account fit our ICP?” If the lead checks all the ICP boxes, you’re off to a great start. But what if they don’t fit the mould exactly? It’s not always a deal-breaker. There might be nuances, like revenue range, that make them a worthy pursuit. ICP isn’t black and white; it’s a spectrum, and sometimes a little flexibility can lead to big wins. Learn how to properly define your ICP here.
Contact Details Accuracy
You’ve identified a lead that seems promising, but can you reach them? Are the contact details correct, real, and verified? Accurate contact information is the bridge that connects your team to potential customers. A misspelled email or an outdated phone number can mean missed opportunities. So, before a lead earns its MQL status, ensure that you have reliable contact information to engage with them.
Demonstrated Interest (e.g., Demo Requests)
Has the lead given you signs that they want to explore further? In many cases, this intent is displayed through actions like requesting a demo, indicating a desire for a more in-depth understanding of your solution. These actions are the compass that guides you in the validation process. When a lead raises their hand and asks for a demo, it’s a strong indicator that they’re taking a step beyond curiosity; they’re looking for a solution, and your product might be the answer they seek.
Sales Team Readiness
Validating an MQL involves not just deciding it’s time to hand it off to the sales team but also ensuring that the sales team is ready to receive it. Marketing must prioritise a swift handoff, and sales must prioritise speedy follow-up. In B2B SaaS, time can be the difference between a successful conversion and a missed opportunity. So, the question to ask is, “Is the sales team prepared to follow up fast?”
Achieving Sales and Marketing Alignment
Documenting Entry and Exit Criteria
One effective way to achieve sales and marketing alignment is by documenting entry and exit criteria for each stage of your sales funnel. What does it take for a lead to enter the marketing domain? And when is it time for them to cross over into the realm of sales? Clear documentation creates a shared language and understanding, making sure that no lead falls through the cracks.
The Role of Collaborative Efforts
Effective communication, regular meetings, and shared objectives are key elements in sales and marketing collaboration. The more your teams work together, the smoother the journey from lead to customer becomes.
Lifecycle Stage Matrix
This matrix is like a roadmap, showing how leads progress from the moment they enter your ecosystem until they become customers. It’s a visual representation of your MQL journey. Imagine it as a GPS for your sales and marketing teams, ensuring they’re always on the right route towards successful lead management.
Leads vs. MQL
Is it a lead or is it a marketing-qualified lead? Let’s run some tests.
Answer: not a lead, not a MQL
A lead who subscribes to your blog is showing interest, but they might not be ready for a conversation with your sales team. These subscribers are often industry professionals seeking valuable resources. They typically fall into the “Subscriber” category, which is more aligned with marketing nurturing rather than immediate sales outreach.
Case Study Downloaders
Answer: A lead, but not a MQL
A lead who takes a step beyond by downloading a case study has demonstrated a higher level of interest. They’re exploring software options for their company. In most cases, they’re not yet ready for immediate handoff to sales. These leads are categorised as “Leads,” and they continue down the marketing nurturing path.
Demo Request or Free Trial
Answer: It’s a marketing-qualified lead!
When a lead explicitly requests a demo or signs up for a free trial, they are likely interested in how your product performs. We recommend contacting these leads immediately as they are beyond the MQL stage and are ready to convert.
Custom ROI Calculation Requests
Answer: It’s a marketing-qualified lead!
Now, here’s a lead that means business. When a lead submits a request for a custom ROI calculation, they’ve shown substantial intent. They’re actively looking for a solution and gathering information to make a case for your product within their organisation. These leads typically qualify as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and are prime candidates for handoff to the sales team, provided they belong to a serviceable account.
We’ve journeyed through the elements that define an MQL, the criteria that validate them, and the importance of aligning your sales and marketing teams. Now, it’s time to take everything you know and implement it.
The true power of MQLs is unlocked when your sales and marketing teams collaborate seamlessly. Encourage your teams to work in harmony, prioritise swift handoffs, and recognise the significance of timely follow-up. This synergy is the key to successful lead management in the dynamic world of B2B SaaS.