ID-100229692I recently read a post about how “Marketing Qualified Lead” (MQL) as a metric should be retired. The argument for this statement was based on the assumption that marketing departments use MQL solely for the purpose of having a “goal number” to hit. There were also assumptions that salespeople deem MQLs not valuable and ignore them. Furthermore the article made an assumption that Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) are determined by the marketing team, then passed to the sales team. As I read the article, I felt the need to clarify a few things, including the proper definitions of MQL and SQL, some process tips that will ensure these metrics are valued and what the big picture should look like for most marketing departments.

What is the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead? More importantly, who determines it?

Marketing Qualified Leads by definition, are leads that marketing deems qualified based on a variety of criteria including attribute data and activity-based data. Savvy marketers create lead scoring models in marketing automation tools such as HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot or Eloqua that take these inputs into account and generate a score. If a lead meets the minimum threshold score to become MQL, they are then passed to the sales team for evaluation and follow-up. The key piece that many organizations miss, is how MQL criteria is determined. I can tell you that though fundamentally MQLs share the same general evaluation components, the specific criteria and weights vary for every company to meet their own ideal customer requirements. As a best practice, defining specific MQL criteria should be a joint exercise between the marketing AND sales organizations. By forming your definition of MQL with the sales team, you are ensuring that their feedback is incorporated into the criteria and that they are more likely to buy-in to the concept of Marketing Qualified Leads. MQLs are much less likely to be ignored if the sales team knows what went into saying that a lead is marketing qualified.

Sales Qualified Leads: Determined by sales, not marketing

As I read the heading above, I find it funny that I dedicated a paragraph to this but again, the article implied that SQLs are determined by marketing and then passed to the sales team. As a best practice, when leads become marketing qualified, they should be passed to the sales team for evaluation and follow-up. As you can imagine, not every MQL that is passed to sales ends up being a SQL. If Sales deems a MQL to be a SQL after their evaluation, then life is great and the salesperson should continue to work the lead towards the close. If a salesperson determines that a lead is not a SQL, they should mark the lead as such in the CRM system (which should sync with your marketing automation tool), provide a reason as to why the lead wasn’t sales qualified and pass those leads back to the marketing team. Some common reasons MQLs do not become SQLs include no BANT (Budget, Authority, Need Timeline), unable to contact, bad data, etc. Marketing should analyze this feedback from sales and use it to refine their demand generation tactics. For example, if 60% of the leads from List Provider ABC are sent back by sales marked as “Bad Data,” marketing should not continue to get leads from that source. Passing leads to sales and then forgetting them is not the way to go. Best in class organizations share information like this between departments so they can continually optimize their process and provide better, more qualified leads.

MQL is not the End-game

Best in class marketing departments do not stop at reporting on MQL numbers. Instead they continue to track the MQLs they produce after they have been passed to sales team. Best in class marketing departments track the percentage of Sales Accepted Leads (SAL) and Sales Qualified Leads that are converted from the MQLs they provide. Furthermore, best in class marketing departments are able to track the number of marketing influenced opportunities/deals created and how they progress through the sales process via pipeline velocity reports. The end game is tracking marketing’s contribution to revenue, or attribution, via closed-won opportunity/deal reports. First-touch? Last-touch? Multi-touch attribution? We’ll cover that in future posts.

Sounds easy right? Fundamentally yes, but the execution can be a challenge.

In this article, I’ve touched on some key fundamentals of a successful demand generation process. However, uncovering these pieces, formalizing processes and getting your marketing and sales systems to support it can be a challenge. Measured Results Marketing, specializes in helping companies improve their marketing/sales processes and improve their use of marketing automation and sales CRM systems to create a successful Demand Generation Ecosystem™. If you have questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at

Tags: ,