SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)

What is an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)?

A Sales Qualified Lead – also known as an SQL – is a type of lead that the marketing team have deemed as worthy of investigation as it has high potential of conversion. The lead has entered the sales cycle at the top of the funnel – showing interest in the marketing collateral at some stage – and has expressed clear interest in engaging further with the business. 


  • qualified sales lead
  • sales accepted lead

The SQL Stage of the Sales Pipeline

A sales qualified lead falls somewhere in the middle of the traditional sales funnel. This prospective client has moved out of the entry phase of the funnel, where they were introduced to the business through marketing functions, but has not yet become a customer of the business. 

This type of lead has been engaged by the marketing team and has shown some sort of formal interest in the business’s offering. 

This could be in the form of filling in a contact form or sending an email inquiry. If you were to look at an SQL in terms of their position in the sales funnel, they’d fall into the stage just after an MQL – or marketing qualified lead.

The Difference Between MQL, SQL, and Opportunity

To understand the difference between an MQL, an SQL and an Opportunity, let’s first understand what each of these lead types are in their own right. 

1. Marketing Qualified Lead

An MQL is a lead who has expressed interest in what your business offers based on marketing efforts. In essence, a MQL would have been introduced to your products or services through your marketing department when looking for a solution to an existing problem in their business and now have the potential to be moved further down in your business’ buyer journey. 

2. Sales Qualified Lead

In the sales process, MQLs become SQLs once that have been qualified by more than just their behavior on your website. Most companies – depending on the size of their sales team – qualify a lead as an SQL when they have managed to gather certain information from them, like their name, role, pain points and the solution they’re seeking. This better equips the sales force to meet with and sell the lead a solution that they know fits their need. 

3. Opportunity

According to Sales Odyssey, there are 4-steps between a lead and an opportunity:

  • Step 1: Sales team acquire leads – often through marketing efforts 
  • Step 2: The leads are qualified using criteria set out by the sales team
  • Step 3: The qualified leads become prospective clients as they’ve shown a need for a solution 
  • Step 4: Prospects who have now supplied insight and information to the sales team, now become opportunities

With the above in mind, it becomes clear that the role of the marketing department is to attract and make leads aware of a need or gap they need to fill – which moves them into the top of the sales process. 

From there, it’s the responsibility of the sales team to nurture these leads by giving them the information they need to convert them to MQLs, workshop next steps and solutions with them to convert them to SQLs and then take the time to ensure the prospective client sees the benefit from converting, which transforms them to customers of the business. 

Finding and Converting Sales Qualified Leads

How to Find SQLs

It’s pivotal for your B2B sales list to only contain contacts that your business will benefit from and are potential customers that you want to work with. Taking time to build out a view of your ideal potential audience is step 1 to finding – and converting – sales qualified leads. 

Another key way for businesses to decide who to contact first – and who not to contact at all – is lead scoring. Lead scoring refers to how sales and marketing teams rank their leads based on different attributes and criteria in order to assess their readiness to buy. Depending on where they fall on this scale, your sales team will know how much effort is required to convert these potential customers. 

How to Qualify Sales Leads

Simply put, sales qualification is the process used to determine whether or not a lead or prospect is a good fit for your product or service. Hubspot states that the process of ‘Qualify your Sales Leads’ is fundamental as it can help you significantly improve your close ratio

In the sales process, a business is sure to come across various types of leads – MQLs, SQLs, opportunities, unqualified leads etc. – but knowing how to distinguish between these types is where it can get tricky. Once a leads list is built out, these leads need to be fed into a lead qualification framework, where they’ll be asked a series of questions to help determine whether or not the opportunity to convert is there – and is worth the effort.

Best Practices for Qualifying Sales Leads

2018 HubSpot Report revealed that sales reps saw the prospecting stage to be one the most difficult within the entire sales process. Because prospecting is fundamental for the success of your sales process, it’s important to get this element right.

  1. Back to Basics 
    When developing a lead scoring framework, try not to overcomplicate it. Start by getting the prospective client to unpack what their concern is and take it from there. If their concern or need is not something you can assist with, you immediately know to focus on other leads. 
  1. Tailor Your Lead Scoring Per Product 
    If your business has 5 key products or services on offer, you should ideally have 5 lead scoring frameworks to match these products. This is based on the notion that if one product piques the interest of a potential customer it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be interested in another product, making it crucial to understand their needs and how they can be met by each product on offer. 
  1. Sales Team Involvement 
    Recent studies have shown that around 90% of companies who have aligned their marketing and sales’ lead generation activities will see a marked leap in type of lead which develops into a real opportunity. Getting your sales team involved from the get-go is fundamental for their buy-in and ability to convert customers. 

How to Improve the Lead Qualification Process

Sales qualification is a crucial step in every sales process as it has the ability to save time wasted on unqualified leads. Evaluating and finding ways to improve your lead qualification process should be an ongoing task. has identified 5 keys ways to qualify your leads: 

  1. Identify the business problem 
  2. Unpack why they’re looking for a solution at this point 
  3. Determine the project budget 
  4. Find out the decision-making process 
  5. Work out any potential issues or obstacles upfront 

People Also Ask

Why do SQLs matter?

SQLs are qualified leads and have the potential to turn into customers, where they can then be nurtured and grown for years to come. By taking time and investing in your MQLs, your sales team will be able to build out a list of qualified leads who match qualifying criteria. 

How is a sales qualified lead determined?

An SQL is a prospective customer who has shared certain information, deeming them worthy of further engagement. This process occurs when the marketing and sales teams work to understand the customer, their needs and how the business can meet their needs. In essence, the teams working with the lead have identified the lead as ready for the next step in the sales funnel. 

How does an MQL become an SQL?

An MQL becomes an SQL when the sales team is able to investigate and find out key information about the lead to determine whether or not there is a gap that needs to be filled by a solution on offer. 

Who should qualify leads?

The sales team and marketing team should work together to best understand which leads should be pursued and which shouldn’t. Using a framework to understand key factors around each, the teams should work to find out which leads offer the best opportunity.