MQL vs. SQL: What’s The Difference and Why Does It Matter?


MQL is a lead that marketing deems fit for a sales pitch and is more likely to become a customer. SQL is a lead who has been identified by the sales team as a prospect. MQLs are higher up in the sales cycle, while SQLs are generally at the bottom.

HubSpot revealed that 63% of marketers expressed their opinion that generating traffic and leads is their top challenge.

Most marketers face this plight until they have a clear understanding of marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads.

The sales and marketing team are the two sides of the same coin, and both are accountable for lead generation. For effective lead generation, both teams should know the difference between the Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and Sales Qualified Lead (SQL).

What is a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)?

An MQL is a prospect that is invested in and investigated by the marketing team. He has an interest or need for your product or service. Identifying an MQL in the early stage of the customer journey can get you closer to converting it to the sales qualified lead.

The journey of an MQL starts from visiting your website, signing up for the newsletter, going through the product page, and inquiring about your product or service. These activities of a visitor clearly show the sign of his interest in your product and services.

Moreover, once the marketing team finds an MQL who has spent time on your website, it becomes an important task to have understood the MQL deeply. Not all MQLs oriented towards buying a product or availing your service-oriented; they may have visited your page for the information (92% of the website visitors do it).

There are three critical steps to define an MQL:

  • Understand the pain point
  • Check if your product or service can be of use to his/her.
  • Present your product or service at the right time

After guiding an MQL through the above steps, it can be handed off to the sales team.

What is a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)?

61% of B2B marketers transfer all of the leads’ information to the sales team, where only 27% are qualified. It is one of the prominent reasons for abysmal conversion rates.

According to Report by the Salesforce, 13% of leads convert to opportunity, and 6% of opportunities turn to deals (in other words, from SQL to a paying customer). The average time of conversion from prospects to sales is 18 days.

Sales Qualified Lead is a prospective customer, researched, and nurtured by the marketing team, who intend to buy the product or service. Once the requirement of a prospect is investigated and understood, and your product addresses his need, he becomes Sales Qualified Lead.

Moreover, once the marketing team has identified the pain point of a lead and has initiated a conversation with an MQL. All it needs is a little push from the sales team to convert from lead to a customer.

Knowing the intention of a lead is not enough; how soon he wants a solution also provides the closer prospect to you, which ultimately lies in the court of the sales team.

Based on the prospects’ interest or acceptance of the sales materials, the prospects’ journey will progress to the sales team.

What is the difference between MQL and SQL?

It is very important to understand the difference between MQL and SQL, as both are essential steps in the marketing and sales funnel.

Here are the difference between an MQL and a SQL:


MQL is the broadest spectrum of website visitors or subscribers where marketers find the inkling of lead conversion.

  • Sometimes, this visitor is only interested in the information on the website
  • The conversion is quite far from these prospects
  • An MQL is scored based on the clicks, filling forms, visiting the site, and interaction with other collaterals.


SQL is the stage after MQL. Here, the sales team has qualified the lead as a prospective buyer.

  • This lead is closer to the conversion
  • He has shown great interest in the company’s products or services
  • He comes from the marketing team after being vetted.

Sales Acceptance Lead

A remarkable phase between the MQL and the SQL in the sales funnel is the acceptance of the sales by a lead. Once an MQL accepts the sales material or shows interest, the prospect is handed off to the sales team. This phase is called the Sales Acceptance Lead. Sales Acceptance Lead (SAL) is the bridge between both sides (marketing and sales) where a potential lead can be a conversion.

A small misalignment between the two teams may have the result of missing a potential lead. A company needs to scrutinize the chemistry between the marketing and sales teams.

How Does Sales Funnel Work Here?

The sales funnel – a visual representation of a buyer’s journey. It starts from the initial contact with an average lead to purchasing completion stage.

It varies from company to company, but there are four sections (AIDA Model) in the sales funnel:

Awareness: In this stage, monitor only initial contact at various touchpoints like website, social media, events, and other engagement avenues. It is these places where a lead finds information about the company and vice-versa.

It is the awareness stage where the most substantial amount of prospect land on your website, interact with your social media, join and interact with you in event events. It is the phase where they want to have all the information and evaluate you and your services. What services or products will be of use?

Interest: The number of prospects decreases at this stage, but the probability of conversion increases. The engagements of a lead define their importance. When they ask for more information about your product or service and are repeat visitors to your website, this is the time you have recognized and understood the pain points.

Decision: This stage also includes the consideration stage. When a prospective customer considers your product as the solution to the problem or is looking for other options offered by your company, it is when he should nurture them and guide them to a solution or services.

Action: This is the last stage of the sales funnel when a customer has decided to use your product or service.

Alignment of Marketing and Sales Team:

2 out of 3 companies closed more deals when their marketing team and sales teams were aligned,

According to the CMO agenda report, aligning the sales and marketing team can bring you:

  • 32% higher revenue
  • 36% more customer
  • 38% higher win rates

Also, it is found by Sirius Decision that companies achieved 1 in 4 achieved faster growth rate, and 27% had increased their profits in a year by aligning the sales and marketing teams.

The alignment of the sales and marketing team increases the transparency, comfort, and gives each side ample freedom and responsibility for the passing and taking decisions against customer profiles. They together make the decisions, whether to nurture even more or to push for sales.

For example, a prospective customer should have all the information about your product or service, but he needs more nurturing to agree to the purchase. Sales rep need to address the pain points and how it can make life easy; repeating the product information is detrimental while convincing someone to purchase your product.

Hence, passing clear information on customer profile plays a vital role. It will be possible when the sales and marketing teams are aligned.

Lead Scoring is Important for Increasing the Conversion Rate:

Lead Scoring is a measurement method to rank a prospect.

67% of highly effective marketers make lead scoring their top priority and find it a significant contributor to revenue.

All visitors and subscribers may not become your customers. However, they are your prospective customers. A sound lead scoring system filters your leads who are more likely to convert from the one that needs more nurturing.

A sound lead scoring model assists in scoring the lead based on

  1. How closely the leads align with your buyer persona?
  2. Engagement rate with your collaterals and offerings

And decide on what kind of treatment a prospect should receive. The marketing and sales team first categorizes the opportunities and then starts nurturing as per their commitment.

From MQL to SQL and SQL to the customer, the alignment of both teams (marketing and sales) and lead scoring are a crucial part of generating the revenue.

These days, most of the B2B marketers don’t prefer to spend time in concentrating lead scoring and alignment of both teams (marketing and sales) even though those are the root cause of generating the revenue. They outsource the data ( of sales qualified lead to increase conversion rate. Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) provides many conversion opportunities with less effort and follow up where the sales team can save time to increase productivity.

So, how do you want to support your sales team to increase the conversion rate?

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