Especially if your company experiences long buyer’s journeys, understanding the various stages of your sales funnel is vital. Generating a lead, for example, means little if that lead never ends up qualified enough for a sales pitch. And even within the qualified framework, there are important nuances to consider.
Advanced marketers distinguish between marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQL), which have very distinct characteristics. We have written about both types of leads in the past: the former describes a contact that has interacted with your content enough to clearly show their interest. The latter, on the other hand, describes a contact who is actually ready for the sales pitch.
As their names suggest, MQLs and SQLs also differ in who handles them. MQLs are still in the hands of the marketing department, which seeks to convince them of their brand’s value through regular lead nurturing messages and strategies. SQLs, however, lie with the sales team. In fact, that distinction sits at the center of 4 ways in which you can maximize the potential of your MQL to SQL conversion strategy.
1) Ensure Flawless Integration
Converting an MQL to an SQL depends heavily on handing over the contact from marketing to sales, without the lead experiencing any type of issue or hiccup. In the conversion process, two completely separate entities with two different goal sets will be responsible for them, which makes a seamless transition crucial.
Unfortunately, that transition does not always occur. While a 2014 study found that 38% of chief marketing officers want to make marketing-sales alignment a priority, only 30% of them are actually successful in doing so. That disconnect, naturally, leads to breakdowns in communication that are important to consider, especially when it comes to the next point:
2) Keep Consistent Messaging
From a brand perspective, it’s easy and even tempting to switch up and alternate messaging. There is so much to say about your product, you want to highlight as much as possible in the marketing messaging your leads receive. Then, as they enter sales-qualified status, your sales team may have an entirely different idea on what the lead needs to convert.
However, it’s crucial not to give in to that temptation. From a contact’s perspective, inconsistent messaging invites cognitive dissonance, a loss in credibility or hesitation to take action because the many messages don’t seem to make sense together. A lead does not have infinite capabilities of taking in info; in fact, continuously feeding them more information can actually make them less likely to buy.
This is, again, where marketing-sales alignment enters the equation. All of your messaging, throughout the buyer’s journey, should focus heavily on the core value proposition that your product can offer. The same line of messaging should remain consistent throughout the journey, all the way through the sales pitch. The channels of delivery may alternate, but the core message should not.
3) Provide Contact Information
As a marketing lead turns into a sales lead, don’t rely on the fact that they’ll be receptive to your outbound messages. Instead, invite them to get in touch with you personally with any questions or comments they may have. The more of a connection they feel with your brand, the more likely they will be to convert to a customer.
As a lead becomes sales-qualified, you likely assign a specific salesperson to that account. So why not communicate that information out? A quick note, personalized from the contact person, can make a big difference in increasing the effectiveness of the message, and the degree to which your prospect will be willing to engage with you on a sales decision.
Personalization can make an immense difference throughout your marketing efforts. In fact, simply personalizing your content results in an average 19% improvement in ROI. That improvement only increases later in the sales funnel, making a personal connection (through providing sales contact info) an important part of your MQL to SQL conversion strategy.
4) Analyze and Optimize
Finally, and as is the case for every marketing strategy, always analyze your current efforts and benchmark them against new and improve results. Compare your SQL conversion rate to industry averages, helping you better understand where you stand before implementing any of the above (or other) tactics. Then, regularly check your analytics to see whether your efforts have led to tangible improvement.
Through thorough analysis, you can enhance the continuous improvement aspect of your MQL to SQL conversion strategy. Everyone can always do better, and even if your trend is pointing up, there are probably some things you can do to make sure even more leads convert to customers.
Perhaps the timing of your messages is a bit off. Or the data your sales team uses (collected by marketing) is incomplete. If you know where you can improve, you can enhance your efforts over time to maximize your MQL to SQL conversion rate.
Ultimately, generating customers depends on maximizing your inbound flow of SQLs. And especially if your company has to manage a longer buyer’s journey because of its industry or the complexity of its product, building a strategy for converting MQLs to SQLs is a crucial part of that equation.
The above four tactics help you achieve that goal. But in the end, it all comes down to making sure that you deliver relevant information to your potential customers at the time they’re most open to converting.