What Are SQLs (Sales-Qualified Leads)?

What are SQLs? SQLs are leads that are ready to move to your sales team.

When you bake sugar cookies, it’s important to wait until the right time to move from one step to the next.

Before you can bake the cookies, for instance, you have to chill the dough in the refrigerator. If you move them to the oven too early, the dough won’t be firm enough, and it won’t hold its shape. Likewise, if you remove them from the oven too early, they won’t be cooked thoroughly enough.

Your leads are kind of the same way. At some point, you want to transfer your leads from your marketing team to your sales team. But it’s vital to make that transition at the right time. That’s where sales-qualified leads (SQLs) come into play. But what are SQLs, and why do they matter?

Keep reading to find out!

What are SQLs?

SQLs, or sales-qualified leads, are leads that are nearing the bottom of your marketing funnel and are ready to move to your sales team. These leads haven’t yet made a purchase, but they’re just about ready to do so.

Different companies have different criteria for when a lead becomes an SQL. However, it’s important to make sure your marketing and sales teams agree on those criteria. Then whenever a lead reaches a point where they meet those criteria, you can move them over to your sales team.

SQLs vs. MQLs

It’s important to distinguish between sales-qualified leads and marketing-qualified leads (MQLs). SQLs and MQLs are similar, but they’re not the same thing.

MQLs are leads that meet your criteria for marketing targeting. These leads have indicated an interest in your company and fit the qualities of your ideal customer. That makes it worth your while to market to them.

Basically, SQLs and MQLs are similar, but MQLs are further up in the funnel. An MQL is still handled by your marketing team as you nurture them toward being ready to make a purchase. Once they reach that point and start thinking about buying, they become an SQL.

Why SQLs matter

So, why are SQLs important? The answer is that they help you ensure a smooth transition between your marketing and sales teams, and they ensure that those transitions happen at the right time.

All your leads need to move over to the sales team eventually, assuming they stick around long enough to do so. The question is, when? Well, that’s what SQLs can help you answer. Whatever criteria your business comes up with for what makes an SQL, that allows you to definitely pinpoint just when to make the transition.

By doing it that way, you can make sure you don’t transfer leads too early or too late. You can move them over to the sales team at the exact moment when they’re most likely to be persuaded by a sales pitch, increasing your conversions and boosting your revenue.

How to generate SQLs for your business

There are several tactics you can use to help you generate SQLs for your company. It’s one thing to drive leads, but driving SQLs means driving leads who will stick around for the long term. It requires more precise lead generation practices.

Here are three of the best such practices to consider.

1. Use lead magnets

One great way to drive more SQLs is to use lead magnets. Lead magnets, as you might expect from the name, are materials and offers on your website—usually free—designed to draw people’s interest and turn them into leads.

A good example of a lead magnet is an email newsletter. All users have to do is submit their email address and possibly their name in return for getting helpful, informational material sent to their inbox. Similarly, you could offer a free trial of a product to entice users.

Whatever your choice of lead magnet is—and you can use more than one—it will keep users around longer and help get them more interested in your products or services, increasing their likelihood of becoming SQLs down the road.

To get a little meta, you might be interested in downloading one of our helpful guides (see below)

[fact call out box that links to resource page to download a guide]

2. Automate your marketing

When generating leads, it’s useful to focus on both quantity and quality. You want better leads who are more likely to convert, but you also want more of them. When it comes to quantity, marketing automation is a great way to go.

Running automated marketing campaigns allows you to reach far more people than you could ever hope to do manually. You can send out emails to far more people, gather and analyze customer data at a much faster rate, and more.

Ultimately, you’re able to reach a wider audience in less time, giving you far more opportunities to generate SQLs. There are plenty of tools out there that can help you automate your marketing efforts, with one of the best options being a customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

3. Segment your audience

If marketing automation focuses on lead quantity, audience segmentation focuses on lead quality. By segmenting your audience into different groups, you can target them with much more specific marketing. Since it’s more specific, that marketing will appeal to them more.

This works best if you offer more than one product or service. Let’s say you sell vehicles. Odds are, you have a very different target audience for your motorcycles than you do for your vans. Because of that, you want to create totally different marketing campaigns for those two groups.

That’s an obvious example, but you can do the same thing on a smaller scale. The point, though, is that segmenting your audience helps you connect better with the people you’re marketing to. That gets them more invested in you and helps them stick around longer to become SQLs.

Nutshell can help you generate and sort your sales-qualified leads

We’ve mentioned the value of customer data a few times on this page, and we’ll mention it once more here. Tracking customer data is crucial for learning about your audience and more effectively marketing to them.

But where do you store and analyze all that data? The answer is, a CRM like Nutshell. Nutshell can help you organize and analyze your customers, plus it comes with plenty of sales automation features.

Want to test out Nutshell for yourself? Just check out our 14-day free trial today!


Join 30,000+ other sales and marketing professionals. Subscribe to our Sell to Win newsletter!