What is a sales-qualified lead (SQL)?

A sales-qualified lead (SQL) is a prospective customer who has indicated through a series of actions that they have a high probability of converting. Having expressed interest in your product or service and been vetted to ensure they meet the right criteria, a sales-qualified lead is now ready to move into your sales process. 

In most cases, prospective customers enter the sales funnel once they’ve performed an action such as visiting your website or following you on social media. At this stage, these potential customers might not be ready to buy, but they’ve expressed a level of interest in your offerings.

As these prospective customers engage more with your company, completing actions that show intent and interest such as joining a mailing list, they move further down the sales pipeline until they become a sales-qualified lead. 

Methods to qualify a sales lead

Sales-qualified leads are leads who have shown sustained interest in your products or services. They have also been vetted to ensure that they show a high chance of converting before being passed over to the sales team. This vetting process can be optimized with the right tools, such as bots that screen leads against pre-established criteria, so that your teams only spend valuable time and resources engaging with leads who are most likely to convert. 

One method for vetting sales-qualified leads is referred to as the BANT framework, which can help you to streamline your lead qualification. The acronym is used to represent the following steps:

  • B- Budget. How much is the prospect willing or able to spend on your solutions and services? Can they afford your offerings?
  • A- Authority. Who in the prospects’ organization makes the ultimate decision on whether to engage your company? Are you in contact with the stakeholder who is in charge of buying decisions?
  • N- Need. Do your offerings solve a specific need or demand from the prospect? Are you clear on their pain points, and how you can effectively solve their most pressing challenges?
  • T- Timeline. How much time does the prospect need before making a decision on whether or not to convert? How timely are the prospect’s challenges, and how fast do both teams need to move through the sales process?

If a prospective customer meets the BANT criteria – meaning they have the budget to pay for a given product or service, have the authority to purchase, have a real need for the product or service, and the timing is right for them to buy – they can be considered a SQL. 

Why is it important to qualify a sales lead?

Qualifying a lead is important as it saves companies both time and resources. If companies have a sophisticated understanding of their lead, they’ll know how to provide a better customer experience and ultimately convert their prospects.

“With a sophisticated sales qualification process, you can ensure you’re not wasting your team’s time”

Defining SQLs empowers sales teams to be their most efficient and effective by making sure leads are already warm and have the potential to convert. With a sophisticated sales qualification process, you can ensure you’re not wasting your team’s time — or that of your potential customers. 

Why it’s important to track and convert sales leads

It’s important to track prospective customers through each stage of the sales funnel. This helps companies calculate sales conversion rate and see if there’s a point at which potential customers leave the funnel before becoming buyers. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to adapt the customer journey to proactively prevent leads from dropping off and deploy strategies to re-engage those who have.

For example, if your sales team fails to convert a large percentage of its SQLs, clearly something is amiss. Either the sales strategy isn’t working and customers aren’t seeing value in the product or service, or there may be an issue with how you’re qualifying leads. Either way, if your team isn’t converting a large percentage of SQLs, you know it’s time to revisit the prospective customer journey and identify how you can more effectively and efficiently drive conversions. 

An important point in the customer journey, a company’s success at the sales-qualified lead stage can provide insights into how successful its overall sales strategy is.