By Amber Kemmis


When lead nurturing, marketers may sometimes, in desperation, send leads straight to sales without first considering where the lead is at in the buying cycle. While desperate times do call for desperate measures, sending every person that fills out a form on your site straight to a sales person destroys the customer experience and wastes your sales people's time.  

Brian Carroll has found that only 5-15% of leads are sales-ready initially, which means your sales people waste time talking to someone who may not have decision power or maybe don't have the budget to buy at the time. Not to mention, those who may actually be qualified to purchase end up annoyed because they aren't ready to set aside time to talk - they just want to read your ebook. While many marketers may be handing-off leads too soon, there are many more who may hand-off a lead too late.

While I wish there was a magical formula to help you determine when a lead is ready to be handed off to sales, each company must develop their own formula and like all things in business. Determining a marketing qualified lead(MQL) from a sales qualified lead(SQL) takes a partnership between sales and marketing, and determining a MQL vs a SQL is the foundation of the lead hand-off.

The following are a few things you can use as differentiators between a MQL and SQL.  Once you know what differentiates the two, you can use lead scoring in your marketing automation platform to nurture MQLs and notify sales of SQLs: 


One of the most important factors that differentiates a lead from a MQL or SQL is their behavior on your website or how they engage with your company.  The weight that a particular behavior carries in lead scoring will depend on your company, but for example, Company A may notice that first time visitors are just as likely to purchase as a repeat visitor, while Company B’s leads aren’t likely to convert until they’ve visited the site three or more times.  No matter how much weight you place on particular measures of behavior, there are some general characteristics to monitor and use in lead scoring.

  • First time visitor vs repeat visitor
  • The lead’s conversion count or the number of times they fill out a form
  • The lead's stage in the buying cycle
  • The lead’s source (i.e. Are leads from LinkedIn more likely to become customers?)

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By using forms and progressive profiling on your marketing software like Hubspot, you can gather lead qualifying information based on how ready a lead is for sales.   When a lead at the top of the funnel, you can gain the basic information you need to nurture the lead like their name, email, role, and company. When they move further down the funnel and are closer to a purchase, you can gather more detailed information that sales needs to qualify the lead like pain points, budget, or phone number.  If you have done a good job at lead nurturing, the lead will move to the point where they are willingly share the detailed information by opting in themselves – not by being forced too early in the funnel.

By utilizing lead scoring using weighted measures based on the value of particular website behavior and lead demographics, marketing can hand a lead to sales at the right time according to their stage in the buying cycle.  Ultimately, creating a better customer experience and increasing sales conversions.

What website behaviors or lead demographics do you use in determining a MQL vs SQL? 

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Amber Kemmis

About the author

Amber Kemmis is the VP of Client Services at SmartBug Media. Having a psychology background in the marketing world has its perks, especially with inbound marketing. My past studies in human behavior and psychology have led me to strongly believe that traditional ad marketing only turns prospects away, and advertising spend never puts the right message in front of the right person at the right time. Thus, resulting in wasted marketing efforts and investment. I'm determined to help each and every one of our clients attract and retain new customers in a delightful and helpful way that leads to sustainable revenue growth. Read more articles by Amber Kemmis.