The Difference Between a Marketing Qualified Lead & Sales Qualified Lead


High-quality leads are crucial to hitting your sales quota. In an ideal world, they’d be flooding in daily – ready and waiting to be sold to. Unfortunately, as you know, things generally don’t work that way. That’s why you rely on a strong marketing strategy to continue to bring in a steady stream of leads, also known as marketing qualified leads. As a sales professional, you’ll then be looking to convert interested prospects, i.e. sales qualified leads, into a sale. 

How do marketing and sales work together to generate leads and what’s the difference between the two? 

What Is A Marketing Qualified Lead?

A marketing qualified lead, or MQL, is a lead that the marketing department has deemed more likely to turn into a customer than another lead. They might not be ready to buy yet but have shown an interest. 

How Do You generate an MQL? 

MQLs can be generated in many ways, such as through: 

  • Search engine optimisation bringing organic traffic to your website 
  • Social media advertising campaigns 
  • Email marketing campaigns 

FYI, website leads, referrals, and webinars have the highest MQL to SQL conversion rate. 

How Do You Know If Someone Is An MQL? 

This will typically be based on their actions and behaviours. The marketing team will use lead intelligence to look at many things including the web pages a prospect has visited, the information they have downloaded, and the interest they have shown in your services. The prospect may also have reached out to you and asked you for more information about your products and pricing or signed up to your email newsletter. An analysis of this information will be used in qualifying leads. 

What Is A Sales Qualified Lead?

A sales qualified lead, or SQL, is someone who has been deemed ready to buy. They will have come through one (or more) marketing channels and gone through a vetting process by both departments. Prospects who are deemed highly likely to become a customer will then go through the final stage of the sales process: a direct conversation with the sales team who will then look to convert. 

How Do You Generate An SQL? 

Buyers say that they want to meet with sales during the consideration phase, i.e. once they have researched and are looking for more information before making a decision. SQLs will therefore usually pass through to the sales team from marketing. They are someone who has already been identified as an MQL and have gone further than this by showing a genuine interest in buying your product. 

How Do You Know If Someone Is An SQL? 

A number of factors that indicate a person is ready to buy from you are: 

  • They are fully aware of what your company does and understand the products and services you offer 
  • They have been exposed to your marketing materials and have shown an interest in learning more about what you do
  • They ask you for more information about pricing of products 

What Are The Differences Between MQLs & SQLs? 

The primary difference between marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads is whether the prospect is ready to buy. There are some MQLs that will never turn into SQLs. These people will not show any kind of interest in taking things further than a general exposure to your marketing materials. The aim of the marketing team is to nurture MQLs to the point at which they turn into SQLs to be pursued by the sales team. 

A couple of the main differences between the two are: 

  • An MQL will have a larger number of qualifications than an SQL as there are more unknowns. An SQL is someone who has researched your product and is pretty much certain they are ready to proceed and just need a bit more information (and maybe a bit of a push) before they do. 
  • MQLs are good for long-term strategy. These are people that can be nurtured until they are ready to buy and become SQLs. SQLs on the other hand need to be dealt with immediately to make sure that the interest (and therefore the lead) is not lost.

Should Marketing And Sales Work Together? 

Marketing and sales are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it makes much more sense for both teams to work together. Ultimately, both teams are aiming for the same goal: to make more sales. When the two teams work together, it helps to build a strategy that can be carried throughout the whole customer journey.

Marketing is not always a quick and linear process. Prospects will generally require some nurturing before they reach a point of being more interested in buying. Therefore, having a good marketing strategy can help your sales strategy and vice versa. A continuous and consistent strategy of marketing your products on your website, social media, email marketing, and adverts etc. will help nurture current leads and bring in new ones. This helps to bring in a steady stream of MQLs. A steady stream of MQLs means more opportunity for SQLs. It’s really about balance. You need a good amount of both types of lead. Focus on bringing in more SQLs and you’ll also get more MQLs as a result.


MQLs and SQLs are different, yet equally important, parts of the sales process. It therefore makes sense for both departments to work together on a strategy that is consistent in bringing in high-quality, qualified leads. Statistics show that 35-50% of sales will go to the vendor who responds first. The most important thing to remember therefore is to make sure that MQLs that turn into SQLs are dealt with quickly and efficiently to avoid losing a potential sale. You wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste!

Jack Barron, Director

Jack is passionate about marketing and helping small to medium-sized businesses thrive. As Director of Invoke Media, he is responsible for overseeing the planning and implementation of every campaign, getting stuck into the execution of successful at every opportunity.

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