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The DL on QLs: Effectively Communicate With IQLs, MQLs, and SQLs

If you don’t know who you’re targeting, your message might not be specific enough to capture, communicate with, and move your most qualified leads. Your marketing team needs to focus on quality over quantity. Big numbers may be impressive at the outset of your funnel, but that rarely equals high conversion rates.

The Three Categories of B2B Leads

The first step: Separate or segment your leads. Identify them based on where they are in the funnel. If you don’t have an automated system for your leads in your CRM software, you can place your leads into one of these three categories for leads: IQL, MQL, and SQL. These are placed in order of funnel, as well. If you want to think of it as closing a sale in temperature terms, we can play Hot-and-Cold: An IQL is cold. An MQL is warmer. An SQL is as hot as it’s going to get.


IQL stands for “information qualified lead.” The folks segmented here are in the first step of conversion. They’re not yet familiar with your company and its solutions or products. Being at the top of the funnel, they’re not ready for a pitch of any kind. Continue to nurture this lead, with the goal being to get them familiar with your brand and comfortable with what you offer. During this time, you can also make sure they fit within your ideal customer profile (ICP).

With IQLs, you may be casting a wide net, using LinkedIn, offering a download, possibly using 6sense to target your ICP (according to their role, industry, size of their company, etc.) before you reach out.

How to communicate with IQLs

IQLs are your largest lead segment. Top of the funnel. Email automations are ideal for use with this lead category; since you don’t know their level of interest, having the follow-up be pre-set and automated avoids depleting the marketing team’s resources. Even as a startup, using manual reach out methods is not sustainable. (Most of our clients use Marketo or Hubspot for workflow automations.) Whatever you’re using, make sure you’re testing different options to optimize that automation.

Don’t forget to bring out your best: sharing testimonials and showcasing recent G2 awards received are a perfect fit for IQLs. The goal is to draw them deeper into the funnel by giving reasons to trust your brand and providing the information they’re looking for—especially by showing how you’re different from the competition.

Pro-tip: While many companies choose to build time-based automations (e.g. Send X email in 2 days after white paper download), at Solid Digital we recommend using action-based triggers to move IQLs into the MQLs zone. This can speed up the process considerably, and this prompt interaction helps keep you on the customer’s radar, and tells them that your company is attentive and efficient.

Plus, you get a gold star for your marketing team by passing along MQLs (not IQLs). Giving your sales team warm leads shows that you’ve done your job, and you’re working towards the same goal of success. Speaking of…

What is an MQL?

MQL is short for marketing qualified leads—or, warm leads that show interest in a specific product or service. It’s easier to identify marketing qualified leads by using scoring. For example, if they sign up for a webinar, you can give them 50 points, or 10 points for some other engagement. Creating your customer “scorecard” can help you carefully segment your leads and move them through the funnel more quickly—just with some simple math.

How to communicate with MQLs

Reach MQLs by using channels like Google Ads. Within paid search, you can target users looking for your specific products or by their pain points specifically, showing your differences from your competitors in how you can solve their problems. Using automation is great for IQLs, but it also provides guidance through the decision-making stage of MQLs, leading them toward a sign up, a free demo, or a sales conversion—wherever you want them to go. 

Pro-tip: When measuring MQLs with your SaaS marketing team, it’s just as important to measure your IQLs to keep track of your ratio: Identify what the funnel rates are, and how you can achieve your revenue goals with the right number of IQLs. (Input and output.)

What is an SQL?

Sales qualified leads are the segment that’s nearly ready to buy. Once you hand off your MQL or a user requests a demo, the sales team can take it from there. (Get them while the getting’s good!) When you’ve successfully segmented your audience and you know that you’re handing off a hot lead, the sales team can work their magic, answer any remaining questions, and seal the deal.

How to communicate with SQLs

Be aware of when the leads need to be handed over to sales. You don’t want your sales team wasting their time with cold leads, so be sure you’re prioritizing for better profits. When your lead is a good fit (aligning with your ideal customer profile) and they have indicated a high interest, that’s an SQL. As a marketer, you can help by improving the main CTAs and contact pages on your website as well as the follow-up email confirmations those website users receive to clearly and concisely delineate the next steps in the sales process.  

In Conclusion

You can’t hand off every lead to sales, and you shouldn’t. Ensure your marketing team is placing highly qualified, well-aligned leads into the hands of the sales team by segmenting, qualifying, scoring, and testing—and even the sales team will see the value of marketing: Customers get the info and solutions at the right time, marketing sets up the shot, and the sales team scores. The rare kind of game where everyone wins.

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