Sales glossarySQL (sales qualified lead)

What is an SQL (sales qualified lead)?

Busy? Here's the short answer:

An SQL (Sales qualified lead) is a potential customer that has shown buying intent & interest and has been identified as qualified to convert into a paying customer. The marketing will hand off an SQL to the sales team to close the deal.

What is SQL (Sales Qualified Lead)?

An SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) is a potential customer who has demonstrated a clear interest in a product or service and is deemed qualified to move further down the sales funnel. This lead has shown buying intent and meets specific criteria that make them a promising prospect for conversion into a paying customer. Once marketing identifies an SQL, it is handed off to the sales team to engage and work towards closing the deal.

Key Takeaways

  • An SQL is a potential customer who has displayed buying intent and is qualified for the sales process.
  • Marketing identifies and hands off SQLs to the sales team for further engagement.
  • The sales team focuses on nurturing and closing SQLs to convert them into paying customers.

Understanding SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) in Detail

The process of identifying SQLs involves evaluating a prospect's interactions with the company and their engagement with marketing efforts. Here's how an SQL is typically determined:

  1. Lead Generation: The journey begins with lead generation. Marketing teams use various strategies like content marketing, social media campaigns, and webinars to attract potential customers to the company's offerings.

  2. Lead Capture: Once leads show interest, they provide their contact information through forms, subscriptions, or other means, allowing the company to start engaging with them.

  3. Lead Scoring: Lead scoring is a critical step in determining an SQL. The company assigns points to various prospect interactions based on their behavior and characteristics. For example, engaging with high-value content might earn more points than basic website visits.

  4. Qualification Criteria: Companies set specific criteria for what qualifies as an SQL. This might include factors like the prospect's job title, company size, budget, or specific actions they've taken, such as requesting a demo or downloading a product brochure.

  5. Marketing and Sales Alignment: Effective communication and collaboration between marketing and sales teams are essential. Once a lead reaches the qualification threshold, marketing hands off the lead to sales.

  6. Sales Engagement: The sales team takes over and engages with the SQL. They use personalized approaches, addressing the prospect's specific needs and pain points.

  7. Nurturing and Conversion: The sales team nurtures the SQL through the sales process, providing information and addressing objections. The ultimate goal is to convert the SQL into a paying customer.

Real-Life Example of SQL in Action

Imagine you work for a software company that develops project management tools. A prospect named John downloads a whitepaper about effective project management from your company's website. This action earns him a few lead scoring points. Over the next few days, John explores your product page, watches a demo video, and signs up for a free trial—all of which add more lead scoring points.

Based on the lead scoring criteria, John has accumulated enough points to be considered an SQL. Your marketing team reviews his engagement and confirms that he meets the qualification criteria: He is a project manager at a mid-sized company looking for project management software.

The marketing team then hands off John as an SQL to the sales team. A sales representative reaches out to John, offering a personalized demo and addressing his specific project management needs. Through nurturing and discussions, the sales representative helps John understand how your software can benefit his team.

As a result, John is impressed with the product's capabilities and decides to purchase the software, becoming a paying customer. The process of identifying John as an SQL and effectively converting him into a customer demonstrates the power of an SQL in the sales process.


Q1: Can SQLs come from different sources?

Yes, SQLs can come from various sources, including website sign-ups, webinar registrations, content downloads, and more. Any prospect that shows buying intent and meets the qualification criteria can be considered an SQL.

Q2: How important is lead scoring in identifying SQLs?

Lead scoring is crucial in identifying SQLs as it helps prioritize prospects based on their engagement level and potential value to the company. It enables marketing and sales teams to focus their efforts on the most promising leads.

Q3: What happens if an SQL does not convert into a customer?

Not all SQLs will convert into customers immediately. Some may require more nurturing and follow-ups to make a purchasing decision. The sales team may continue to engage with such leads until they are ready to make a buying decision.

In conclusion, an SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) is a valuable prospect who has demonstrated buying intent and meets specific qualification criteria. The process of identifying SQLs involves lead scoring, marketing and sales alignment, and personalized engagement. By focusing efforts on SQLs, companies can increase their chances of converting prospects into loyal paying customers.

Related terms...

Lead routing

"Lead routing" is he process of directing potential customers, or leads, to the right salesperson or team in a company. The goal is to make sure each lead gets handled by the best person for the job, improving the chances of turning them into customers

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Lead qualification

"Lead qualification" is the process of figuring out if a potential customer is a good fit for the company. It involves checking if they're genuinely interested, have the budget and authority to buy, and match the company's offerings. The goal is to focus the sales team on leads with the best chances of becoming successful sales, saving time and resources.

Learn more

Lead scoring

Lead scoring is a method to rank potential customers, or leads, to find the most promising leads based on factors like interest and engagement (for example, website visits or email responses).

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MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead)

MQL stands for "Marketing Qualified Lead." It's a potential customer who the marketing team thinks is likely interested in the company's product or service and could convert with proper nurturing.

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Lead generation

Lead generation is the process of identifying and attracting potential customers for a business. The goal is to convert prospects into a qualified leads that can be nurtured and converted into customers.

Learn more

All terms

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