January 21, 2016

What to Do When Sales Hates Your MQLs

The marketing qualified lead (MQL) is supposed to be an olive branch between marketing and sales, but what do you do when sales hates your MQLs?

It seems like you’re doing a decent job running lead gen campaigns, but you get pushback from sales every week:

  • The leads aren’t interested in our product.
  • They lack purchase intent.
  • They don’t match our customer profile.

You may feel like the sales team hates your MQLs, and your first instinct is probably to resent them. But sales doesn’t hate your leads, or you. In fact, they need your leads to successfully do their job. What they hate is wasting valuable time chasing down dead-end opportunities.

Instead of sulking, try to figure out what you can do differently. You’ll never be able to guarantee conversion, but with the right tools and processes in place, you can certainly increase the chances.

Start with the basics.

Defining an MQL

An MQL is simply a lead that marketing deems qualified enough to pass to sales. Since interpretations vary from company to company, it’s hard to nail down a more specific definition.

In its least-evolved form, an MQL is a “professional with a pulse.” Depending on your marketing strategy, this may not be far from the truth. If you think an MQL is a potential customer, but your sales team thinks an MQL is a professional with a pulse, it may be time to have a conversation. Work together to build an agreed-upon definition not just for “MQL,” but for each stage in the sales funnel.

Determining what makes an MQL is much easier when you understand what it is not. It’s not a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) or a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL), and it certainly isn’t a closed/won deal.

sql vs mql

Suggested Reading: MQL vs SQL

Lead Nurturing

With the exception of perhaps a brief check-in from a salesperson, marketing should own most interactions with MQLs until they’re ready to move down the sales funnel and become SALs.

According to Robert Clay, founder of Marketing Wizdom, 80 percent of prospects take more than four touches to close, but only 8 percent of salespeople touch a prospect more than four times. A more thorough approach to lead nurturing can help pave the way to a successful follow-up and eliminate pushback from sales. According to Forrester Research, companies that nurture their leads report 50 percent higher sales at 33 percent lower cost. In other words, more touches from marketing during the MQL stage mean less touches from sales and a higher chance of conversion.

lead nurturing

Suggested Reading: 5 Lead Nurturing Best Practices (and Worst Practices)

Marketing Automation

If you aren’t using marketing automation software to nurture your MQLs, you need to be — yesterday.

Notwithstanding its impact on conversion rates, marketing automation can help marketing and sales establish and maintain a single version of the truth for lead qualification. It also frees up your sales team from manually nurturing the leads in their pipeline, which gives them more time to focus on closing deals.

While there’s no substitute for a real human touch (either face-to-face or over the phone), marketing automation helps you make the nurturing process repeatable and scalable.

marketing automation

Suggested Reading: What is Marketing Automation?

Lead Scoring

One of the biggest benefits of using a marketing automation solution is the ability to institute lead scoring.

As with defining an MQL, lead scoring is mostly subjective. It basically works like this: a prospect interacts with your site, content, social media channels, etc., and you assign a point value to each action. Point totals get higher or lower based on the prospect’s level of qualification (where they are in the funnel).

Here are a couple examples:

  • Someone visited your “About Us” page: May just be a job-seeker or independent analyst, so the corresponding point value should be relatively low, if not zero.
  • Someone clicked “Contact Sales” or “Get a Demo”: Much more likely to be a ‘sales-ready’ lead, and thus should receive more points.

There’s no gold standard for lead scoring. It can be unabashedly simple or extremely complex, so you’ll have to determine what makes the most sense for your products or services.

lead scoring

Suggested Reading: Lead Scoring Best Practices: Simplified

Close the Reporting Loop

Assuming you’ve implemented marketing automation and started using it to nurture and score your leads, the next step is closing the marketing-sales reporting loop.

Roughly 63 percent of people who request information on your company won’t purchase anything for three months, and 20 percent will take more than a year. As the B2B buying process gets ever longer, it’s important that teams understand the actions leads take throughout the buying journey.

click to tweet test stat

If sales can’t convert your MQLs, wouldn’t it be nice to have concrete examples why? And if you know why, perhaps you’ll be able to fix the issue.

closed loop reporting

Suggested Reading: How to Use Sales Intelligence to Close More Deals, Faster

Establish a Service-Level Agreement

At the outset of any new client/provider relationship, do you not clearly outline the service and standards guaranteed? Of course you do. This agreement helps both parties know what to expect, what to deliver, and how to avoid conflict.

It’s important that marketing and sales agree on a clear standard of performance to stay accountable and avoid internal dissonance. As companies work to align their sales and marketing teams, service-level agreements (formal contracts that define goals and responsibilities) are becoming more commonplace. There’s even a new(ish) buzzword to describe this effort: smarketing.

smarketing SLA

Suggested Reading: 6 Ways Smarketing Can Reel in Better Leads for Your Business

 


Improving lead quality was the primary focus for 70 percent of B2B marketers in 2015, so if sales is struggling to convert your MQLs, you aren’t alone. But that isn’t a free pass to keep doing what you’re doing. Treat these suggestions as tools to help you increase lead quality and improve alignment between marketing and sales. Don’t be part of the problem. Be the solution.

To learn more about generating MQLs that convert, download our free e-book below.

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Cover Image: “Frustrated,” by Alan Rotgers. Used under creative commons license

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