Why Marketing is Now Responsible for SQLs Instead of MQLs
By Debra Harrsch
Lately, we’ve seen that marketing departments are now responsible not only for generating marketing qualified leads (MQLs) but also sales qualified leads (SQLs). While every company is different, there are certainly growing trends redefining the relationship between marketing and sales.
Although it does happen occasionally, it’s exceptionally rare for marketing to deliver a lead that’s ready to buy without interaction from sales teams. However, as companies move towards digital marketing and sales, many have started to blur the lines between roles.
It can be a challenge.
The Traditional Role of Marketing
Typically, leads come in two flavors: junk leads and MQLs. Junk leads have no value and can be quickly eliminated. MQLs, however, usually require a fair degree of nurturing to get them until the point they turn into SQLs. That’s the traditional function of marketing teams.
Once a prospect sends a buying signal, such as asking for a demo or a quote, they’re ready to talk to somebody. As a potential customer moves through the buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration to buy, it takes a different skill set to close deals.
In life science industries, there’s a heavier lift, however. Tech and pharma companies are buying big-ticket items and often have questions or need specific information to move forward. Skilled sales teams are best equipped to answer these questions, provide the information, and even customize deals.
The New Sales & Marketing Alignment
In practice, marketing and sales need to be aligned. Here are two statistics that show the power of alignment:
- 87% of marketing and sales leaders say it’s collaboration that fuels critical business growth.
- Conversely, 60% of sales and marketing teams believe misalignment causes financial damage.
Alignment is not a given. Nine in ten marketing and sales teams say there is a disconnect across strategy, process, content, or culture when it comes to alignment.
Think about the way a typical prospect comes to your company and advances through the buyer’s journey. There are several steps and it is marketing’s job to get them to move to each new stage until they are ready to convert.
- Prospects come to your website or landing page.
- They might provide their email to access a whitepaper or register for a webinar.
- Prospects become MQLs.
- Marketing automation kicks in to keep track of all of the prospect’s touchpoints and deliver relevant content designed to drive them through the buyer’s journey as part of your lead nurturing program.
- As prospects continue to interact with you, you are constantly monitoring for buying signals that say it’s time to involve sales.
- When prospects send the right signals, such as asking for a demo, it becomes a SQL.
However, marketing’s job isn’t done at this stage. Besides letting potential customers know, “Thanks for signing up for the demo,” additional new nurturing sequences are launched. There are reminders and new messaging trees that queue up relevant information based on their behavior.
You might program your automation platform to send out a whitepaper based on the demo, for example, or to follow up. Because you are tracking behavior, you know whether they opened the email and engaged with the content. If not, you might send another message with a different subject line. This sequence continues until you decide there’s no further benefit.
Even while prospects are waiting for a demo, you don’t want them to stop thinking about your products or solutions. Your nurturing sequence may have branched off because of their demo request, but it shouldn’t stop. Maybe you’ll send a case study or a thought leadership piece at this point to keep them engaged and keep your company top of mind – and keep them moving towards the end goal.
Marketing Doesn’t Stop at the Purchase Stage
Even after a prospect buys, marketing continues. The salesperson will try to maintain and build the relationship for future sales, but marketing needs to continue to nurture your current customers. You might create a newsletter or send out links to blog posts or press releases.
Newsletters are a great way to keep your company top of mind. It’s fairly simple to do since you can aggregate much of the content you’ve already developed. For example, you can pull together your press releases, most current blog posts, product information, videos, and bundle them into an email to get additional exposure.
When customers remain engaged, it keeps awareness high. The marketing focus shifts to making them aware of other products and services and driving them right back to the consideration phase and then, ultimately, into the buying stage.
That’s why the sales funnel is outdated. In the sales funnel, leads go in at the top and come out as customers at the bottom. In today’s B2B environment, the customer journey is more like a circle where you drive customers through the buyer’s journey and then bring them right back to the start to encourage future sales.
Success is about managing the entire customer lifecycle
This new iteration of the lifecycle continues to blur the lines between marketing and sales, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Alignment is key to success, and the lifecycle has forced sales and marketing to work together to create more seamless and targeted results.
The goal for marketing and sales is to keep your customers engaged and satisfied. You need to make sure they know what’s coming out and why it’s important, such as what problems you’re solving by updating their software or a new asset for their instrument in the case of the clinical market.
While finding new prospects is always essential, making sure you’re taking care of your existing customers is crucial.
Higher Quality SQLs
There was a time when marketers threw everything over the fence and delivered lists of leads for sales, regardless of the quality. Sales teams were forced to spend time evaluating leads. As we’ve become more sophisticated about our marketing, we all realize this is a waste of time for sales reps. New marketing tools have helped us sort the leads and provide the highest-value leads and SQLs for sales.
These tools and new processes create a more efficient marketing system. Is marketing now responsible for SQLs? In essence, they always have been.
Brandwidth Solutions serves the healthcare, life sciences, technology, and contract pharma industries. We work with companies that want to make the most of their marketing – who want their marketing empowered to help drive leads – and ultimately sales. If you want to move your product or service forward in a smart way, we want to work with you. Call us at 215.997.8575.