How to Get (& Convert) More Sales Qualified Leads in 2024

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Who Are Sales Qualified Leads and What Sets them Apart from MQLs?

A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect who is ready to talk to your sales team.

This lead has expressed enough interest in the products or services you offer and has been researched and vetted by the marketing team.

So, where exactly does SQLs fit into your sales funnel? 

And what do they mean for your sales process?

SQLs are at a pivotal stage where your sales team takes the baton from marketing, ready to close the deal. 

Before this handoff, there's an additional stage known as sales accepted lead (SAL), where leads receive initial sales approval for further qualification. 

This crucial step ensures that by the time a lead is designated as an SQL, they are not only ready but also deemed highly suitable for closing the deal.

Their readiness to purchase and a clear need for your solution positions them as the most actionable and valuable leads in your sales strategy.

No wonder SQLs are often confused with their marketing counterpart — marketing qualified lead (MQL).

Here’s how they are different:

  • Interest vs. Intent: While a marketing qualified lead shows initial interest, a sales lead is typically ready to talk business.
  • Nurturing vs. Closing: MQLs are in the realm of your marketing strategy, requiring nurturing and education; SQLs, however, are ripe for the sales team's closing techniques.
  • Potential vs. Preparedness: MQLs show potential for becoming customers; SQLs demonstrate preparedness to make purchasing decisions.

So how does a sales qualified lead differ from a product qualified lead?

Unlike a qualified sales lead, which signals readiness to engage in a sales conversation, a product qualified lead has actively used your solution and shown a clear interest in making a purchase.

Now, you may wonder – How do you pinpoint these high-value prospects and fuel your sales pipeline? 

Let’s answer that.

The Art of Identifying SQLs: Key Criteria and Behavior Insights

Identifying an SQL goes beyond just spotting interest — it's about engaging in meaningful dialogue that reveals a prospect's genuine intent to purchase. 

To effectively shortlist SQLs for your sales funnel, consider these pivotal questions:

  • What’s their main challenge? 
  • Understanding the specific problem your prospective customer wants to solve helps tailor your pitch to their needs. For example, consider that you’re a B2B SaaS provider in cybersecurity. Your target audience, perhaps an IT Director or a CTO, might be seeking robust solutions to protect their digital assets and ensure data compliance across the organization.
  • Do they have the decision-making authority?
  • If you're engaging with the CTO, their involvement strongly indicates that you're in conversation with the decision-maker crucial for implementing cybersecurity solutions across the company.
  • Can they afford your solution?
  • Assessing a lead’s budget early on helps align expectations and avoid potential roadblocks. For instance, a dedicated budget for cybersecurity enhancements and digital infrastructure protection suggests your lead is prepared to invest in advanced solutions like yours.
  • When are they planning to make a decision?
  • Knowing their timeline for decision-making can help prioritize the lead in your sales funnel. In our scenario, a deadline for cybersecurity compliance by year-end highlights the urgency and a clear timeline for becoming a paying customer.

To dive deeper into the lead qualification process, consider these additional insights alongside the core criteria:

  • Engagement Level: How actively has the lead engaged with your content? Look for actions like repeated website visits, downloading your pricing info, engaging with emails, or requesting a demo.
  • Solution Fit: Does your product or service align with their needs? A precise match increases the likelihood of conversion.
  • Competitor Awareness: Are they considering other options? Understanding their comparison process can position your offering more effectively and tell you that they’re seriously considering a purchase since they are evaluating multiple products.
  • Feedback and Questions: Are they seeking more information or clarifications? Active inquiries often indicate a higher level of interest and engagement.
  • Contact Information Availability: Do they readily provide complete and accurate contact information, including email addresses, phone numbers, and professional titles? This demonstrates their genuine interest and facilitates proactive engagement.

Not sure what’s the next step to actively qualify your SQLs?

Well, proven frameworks like MEDDPICC provide a clear path forward.

MEDDPICC stands for Metrics, Economic Buyer, Decision Criteria, Decision Process, Paper Process, Identify Pain, Champion, and Competition. The framework provides a detailed checklist for qualifying a lead and a structured approach for your sales process.

Here’s our in-depth guide to help you master the MEDDPICC framework and use it effectively for qualifying sales leads.

Once you’ve zeroed in on a qualification framework, integrating lead behavior analysis and scoring can further refine your strategy — ensuring you prioritize leads effectively based on their engagement and readiness.

How to Use Lead Scoring to Get High-Quality SQLs

With lead scoring, you're essentially ranking your prospects on how likely they are to buy based on their actions. 

By assigning scores based on their actions — like engaging with a demo, downloading a whitepaper, or requesting pricing — you get a clear picture of who's ready to talk business. 

When evaluating potential SQLs, prioritize those who readily provide complete and accurate contact information, including email addresses, phone numbers, and professional titles.

It's like a scoring system for prioritizing your leads, so you know who to reach out to first. 

Pairing this with a sharp eye on their site interactions gives you a solid plan to direct your sales and marketing effort on the most promising leads.

6 Proven Strategies to Get, Nurture and Convert More SQLs

Here are six invaluable strategies to sky-rocket your SQL efforts:

  1. Leverage Advanced Tools for SQL Identification and Scoring
  2. Craft Hyper-Personalized Engagement Plans: Tailor Your Approach for Each SQL
  3. Optimize Sales Cycles with SQL Journey Mapping
  4. Unite Sales and Marketing Efforts
  5. Activate Multi-Channel Sequential Outreach
  6. Master the Pre-Call Preparation

1. Leverage Advanced Tools for SQL Identification and Scoring

Forget spreadsheets and manual searches — you can employ AI-driven and automated tools to sift through lead data and pinpoint those with signs of readiness to purchase.

These tools include:

  • CRM Systems with AI Capabilities: They may offer features like predictive analytics, lead scoring, and automated segmentation.
  • Sales Intelligence Software: Tools that provide sales teams with insights into leads’ and prospects’ business needs, technology usage, and buying signals, using AI to analyze vast amounts of data. For instance, a tool like Scratchpad can analyze sales activities and pipeline data to offer AI-driven suggestions for the ‘next best actions’, optimizing sales strategies and enhancing lead engagement.
  • Lead Scoring Tools: AI-driven tools that automatically score leads based on their engagement, behavior on your website, and demographic information to prioritize those most likely to convert.
  • Predictive Analytics Platforms: Tools that use AI to analyze historical data and predict future behaviors, identifying leads with the highest propensity to purchase.
  • Chatbots and Conversational AI: They can engage with visitors on your website, gathering information and qualifying leads based on their queries and interactions.

Some other tools with more specific use cases include:

  • Marketing Automation Platforms
  • Behavioral Analytics Tools
  • Social Media Monitoring
  • Data Enrichment Tools
  • Intent Data Tools
  • And more

Here are a few essential tips to derive the best out of your sales tech stack:

  • Clearly define your ideal customer profile (ICP) to guide your tool selection.
  • Research and compare lead scoring platforms, intent data providers, and other options to find the best fit for your needs and budget.
  • Ensure your chosen tools integrate with your CRM and sales tech stack for a unified view.
  • Train your sales reps and marketing team to use the tools effectively and interpret the insights they provide.

2. Craft Hyper-Personalized Engagement Plans

Gone are the days of generic, one-size-fits-all sales pitches — today's customers ignore most outreach that isn’t personalized in some way.

And that’s precisely what a tailored communication plan facilitates.

Imagine: An SQL receives an email that addresses their specific pain points, mentions their company by name, and offers solutions tailored to their unique needs. 

Powerful, right? Such a content marketing plan can:

  • Increase engagement and response rates,
  • Build trust and rapport,
  • Boost conversion rates.

The bottom line: Craft emails, social media messages, and even direct mail that resonate deeply with your target audience. Instead of generic blasts, use the data you've gathered to create content that speaks directly to each SQL's unique needs and pain points.

3. Optimize Sales Cycles with SQL Journey Mapping

SQL journey mapping isn't just a fancy term; it's your key to understanding their decision-making process and identifying critical moments.

By proactively mapping out the journey of an SQL, you can identify key decision points and tailor your strategies for a smoother path to conversion.

Here are some quick tips for executing this strategy efficiently:

  • Gather data on how SQLs interact with your content and which channels they prefer.
  • Look for patterns in the journey that indicate readiness to buy or common drop-off points
  • Consider using advanced analytics platforms and customer journey mapping tools to automate and scale your efforts.

These lead management insights will also help you create that hyper-personalized communication plan we discussed above.

4. Unite Sales and Marketing Efforts

Uniting sales and marketing efforts is crucial for effectively transitioning a potential customer into a paying customer. 

The strategy focuses on creating a seamless experience for SQLs by aligning both departments' objectives, messages, and tactics.

By doing this, businesses can attract higher-quality leads that are more likely to convert and ensure that SQLs receive consistent engagement, streamlining their journey and accelerating conversion rates.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Start by defining what constitutes an SQL and agree on common objectives and KPIs to measure success.
  • Create a unified customer journey, ensuring marketing nurtures leads up to the point where sales take over, with a seamless handoff.
  • Combine marketing's behavior data with sales intel for precise targeting and personalization.

5. Activate Multi-Channel Sequential Outreach

Siloed sales and marketing can hinder your SQL nurturing and management. 

The way out is to implement a coordinated outreach strategy that utilizes multiple channels such as email, social media, direct calls, and more sequentially.

Multi-channel outreach boosts engagement, broadens reach, and enhances personalization by meeting SQLs on their preferred platforms and tailoring each interaction based on past engagements.

6. Master Pre-Call Preparation

It’s crucial for a sales rep in your team to do some pre-call preparation before any direct sales engagement.

This strategy ensures every conversation, whether aimed at initial engagement or closing a sale, is centered around the SQL's specific needs and challenges, demonstrating how your solution provides the answer.

It also improves the SQL’s overall experience and perception of your brand.

Implementing these strategies will help you transition an unqualified lead into a sales lead more effectively. 

But how do you gauge the effectiveness of your efforts? 

The answer lies in measuring some key performance indicators (KPIs).

5 Key Metrics to Measure SQL Success

Ready to ditch the guesswork and measure the true impact of your SQL management efforts? 

Here are 5 crucial metrics you could track:

  • SQL-to-Opportunity Ratio: What percentage of your qualified leads (SQLs) progress to the opportunity stage in your sales pipeline? This metric signifies the effectiveness of your nurturing efforts in qualifying leads and identifying those with genuine buying intent. A higher ratio indicates better qualification and sales pipeline health.
  • SQL Conversion Rate: The percentage of SQLs that progress to become actual customers, indicating the effectiveness of your sales funnel in converting qualified leads into sales.
  • Average Lead Response Time: The average duration it takes for your sales reps to respond to a lead, highlighting the responsiveness and potential impact on conversion rates.
  • Sales Cycle Length: The average time it takes for a lead to move through the entire sales cycle, from initial contact to closing the deal, reflecting the efficiency of your sales process.
  • Cost Per Lead: The average cost incurred to acquire a lead, covering all marketing and sales expenses. It provides insight into the overall investment needed to generate leads.

Next, let's dispel some myths about SQL management.

Debunking 4 Common SQL Myths

You may fall prey to these four common SQL misconceptions.

Myth 1: SQLs Don't Require Further Qualification

Reality: While they've shown initial interest, not all SQLs are created equal. Progressive lead qualification based on specific needs, budget, and decision-making authority helps identify prospective customers and prioritize your sales efforts effectively.

Myth 2: Pausing Lead Generation Is Okay When You Have Enough SQLs

Reality: Even with a healthy pipeline, stopping lead flow can backfire. Market shifts, hidden potential, and sales team stagnation are just a few risks. Consider strategic pauses for overloaded teams or campaign optimization, but remember: a steady stream of leads fuels future growth.

Myth 3: Every SQL Must Check All the Boxes to Qualify

Reality: Rigid lead qualification criteria can overlook high-potential leads! Consider overall fit within your buyer persona, rather than the number of boxes ticked. Invest in potential, not just perfect boxes.

Myth 4: Nurturing SQLs Stops Once They Become Customers

Reality: Nope. It's the gateway to building loyal advocates through customer success and service. 

Post-sale nurturing, a key part of customer service, strengthens relationships, fuels upsell, and reduces churn (think happy customers, buying more and sticking around!) Plus, these satisfied customers often expand your base through referrals.

So, is all this work on SQLs really worth it in the end?

2 Reasons Proper SQL Classification Drives Sales Success

Here’s how effective SQL categorization drives sales success:

A. Improved Conversion Rates

Precise categorization unlocks the power to identify high-value SQLs perfectly aligned with your ideal customer profile.

You’ll only focus your efforts on leads most likely to convert, delivering targeted content and personalized interactions that dramatically boost conversion rates.

B. Better Forecasting and Planning

Categorization empowers you to understand the composition of your deals based on industry, budget, and decision-making authority. 

By tracking conversion rates and sales cycles for each SQL type, teams gain valuable predictive insights. These insights, in turn, empower sales leaders to optimize planning and strategic decision-making.

That said, your forecasts can be inaccurate if you aren’t using the right tools. The same goes for pipeline management.

Inaccurate forecasts and unreliable pipeline management can play spoilsport for your long-term targets.

Thankfully, you can rely on Scratchpad to streamline both these aspects.

Scratchpad is a cutting-edge Salesforce add-on that is comprised of a suite of modern tools. It’s designed to enhance pipeline visibility and forecasting accuracy, making it easier for sales teams to capitalize on the benefits of correctly categorizing SQLs.

Here are some of Scratchpad’s impressive capabilities:

  • AI-Driven SQL Insights: Scratchpad's AI Sales Assistant analyzes sales interactions, offering actionable recommendations to accelerate conversions.
  • Unified Deal Tracking: With Rollups, you can effortlessly consolidate scattered sales data into a cohesive overview, eliminating the need for complex spreadsheets.
  • Pipeline Risk Alerts: Deal Spotlights proactively flag potential pipeline risks, enabling timely interventions to keep deals on track.
  • Real-Time Forecasting Accuracy: Waterfall Analytics bring forecast changes into sharp focus, ensuring your sales predictions remain precise.
  • Efficient Workflow Customization: Scratchpad's Workflow Tiles enable sales teams to customize and streamline their workflows, providing quick access to the most used sales actions and data. 

For example, SDRs and AEs can collaborate seamlessly and handoff leads who have turned into Opportunities. Additionally, AEs can easily handoff closed-won opps to Customer Success teams to nurture new paying customers.

Try Scratchpad for free today and unlock the door to flawless lead generation and sales execution!