Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

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by Kevin Kling Real Estate Sales Expert

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If you want to increase your lead conversions, you need to understand that quality is more important than quantity. A sheer volume of leads means nothing if those prospects aren’t eventually converting to paying customers. That’s why generating and tracking sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are essential for every business’s success. Waste less time and increase your revenue by learning how to generate, track, and convert the most highly qualified leads.

What Is a Sales Qualified Lead?

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) are prospects that have fully navigated your company’s marketing and pre-sales funnels, leaving them more likely to convert. Defining qualified sales leads helps your team focus time and energy on only the most worthwhile candidates. 

However, there’s a difference between understanding the sales-qualified lead definition and profiting from SQLs. There are three components to SQL success: generating, tracking, and converting leads.  Each phase requires an in-depth awareness of the buyer’s journey as it relates to your business.

Most people are familiar with the main stages of the buyer’s journey. The three main components of SQLs correspond with all three stages of your average customer’s experience.

  • Awareness > Generate
  • Consideration > Track
  • Decision > Convert

Many brands struggle to convert because most of their leads are still in the awareness stage (or worse, they haven’t even made it there yet.) Pitching to prospects still in the earliest stages of their buyer journey means your sales team will spend a lot of time and effort getting them up to speed. At the same time, you risk losing potential customers if you stand back and wait for them to navigate the buying funnel on their own accord.

SQLs exist at every level of the buyer’s journey. The challenge is identifying and tracking them early so you can deliver the exact messaging they need at each step in their journey.

Awareness Stage: How to Generate SQLs With the Right Content

Content marketing is a must when it comes to generating SQLs. Content marketing allows you to introduce your product or service to leads in a naturally progressive way that can nurture a long-lasting relationship. There are many forms of content marketing, but they all share a similar goal: to connect you to better-qualified leads. Effective content translates to sales by identifying potential customers’ needs and demonstrating how your business can solve their problems.

Create Content For Customers, Not Trends

Who is your ideal customer? Before you make any content, you need to have an idea of who your audience is. Create buyer personas to determine the kind of content that resonates with your target customers. 

Avoid the pressure to create viral content. Sure, increased exposure is always great, but virality isn’t a reliable marketing strategy. Especially when it comes at the expense of what your future customers really want. 

If you decide that your buyer persona would respond well to the hottest hashtags and latest viral trends, that’s great. However, don’t feel pressured to distort your message to keep up with the rest of the Internet. Trends come and go, but helpful content will always have value.

Create Content for Every Stage of the Funnel

Content can do more than attract top-of-the-funnel leads. It can also guide your best prospects closer to making a decision.  To close the gap between awareness and conversion, create content that appeals to leads at different stages of considering your product or service.

Top-of-the-funnel content can include blog posts, whitepapers, and videos about your industry in general. Don’t be too quick to push your brand at this phase.

Mid-funnel content should inform and educate leads further by introducing your product or service in more detail.

Finally, bottom-of-the-funnel content should be highly targeted pieces that truly demonstrate how your product can benefit customers.

Tracking SQLs becomes increasingly important the closer your content gets to the bottom of the funnel.

Consideration Stage: How to Track High-Value Leads

Keeping up with high-value leads takes time and effort. While there are numerous strategies for staying on top of leads, the execution will vary from business to business. If you’ve created a content marketing strategy that addresses leads at every stage of the journey, choosing the right tools for tracking will help you see the time of your outreach and guide them through the consideration stage.

What Do YOUR SQLs Look Like?

SQLs vary from industry to industry. You’ll need to create your own definition of an SQL instead of relying on another business’s criteria.

That said, there are a few shared traits of SQLs in every field. In a business-to-business context, highly qualified leads must:

  • Work in the right industry. Top-of-the-funnel content will get seen by many people outside of your target market. Quickly rule out any leads who wouldn’t be able to use what you’re selling.
  • Occupy a viable geographic location. Geographic constraints affect many industries. Have a product that can’t be shipped internationally? Is your software incompatible in some countries? Leads that don’t meet your location requirements will never pay off.
  • Hold a decision-making status. B2B leads vary in value based on their decision-making abilities. Don’t rule out leads who are direct decision-makers. However, you should prioritize those with more buying control.

Choose the Right Tools: CRMs & Marketing Automation

Sales-qualified leads (SQLs) need to be appropriately tracked to stay top-of-mind. Outdated methods, such as spreadsheets and email lists, need to offer more insight into the customer journey. The right tools will help you remain organized while providing visibility into what works and what doesn’t.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is an invaluable asset for businesses that manage customer data, interactions, and relationships effectively. This technology is uniquely designed to suit the needs of any business, allowing offers to collect and store important customer data and providing opportunities for sales teams to build strong relationships.

When selecting a CRM, it’s crucial to investigate its features and comprehensive offerings to ensure it supports your organization’s specific goals. Consider the volume of leads you’re working with and how many communication channels you manage. The right CRM for your business will include a robust selection of features without becoming overwhelming. 

Marketing automation can be a helpful extension of your CRM. These tools can be fully integrated or spread across numerous platforms.

Automated tools such as email campaigns, web page personalization, and targeted ads can help you reach potential leads through numerous channels. The best tools work to allow you to set up a campaign, giving you enough technical bandwidth to accommodate high-volume outreach.

When implemented paired with CRM data, marketing automation helps you target the right audience at the right time with the right message. Through this process, businesses become far more effective in how they prioritize their resources and how they interact with current customers as well as potential leads.

Conversion Stage: How to Turn SQLs Into Customers

Leads who make it through the first two stages of the journey are officially SQLs! When your leads reach the conversion stage, it’s time to provide them with the most personalized experience possible. Leads at this stage are likely already in communication with your company. The next steps can include initial calls, product demonstrations, and other onboarding services. 

Your work isn’t through yet, though. Retaining SQLs is just as important as generating SQLs. You can repeat this process with established customers by attracting them with new content marketing campaigns highlighting updated products. Additionally, you should continue tracking all subsequent interactions in your CRM and automated tools. This will help you anticipate their needs and reach out at the right time to maximize expansion revenue.

Earn More Revenue With Fewer Leads

Not all leads are created equal. Sales-qualified leads have a higher chance of eventually converting into customers. Learning how to separate SQLs from a large batch of leads may seem daunting, but it’s always more efficient than wasting outreach on incompatible prospects. By creating targeted content for the awareness stage, tracking high-value leads in consideration, and planning for retention at the conversion stages, you can use SQLs as the building blocks of a sustainable business.

Suggested mentors to help you make sense of Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

Farzad Khosravi

Customer Experience : Email and Sales Strategy : Startup Ideation

+10 years experience in sales, marketing, and customer experience strategy. I’ve helped dozens of executives and founders set up KPIs, OKRs and tactics for email marketing, lead generation, content and product marketing, customer success, and sales.

Gavin Tye

B2B SaaS Sales Strategist | Founder @Sales Market Fit| Client Executive @ CVCheck

I am a B2B SaaS salesperson with 8+ years of sales experience in startup sales. If you need help developing your unique innovative sales strategy, developing a lead generation approach, or how to win more clients consistently, I’m here to help.

Also an expert in:

Oz Merchant

Sales/Customer Success Consultant and Mind Hacker

Founders and new Team Leaders: I love helping build sales and customer success teams. I focus on lead to sales hand-off and then to implementation/customer success. And if you are feeling stuck, a mindhacking session will get the roadblocks out of your way.

Miguel Trujillo

Fundraising + Sales & Business Development Mentor

Hi, my name is Miguel. I am a mentor from Madrid, Spain. I can help you to raise venture capital (10+ yrs of experience) and in business development strategy (sales above all).

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