Qualified Leads

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What are qualified leads explained. SmartReach glossary

Qualified leads are the shortcut to sales success. They represent not just the potential customers, but individuals who have been carefully assessed and deemed ready to engage with a brand. 

In this article, we’ll discuss:

👉 What are the qualified leads
👉 Qualified lead v/s unqualified leads – what are the differences between them
👉 What are the different types of qualified leads
👉 What are sales qualified leads v/s marketing qualified leads
👉 How to get qualified leads
👉 How to qualify leads 

So, let’s get started.

What are the qualified leads? 

Qualified leads are the persons or businesses (in some cases both) that express interest in a product or service and meet specific criteria for buying that product or service.

These criteria are typically based on factors such as their authority to make purchasing decisions, budget compatibility, and a clear need for the offering, ensuring they are not merely potential contacts but probable customers.

Qualified leads v/s Unqualified leads: How do they differ ? 

Unlike qualified leads, unqualified leads are the prospects who have shown some level of interest in a product or service but are not ready to buy them. 

These leads may lack the budget, authority, or genuine need for the offering, making them less likely to convert into customers without additional nurturing and qualification. 

Let’s see how they both differ from the POV of a sales process.

FactorsQualified leadsUnqualified leads
Interest levelHave shown a clear interest and engagement with the product or service.May have shown initial interest but lack sustained engagement.
Criteria fitmentMeet specific criteria such as budget, authority, and need, making them ideal prospects.Do not meet all the essential criteria, making them less likely to convert.
Sales readinessAre ready to consider a purchase Are not ready for a sales discussion or purchase, often requiring further nurturing.
Information availabilityHave provided contact information and have their needs assessed accurately.Often lack complete information, making it difficult to assess their potential.
Buying authorityPossess the authority or are part of the decision-making process in their organization.Lack the authority to make purchasing decisions, leading to a longer sales cycle.
Business needHave a defined need that the product or service can address effectively.May not have a well-defined need or one that the product/service can fulfill.
Conversion probabilityHigh likelihood of progressing through the sales funnel to become customers.Low likelihood of conversion, often requiring more time and resources.

What are the different types of qualified leads? 

There are 3 types of qualified leads:

  • Sales Qualified leads (SQL)
  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)
  • Product Qualified Leads (PQL)

Let’s understand each one of them in detail. 

Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)

A sales qualified lead (SQL) is a prospect who has been thoroughly evaluated by the sales team and is considered to be willing to purchase your offered product/service. The prospect can be a business(for B2B sales) or an individual person(for B2C sales). 

These prospects are assessed against the criteria such as their budget, decision-making authority, and a genuine need for the solution you’re offering. 

By focusing on SQLs, a sales team can allocate their resources more effectively, nurturing these leads with personalized attention and a tailored approach that addresses their specific needs and pain points. This ultimately guides them to a successful purchase for your product or service.

For more detailed information on SQL, check out 👇

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Qualified Leads in 2024


Let’s understand how SQL works. 

Take the example of SmartReach.io, a B2B SaaS platform offering sales enablement software to B2B businesses. A sales qualified lead (SQL) for us would be a sales leader, CEO(depending on the size of the organization) or even an agency owner who has attended our product demo with our sales reps and is ready to subscribe to one of our smartreach plans. 

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL)

A marketing qualified lead (MQL) is also a prospect who has shown a level of interest in a company’s products or services with strong buying intent. These leads usually interact first with a company’s marketing efforts, such as engaging with content, downloading resources, which signal a potential readiness to move further down the sales funnel. 

Unlike casual browsers, an MQL has taken active steps that sug

gest they are considering a purchase, like providing contact information or engaging with online chat support. 

MQLs are important for businesses as it allows the marketing team to focus on nurturing these leads with more targeted content and communications, increasing the chances of converting them into sales qualified leads (SQLs), and eventually, closing the sale with them. 


Here’s how MQL works.

Imagine a regional sales manager from a mid-sized tech firm visits your website after seeing your Google search ads. He spends some time on your features pages, and then downloads a sales resource by putting his contact information such as company name, email, position, company size, annual revenue etc . His engagement shows a clear interest in your solutions, qualifying them as an MQL for your sales team to pursue later. 

Product Qualified Leads (PQL)

Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) are prospects who have used your product, typically through a free trial or a freemium model, and have shown a clear intent to purchase your product. PQLs are getting more popular these days for SaaS businesses.

Unlike MQLs, PQLs are evaluated on the actual value they derive using a product and their fitment to the product use case.


In B2B SaaS, a PQL can be a sales team leader who has extensively used your sales engagement software during a trial period and has reached out to customer support with custom requirements for his team. This indicates a readiness to shift to a paid plan of the product.

SQL v/s MQL: What are the main differences between them?

Here’s how SQL and MQL differ in a business environment.

Level of engagementEngages with marketing content such as webinar, e-book downloads, ads etc.Engages with sales reps usually through product demo, talk-to-sales calls etc.
Sales funnel positionEarlier stage, showing interest but not ready to purchase.Later stage, indicating a readiness to discuss purchase.
Prospect intentInterested in learning more, still in the decision making processReady to discuss specifics and moving towards making a purchase.
IndicatorsFilling out contact forms, downloading free content, joining webinars etc.Pricing quotation request, specific product questions etc.
NurturingRequires further nurturing through targeted content and follow-ups to move down the funnel.Ready for direct sales contact and discussions about the product or service offerings.

How to get qualified leads? 

To get qualified leads for sales, follow the step-by-step process given below. This is especially helpful for the B2B businesses looking for creating their first GTM strategy:

1. Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

The first step  to finding qualified leads is to identify who can buy from you. Create a clear, defined customer profile which involves a thorough analysis of various characteristics such as age, income, lifestyle, consumer habits, aspirations, obstacles, and specific issues your prospects may encounter. 

Leverage tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Crunchbase, Apollo.io to find detailed information on your ICP’s industry, company size, location etc.

While developing an ICP, try to find the answer to the following questions:

– What is their unique challenge?
– How are they trying to solve it today?
– How can your solution help?
– How is your solution different from the alternative?
– What are their goals (how do they look good to their boss) ?
– How can you help them hit their goals or overcome their challenges?
– What is the best way to explain the value of your solution to this buyer?

By understanding these facets, you can refine your audience, categorize your market segments, and customize your communication to resonate with their unique requirements and interests. 

This strategic approach ensures your marketing and sales efforts are focused, aligned and impactful.

2. Diversify your lead generation channels

The second step is to apply a diverse range of channels to attract and engage your prospects. This may include both digital and traditional methods. Try to include a mix of the strategies such as personalized email campaigns, social media engagement, Video content creation, interactive webinars, podcasts, search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, networking events, personal referrals, and even direct outreach like cold calls. This helps you find both SQLs and MQLs.

The challenge here is to continually evaluate and refine the performance of these methods, ensuring they are fine-tuned for maximum efficacy.

Moreover, it’s crucial to synchronize these methods with the stages of your buyer’s journey, delivering relevant and specific content that addresses their specific needs at each touchpoint. 

By doing so, you create a cohesive and persuasive narrative that guides potential leads through the conversion funnel with greater precision and effectiveness.

💡Tip: Build an email list by giving away some valuable resource in exchange of the email addresses. 

3. Qualify your leads with a lead scoring system

The third step in finding the right qualified leads is to qualify your leads with the right lead scoring system. This helps in the assessment of the lead quality. (whether to spend time on the lead or it’s not worth it)

This technique involves assigning numerical points for various lead interactions and behaviors, such as email engagement, webpage visits, resource downloads, form submissions, and demo requests. A higher number indicates a more promising lead. 

Utilize a CRM or any other type of marketing automation software to streamline this lead scoring . This helps you set specific benchmarks and point thresholds to gauge lead readiness and predict your sales pipeline better. 

4. Nurture your leads thoroughly

The fourth step to nurture your leads is by educating them and engaging them through your content, offers etc. You may try email marketing, informative videos and newsletters to build trust, rapport and engagement with your leads. Remember, the more they engage with your content, the closer they are to the purchase decision. 

Create and offer free content for the leads, based on their interests, needs, and stage in the buyer’s journey. Pivot your content in 4 dimensions – educational, entertaining, informative and persuasive to effectively convert your leads into buyers. 

💡Tip: Use case-study driven emails with clear CTA to nurture leads as they tend to be the most effective in terms of conversion.

5. Follow up consistently with the leads

The fifth step is all about consistent and prompt follow-ups with the leads. As soon as your prospects engage or interact with your product/service, follow up with them. There is a saying in sales that ‘time kills deals’ – keep it in mind. 

Even after the 1st follow-up, don’t stop. Keep the conversation going with them. In most B2B email conversations a prospect may need as much as 8 follow-ups to be ready to buy from you. 

Use emails, phone calls, LinkedIn or even social media channels such as Whatsapp to follow them up. You can do it manually or may opt for a sales engagement platform like smartreach.io to automate timely follow-ups across all the different channels.

Make sure that the sales and marketing coordination is smooth and transparent to enable the marketing team to forward the MQLs to your sales team as quickly as possible. 

6. Track and analyze your lead generation status

The last step in getting good leads is to keep an eye on your results. You need to check how well your lead generation initiatives are going. Look at factors such as:

  • the number of leads you get from different channels (both SQL and MQL), 
  • how good they are (in terms of lead scoring)
  • conversion rate (how many of them purchased),
  • the cost of acquiring each lead,ROI, and 
  • their lifetime value for your business.

Also, consider their feedback on your product/service. With these activities, you can find out what you’re doing right and what needs work, and improve your lead-search.

📖 Bonus Read: How to Increase Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)? MQL Vs SQL

7 tips to qualify your B2B leads better next time

Here are the 7 tips you can try to qualify the B2B leads better –

#1 Identify the prospect’s needs and challenges.

Start the lead qualification process by pinpointing the exact requirements of your prospects. Determine if your product/service aligns with their challenges and business needs. This targeted approach ensures you engage leads who have a real potential for conversion.

#2 Find their budget compatibilty. 

This is one of the many factors of the popular lead qualification framework BANT. Evaluate the financial capacity of your leads early in the engagement. Confirm if they have the means to invest in your solutions. It saves you time and effort from those follow-ups. 

#3 Engage with the right decision makers of the business.

Direct your efforts towards leads who hold the authority to make purchasing decisions of a business. This not only saves time but also increases the likelihood of closing deals as you’re interacting with the right individuals.

💡Tip: You may use a tool like ProspectDaddy to scrape through the contact information of the decision makers directly from LinkedIn.

#4 Keep track of lead interactions.

Keep a track of how leads interact with your marketing and sales efforts. Activities such as multiple content downloads from your website, engaging with your social media content and email replies are strong indicators of a lead’s interest and readiness to engage further.

#5 Implement a lead scoring mechanism.

Implement a lead scoring system that assigns value to specific actions of the prospects. It indicates buying interest. This method is also helpful for sales reps in prioritizing leads that show a higher propensity to move forward in the sales cycle.

#6 Ensure that sales and marketing is coordinated.

Ensure that your sales and marketing team is in sync with the lead generation process you have adopted. Also, make sure there is a consensus between sales and marketing in terms of what will be considered a qualified lead and how it will be pushed for the conversion. 

#7 Revisit and refine your lead qualification process often.

Regularly revisit and adjust your lead qualification criteria based on ongoing sales performance data, lead behavior trends, industry trends etc. This dynamic approach keeps your qualification process relevant and effective.

Final thoughts

Wrapping up our discussion on qualified leads, it’s clear that the successful lead qualification has the potential to change the B2B sales numbers. A well-tuned process not only saves time but also ensures that your sales team is working with leads that have a higher likelihood of conversion.

Keep your methods flexible, stay attuned to feedback, and continuously refine your approach. By doing so, you’ll improve the sales growth and build a robust, results-driven B2B marketing strategy. 

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