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SQLs vs MQLs

MQLs and SQLs – Two familiar terms in the marketing industry that to some, mean the same thing.

MQL = Marketing Qualified Lead

SQL = Sales Qualified Lead

On paper, they sound the same and ideally should be the same thing. First, let’s discuss how a sale is made to explore the new metrics of marketing and how to determine what makes an SQL.

(MQL) Marketing Qualified Lead

When a user is curious or interested to know more about a product, a certain set of protocols must be put in place to determine if they’re the right demographic and if their interaction with the brand is enough to send them down the line to an SQL.

When someone is considered to be a marketing qualified lead, this simply means they’ve requested information or have shown some interest in whatever it is that the seller is trying to sell. For example, if a user has asked to see a demonstration of a product or clicked on a page to “learn more” about a product, they’ve now qualified as market ready.

(SQL) Sales Qualified Lead

In order to progress further as an SQL, a user must meet a certain set of demands or criteria that are set by marketing standards. After a user has requested a demonstration or more information of a product, they’re interested in learning more and are generally put in this stage. It’s no longer necessary to market your product to the lead because the marketing portion is done. The user has shown interest and is ready to be approached by the sales department.

During this stage, a few things can happen to determine whether they go on to become sales or lost leads. The lead may then be contacted by an account executive or salesperson or they may receive more information which has been requested via email, phone or webpage. The whole point of this stage is to determine whether or not they’re just curiously browsing and found your product by accident or if they have intent to purchase something.

Think of it this way:

Have you ever been in a retail store and one of the associates approached you, asking if you could use any help? You were a marketing qualified lead. You had entered into the store for some reason, but the retail associate didn’t know why you were there or if you even had any intention of buying something.

Now, if you were to pick up a box and start looking at the advertisement, the brand and what’s inside the box, you’d then be a sales qualified lead. That would give the associate a cue that you’re interested in the product. It doesn’t mean you’re going to buy something. Not every sales qualified lead turns into a purchase or a customer.

Once you’ve shown interest and become marked as a sales qualified lead, this is when account executives or people who manage potential prospects step in. Here’s a quick example of going from MQL to SQL in action:

  • Let’s say you want to make money online
  • You start searching on the internet for different ways to make money
  • You find a website selling a digital product to help you do just that
  • The product looks interesting enough and you start scrolling through the website to see what this product is about
  • You’ve just become a marketing qualified lead
  • You’re still not sure if it’s a product you want to buy, so you click “Learn More” or opt in to a free trial of the product offered on the site
  • You’ve now become a sales qualified lead
  • This is when you’ll start receiving emails that try to hard sell the product to you because you’ve shown enough interest to potentially become a buyer for that company

Not All Sales Qualified Leads Are Equal

It’s important to remember that different companies use different metrics to determine who is qualified for their product and who has shown enough interest to officially become a sales qualified lead. For some companies, it might be clicking on a simple link and for some, there’s a long list of prerequisites that a potential customer must go through to get to that point.

Getting an idea of what makes a sales qualified lead official depends on the pricing of the product, the actual product itself, how intensive the selection process is and the company’s own quota. Companies have different quotas for leads vs. sales made, so metrics may shift as companies set different guidelines for this ratio.


While the metrics of what makes a sales qualified lead may vary between companies and products, the overall idea remains the same. Marketing qualified leads are simply people who have shown interest or fit a certain demographic for a product. Sales qualified leads are marketing qualified leads who have taken the next step down the sales funnel and move one step closer to becoming buyers or clients.