Generating leads is an integral part of growing your business and revenue. Generally speaking, the more leads you have, the more customers you’ll acquire. 

However, just because you have leads occupying your CRM database, doesn’t necessarily mean they will become a paying customer. We are here to help you turn your Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) by offering actionable tips to increase your lead conversion rate. 

What are MQLs and SQLs? 

MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) refer to prospects who have shown notable interest in your product or service, via engagement across marketing channels like your website or social media. The prospects’ interest is generally based on how they have engaged with your content; whether they took a Call to Action (CTA), downloaded marketing content such as eBooks or case studies, or simply visited your website and submitted a request for more information. 

SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) are prospective customers that have been deemed ready for the next stage of the sales process. SQLs have been analysed by both the sales and marketing team and have been determined a good business/product fit. The sales team have determined the prospects are in buying mode and will nurture and develop an opportunity through the sales pipeline until they can be converted into a customer. 

It’s estimated that ninety per cent of MQLs don’t end up converting into SQLs. With this in mind, we spoke to our very own Will Matthews (Business Development Manager) and James Middleton (Sales Manager) at durhamlane, to get their top tips on how to increase your marketing-to-sales lead conversion rate. 

Tip #1 – Accelerated speed to lead 

When it comes to lead conversion, time is of the essence. Never sit on a prospective customer. By following up in a timely manner, you are keeping your brand at the forefront of their mind. If you have noticed a prospect perusing your website or downloading bottom-of-funnel content, take advantage of that time window. If a prospect makes an inquiry, respond right away. It’s been found that seventy per cent of buyers make a purchase with the first business that responds to their questions. 

Our Sales Manager James reinforced the importance of time efficiency, stating: 

“If you wait two to four days or even weeks to follow up [with a prospect] what happens by that point is they have forgotten, moved on, or it is no longer at the top of their mind. By being quick, you’re more likely to have a good conversation to understand their pain points, and therefore more likely to convert the lead into the next stage of the sale cycle.” 

Tip #2 – Dedicated SDRs for conversion 

Having Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) that are wholly dedicated to taking qualified leads to completion is crucial for increasing lead conversion. Your SDRs need to be determined, and not give up at the first hurdle if they are unable to reach a prospect. According to CallHippo, thirty per cent of leads never receive a follow-up call from SDRs after initial contact.  

Generally speaking, you aren’t going to reach your prospect the first time – or even the fifth. Patience and perseverance are key. The same CallHippo survey found that ninety per cent of salespeople were successful in reaching their lead on the sixth attempt. Six attempts may sound like a lot, but by doing so you can increase your contact sales by seventy per cent. 

Our BDM Will backed this up: “The story that we typically hear, is that when a marketing lead comes in, be it direct or indirect, the average sales rep will give up far too quickly instead of trying to connect with that lead. For example, if a lead downloads an eBook and I only contact them once, the likelihood is that I won’t turn that lead into a customer.” 

SDRs also must work in tandem with Marketing, as the two are at their most powerful when brought together. Marketo and Reachforce found that eighty per cent of leads generated by marketing are neglected by sales. The consequence of this is that not only does it waste time and budget, but it can also lead to the Marketing team feeling as though their effort and creativity have gone to waste. Sales then start to feel frustrated with Marketing; having to generate more outbound leads and wondering why they aren’t being fed a higher volume of sales-ready inbound leads. It’s a vicious cycle! 

Tip #3 – Professional persistence  

At durhamlane, our Sales Mantra #4 is ‘Professional Persistence’ – persistence being the operative word.  

Gartner found that on average, it takes eighteen cold calls to get through to a buyer. Most salespeople resign at around three to four calls, which is a huge gap. If reaching the prospect by phone isn’t working, rather than giving up, you can utilise other channels such as Email and LinkedIn InMail.  

Timing also plays a major role in connecting with your prospects. Research shows that 11 am is an ideal time to touch base with a B2B buyer, as they could likely be wrapping up their tasks in time for lunch. However, the optimal contact time is towards the end of the workday, around 4-5 pm when people are mostly winding down from the day.  

Tip #4 – Know the difference between an MQL and a Marketing Qualified ‘Account’ 

James broke down the differentiation between a Marketing Qualified Lead and a Marketing Qualified Account:  

“For effective demand generation, especially selling to enterprise, you need to think more about the account that you are selling to, not the person. When an MQL is generated, that person might not [on paper] be your target buyer persona or the decision-maker.  

For example, a Marketing Assistant may download some content to learn more about your product or service, but they may be doing research on behalf of a Senior Marketing Manager or CMO. Think of this as a smoke signal; even if it’s the wrong person, it is potentially an indication that something is happening within that company that could demonstrate buying intent. So yes, follow up with that person, as there could be five other people in the decision-making unit that this content is being shared with internally. The more people you can speak to, the more you can build a bigger case.” 

To keep it simple, an MQL is often a singular person with whom you are trying to engage. An MQA is a company, business unit, or group of target buyers within a company that you want to work with. By engaging with employees on all levels, you will gain a deeper understanding of the company’s pain points and gather more insights that will then help you to increase your lead conversion.  

Tip #5 – Not all MQL’s are created equally  

When it comes to the definition of a MQL, opinions may differ. 

“To some, a MQL could be a named contact. In my world, that’s just data. It’s a lead at best. The top MQL is a direct MQL. Someone who has put their hand up and asked to speak to you about your products or services can help solve their business challenges.” – James 

For example, you may share a piece of content on LinkedIn that is liked by someone at the bottom of the sales funnel, like a Marketing Assistant. This would be an ‘indirect lead.’ They have liked your content, but have not displayed intent or asked to engage with you further. It’s still a lead, but you would have to follow up quickly to attract their attention.  

If a prospect initiates a conversation with you, e.g., an inbound call in which they say “I came across some content of yours that was helpful, can we arrange a time to speak?”, that is a direct MQL. Being able to differentiate this will help you work out how much time to dedicate to each prospect; direct, indirect, or otherwise. 

Ready to start increasing lead conversion? 

Predictable, long-term growth for your business is possible with a consistent and proven approach to sales. We have demonstrated this at durhamlane by helping our clients sell differently for over a decade with incredible results. Our approach builds a tailored strategy to drive your business forward; generating qualified opportunities to ensure lead conversion rates are maximised and only best-fit leads are pursued.  

Looking to increase MQL to SQL conversions, fast? Speak to our sales acceleration experts today. 

Let’s talk

We’re always open to hearing from ambitious organisations that are looking to scale but are unsure how. Get in touch to see how we can help overcome your sales challenges.