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MQL to SQL: How to hand off leads from marketing to sales

Not all leads you get are at the same stage of your funnel. As you get leads from different sources, they all may have different purposes.

Some are just visiting your website or social media channels to gain information; some know their problems and are actively looking for answers (MQLs). On other hand, some may consider your product or service as a solution to their problems (SQLs). The first two types are warmed up to become the third type, and finally, a paying customer.

However, knowing how and when your marketing team should hand off a lead to the sales team is crucial.

In this blog post, we’ll look into a few actionable tips that can result in the smooth conversion of your marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to sales qualified leads (SQLs) and then to a buyer.

Understanding MQL vs. SQL

Before you convert an MQL into SQL, it’s critical to understand the difference between the two and their role. This way, you can know who’s interested in your content and who’s interested in purchasing your product or service.

If you send all leads directly to the sales team to qualify for themselves, it can negatively impact the bottom line. In fact, it can result in a massive waste of resources.

When hot leads aren’t handed off immediately, it can result in lost revenue and high-potential leads to competitors.

In a nutshell, knowing the clear distinctions between the two terms is the foundation of the lead handoff process.

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) are in the early stage of their buyer journey. They know about their challenges but are not ready to buy. However, they are constantly searching for answers and can probably see your product or service as a solution to their pain points — only when appropriately nurtured.

On the other hand, sales qualified leads (SQLs) understand their pain points and consider your product or service as a solution to them. They may be at a stage where they are comparing different options and can turn into your customers — if provided with the right information and incentives.

MQL vs SQL: Handing over the leads from MQL to SQL


Analyze the indicators  

Now that you know the basic definition of MQLs and SQLs, it’s time to look at a few elements determining when an MQL becomes an SQL. This can help you understand whether a lead is ready to talk to sales reps and avoid a disconnect between marketing and sales.

1. Lead behavior 

One of the most crucial factors in deciding when an MQL becomes SQL is their interest in your brand or how they engage with your content or website. Marketing and sales teams must determine which actions qualify a lead as ready to move down the funnel. In other words, they’ll decide the weight that a particular action carries.

For example, these actions could be responding to a message, signing up for a demo, or booking a meeting with the sales rep. Here, you can assign higher points to booking a meeting rather than responding to a message.

Without weighing a lead’s actions, your marketing team might forward non-important leads that aren’t ready to buy, slowing down your sales team.

Here are a few things you can consider a lead’s interest:

  • Number of visits: first-time or repeat
  • Conversion count — for example, the number of times they filled out an inquiry form, etc. 
  • Their stage in the buyer journey as determined by the content they consume, such as basic contact or pricing information
  • Channels the leads came from, such as Google search, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.  
  • Negative actions, like reduced engagement with your content, etc. 

2. Lead scoring 

Lead scoring is another way to group your leads into MQLs and SQLs. It is the process of assigning values or numerical points to each lead you generate for your business based on their specific actions on your website, emails, or social media channels.

Here are some examples of actions with associated points: 

  • Visited the about us page: – 5 points 
  • Visited the blog page: – 5 points 
  • Clicked on an advertisement that directs them to your website: + 5 points
  • Visited the pricing page: + 10 points
  • Checked the knowledge base or FAQs helpful for customers: – 5 points
  • Downloaded a case study or a technical white paper: +5 points  
MQL and SQL lead levels


This helps companies prioritize leads, reach out to them appropriately, and develop a sales strategy that can help convert high-quality leads into customers. Further, it allows reps to interact with leads that actually want to talk and are interested in your product or service. 

However, lead scoring requires manual maintenance that might not be worth the potential benefits. So, before you implement this process, determine whether or not it is essential in your handoff process. 

3. Lead demographics 

If you have a lead that matches your ideal customer profile, you may want to hand it off to your sales team for a quick follow-up. Here are a few demographics you must consider when evaluating your lead as MQL or SQL:

  • Industry 
  • Company size or employee count 
  • Lead’s job title 
  • Company revenue 
  • Percentage of remote and in-office workers 
  • Company location – physical or fully-remote  
  • Existing tech stacks 
  • Lead source  
  • Whether the company is public or privately held 
  • Lead’s level of engagement with your brand 

4. Define SLAs  

To reap the benefits of sales-marketing collaboration, you need to develop a sales-level agreement (SLA) that documents the overall handoff process between marketing and sales as well as lays out their goals and what steps they’ll take to contribute to those goals. 

It should also consist of the definitions of MQL, SQL, and each stage of the customer’s journey. In short, it should have everything you need for figuring out whether a prospect is an SQL or MQL, resulting in a smooth handoff process.

An SLA defines the following: 

  • Number of leads that the marketing team must supply to the sales department. 
  • Number of leads that the sales team will convert into paying customers 

However, make sure to modify the SLA at least once a month or quarter to keep pace with business growth. 

5. Get your timing right  

When it comes to handing off MQL to the sales team, timing plays a crucial role. You can have the smoothest handoff process, but you’re more likely to fail in converting a lead if your timing isn’t right. 

If leads are transferred to the sales team too early, the sales reps will waste their time with leads who haven’t decided to move down the sales funnel or aren’t ready to buy your product or service. On the other hand, if leads are transferred too late, the chances of losing potential leads will boost dramatically, impacting your sales figures. 

Hence, both the marketing and sales team should decide the right time for the handoff process. Further, make sure to update the timing frequently to meet the changing sales funnel requirements and company needs — as your business grows and expands over time. 

6. Develop a repeatable process  

Now that you have defined what MQL and SQL are, created an SLA for a seamless process, and decided the right handoff time, the next step is to develop a repeatable handoff process. After all, you don’t want to lose a valuable lead while moving them from marketing to sales. 

Put together a set of guidelines that explains what your handoff process should look like. This may contain instructions like who can hand off leads in marketing and who can receive them in the sales department.

Further, you can also add how the leads will be moved from one team to another — via email, spreadsheets, or marketing automation tools.

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7. Discuss and adjust  

Achieving high revenue growth requires a smooth transition of leads from marketing to sales department. Done right, you’ll hit your goals, but if done wrong, you might lose a lot of potential sales. 

It might take time to leverage the tips mentioned above correctly. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure your marketing and sales team meet on a weekly or monthly basis to discuss each other’s input and problems while implementing these steps. And don’t be afraid to adjust the process when needed. 

Wrapping up 

Understanding MQL vs SQL and handing off the lead at right time is really crucial as organizations worldwide spend tons of resources trying to attract leads to their business. 

By ensuring your marketing and sales team are on the same page, your company’s employees can work together to convert your leads into customers and make them stay with your brand. 

If your marketing team identifies a high-quality lead, it can handoff it to sales reps after a lead’s first interaction with your business. Once the sales team has the information about this lead, it can take steps to nurture them accordingly. Not only does it save their time and resources, but it also prevents a potential buyer from having a frustrating experience. 


Raaquib is an SEO and content marketing specialist with expertise in providing insights into the latest sales and marketing paradigms. He works closely with Salesmate CRM team to help businesses prevail in growing their brand presence and get a spike in their organic traffic curve.

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