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MQL vs. SQL vs. SAL: What’s the Difference & Why Do They Matter?

MQL vs. SQL vs. SAL: What’s the Difference & Why Do They Matter?

6 Min Read

As a business, you’re trying to move people down your sales and marketing funnel, from their very first stirrings of “gosh, the couch looks old” to “I need to buy a new couch” to “I’m going to buy your couch.” 

Different potential customers have different needs at different points in their journey, and as a marketer, it can be helpful to characterize them at different points to accurately target their needs. MQLs, SQLs, and SALs refer to customers at these stages.

Read on to get more information about what each of these steps comprises and how you can better optimize them for your demand generation efforts.

What Are MQLs?

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are potential leads who have had some interaction with your marketing efforts but haven’t yet entered your sales funnel. They may have read some general information about your brand or started to think about buying a new car (or TV or blender — you get the picture). But they’re not ready to commit yet.

Why Do MQLs Matter?

MQLs matter because they fit your customer profile. They are credible consumers, and with the right engagement and support or outreach, they may well move down your sales funnel. They’re not in it yet, but you can certainly get them there.

What Are SQLs?

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) are potential customers who have entered the sales funnel. They are starting to look more granularly at making a purchase. They have gathered information, know what reasonable budget expectations involve, and are now starting to answer the nitty gritty questions of which model is right for them.

Why Do SQLs Matter?

SQLs matter because they are very close to making a decision. They’re people who are worth your sales team’s time and efforts to target. They’re all but assured to buy something and need guidance to determine exactly which company they are going to buy it from.

What Are SALs?

Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) are MQLs that have been vetted by the sales team and are determined to be credible sales prospects. 

Why Do SALs Matter?

SALs matter because they represent the start of your sales funnel. They’re worth your while to put marketing resources into as they have a legitimate interest in what you’re selling.

MQL vs. SQL: What’s the Difference?

To put it bluntly: MQLs are not in your sales funnel, while SQLs are

Think about yourself and the times you’ve considered a purchase. You may start by thinking that scented candles are nice and could add a certain something to a room. You do a couple of web searches and ask friends what candles they like. At this stage, you would be an MQL. 

Once you’ve selected a candle manufacturer you like that fits into your budget, and you’re deciding between scents, you have become an SQL. 

So, the difference between MQL and SQL is that MQLs are just outside the sales funnel, and SQLs are at the bottom.

Here are some other ways of breaking it down:

First-Time Site Visits vs. Return Visits

The first time you visit a site, you’re an MQL. You may be browsing several sites or may wake up tomorrow no longer thinking about buying a particular product. But if you’re making return visits, you’re almost certainly an SQL. It’s something you’re thinking about, and you’re making that journey from abstractly considering a purchase to actively seeking a particular product.

Top of Funnel Content vs. Bottom of Funnel

If you’re thinking about MQL vs SQL content, consider it this way. 

Top-of-funnel content tends to be more broadly appealing, made for a potential consumer who’s generally considering making a purchase. To return to the candle example, top-of-funnel content might include articles like “Candles Can Add Delight To Your Home,” informational pieces like “Are Candles Safe?” or first person pieces like “Buying a Candle Changed How I Think About Winter.”

Video content might also include more general clips like User-Generated Content (UGC), for example, about how buying a candle made someone’s space so much more inviting for her family and guests. 

Bottom-of-funnel content is about leading consumers to make a final choice, so it may include quizzes like “How To Find Your Personal Candle Scent” or “Which Candle Is For You?”

How Do I Convert MQL to SQL?

This is the million-dollar question that marketers face. The challenge is to take someone with an abstract interest and turn it into a sale. Fortunately, there are ways to work this magic.

How Long Does It Take To Convert an MQL to SQL?

That can vary, depending on the size of the purchase involved. 

It takes customers time to get accustomed to the idea of large purchases like cars and furniture — but these are still necessities, so external pressure can be on your side. Many customers like to do a lot of research and reading first. There could be weeks of checking out your website and downloading your content first. 

The critical moment is when you’ve determined that an MQL has downloaded enough content, visited your site enough times, and generally shown sufficient interest they’re on the verge of making a purchase. 

At that point, your sales team should reach out quickly, even in less than 24 hours, with emails and other follow-ups to strike while the iron is hot and make the sales conversion. That part of the process can and should happen quickly in the form of special offers or any other incentives to make sure that your company gets the sale.

How Many MQLs Become SQLs?

Not every MQL becomes an SQL. According to some statistics, only 13% of MQLs become SQLs across a number of industries. Some sales teams are better than others, of course, and some sales methods are more effective, too, so don’t lose heart. It can involve a lot of work, of both the hard and smart varieties.

What Comes First, SAL or SQL?

SAL comes first. SALs represent that inflection point in the sales journey when it’s been determined that an MQL could become an SQL. SALs are confirmed to be SQLs when your sales team has done some outreach and agreed they’re ready to make a purchase.

How Performance TV Fuels Your Sales Funnel

Performance TV can help you fuel your sales funnel because it skilfully targets ads based on data. TV advertising has always been a great way to create awareness at the top of the funnel, but now you can use data to target exactly the viewers you want when the data tells you they’re moving down the funnel.

With MNTN Performance TV, brands can unlock the performance potential of Connected TV by combining the impact and prestige of linear TV with a suite of optimization, attribution, and targeting that delivers results that meet or exceed search and social—all at a massive scale. This CTV platform also incorporates cross-device targeting to give you a 360-degree approach to targeting MQLs and pushing them down the funnel until they become sales.

Final Thoughts on MQLs, SQLs, and SALs

Worried about the SQL vs MQL gap? There can be a lot to contemplate in the sales journey, and those stats on conversion (only 13% of MQLs becoming SQLs) can be daunting. 

Performance TV offers a new and exciting way of connecting with your potential customers and encouraging them down the sales funnel in a faster, more engaging way than traditional methods have allowed. You don’t have to go it alone, though.

MNTN lives and breathes Performance TV and can bring its skill and efficiency to help your brand convert MQLs to SALs to SQLs and help you reach (and maybe even exceed) your sales goals. Get in touch today!