Is that a Marketing Qualified Lead or Sales Qualified Lead?

During a recent discussion with a director of marketing and a director of sales, we were throwing out the term lead generation, and as you know, one of my communication advices is to take a moment to define terms, especially common terms inside a company. The more a company knows about a subject, the more important it is to define the terms they use around that subject. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. The number of assumptions made behind a common terms are easy to see from an outside perspective, and this was no exception.

These two experts were both saying the word lead, but to my ear, they were talking about two different things. I interrupted (in a nice way) and went to the white board to share a thought. There are different types of leads. One is a marketing qualified leads (MQL), and the second is a sales qualified leads (SQL). I use this chart to help explain the difference.

sales qualified lead marketing qualified lead grid

All lead generation starts by asking if the prospect is aware of the problem, and if they perceive value in your solution. The easy leads for sales people, and the ones that the director of sales meant when he described leads are in the upper right. He wants more leads where the prospect perceives the game changing value the company provides and the prospect knows they have the problem.

On the other hand, the marketing director was referring to not only those leads in the upper right hand corner, but the marketing qualified leads, which fall into categories like perceived game changing value leads that don’t know they have a problem yet and prospects that are aware of their problems but see the company’s solution as merely interesting, not game changing. They both agreed that everything else on the grid is a gray area.

That gray area is where we went to work. We discussed setting definitions, promoting uniform language, tracking effective metrics, setting up an internal communication strategy, etc. We were all in agreement on what the outcome should look like, my job was to help them figure out what business practices fit best and find ways to speed up results. The devil is in the details and those grid lines are the details.

Next time you talk to your team about lead generation, check that common terms your people use are sharing a single definition. Invest the time on the front end to speed up results on the back end.

Good stuff.