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The Digital Utopia Podcast Episode #39

Bottlenecks Impacting MQLs, SQLs, and Opportunities

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Episode #39

 

About the podcast

The Digital Utopia Podcast is for SMB Marketers and Business Leaders looking to align their Marketing, Sales, and Service departments so they’re part of one powerhouse growth team.

Each episode will dive into the strategies, philosophies, and tools that will change your approach to organizational growth, give you renewed focus and clarity, and allow you to build a brand that not only helps you stand out—but win.

The Digital Utopia Podcast is produced by Digitopia and hosted by Frank Cowell and Joseph Freeman.

Episode transcription

Frank  
Hey, gang, welcome to the digital utopia podcast episode 39. I'm your host, Frank Cowell. And I'm joined by my co-host, 
 
Joe  
Joseph Freeman. 
 
Frank  
Today's fun because we're doing this on a new platform. We're going to be incorporating video. So you might see some of the video from this show start to come out. And I'm super excited about it. It's just dorky nerdy tech stuff. No reason to share that with you other than I'm super excited. 
 
Joe  
And it's fun. It is fun. And you look particularly good today. I mean, you look like you just got out of the gym, maybe karate in someone I think that's a say that don't 
 
Frank  
I don't do karate. You know this, Joe, you have it. You 
 
Joe  
don't know this, and you have a nice haircut. So I think we're ready to roll here. 
 
Frank  
Yeah, let's talk about the transition from MQL to SQL to opportunity. I want to dive into the nuances of that today. Because I think what we're discovering as we talk to people in the marketplace, is there's a lot of process or lack thereof going on, that is creating a lot of opportunity left on the table, due to what I'm going to kind of sum up as like laziness, oh, yeah, I'm gonna throw that out there. But the gauntlet has been thrown down, I'm calling a lot of people lazy. But if you're listening today, and you're responsible for the outcome of that process, you're you're the head of sales, or you're the CEO, and you're the one responsible ultimately for the flow to turn into customers to turn into revenue. Let's talk about that. Today, we're talking about some of the things that are causing that flow, to not be as optimized as it can be. So jump in, let's talk about first the logistics of MQL what that means, let's get out of acronym world, let's make sure our listeners understand what that is and why that's important. And then let's talk about that transition as it is happening today. And then what the fix is for that. 
 
Joe  
Yeah, and maybe some context would help here too. So as we work through with different, you know, companies that work through their different lifecycle stage mapping, so understanding and agreeing upon what is a lead? What is an MQL marketing, qualified lead? How do we all define this as individuals within our organization? And how does this matter to the organization, or finding a lot of individuals putting in their two cents around how it makes life easier for them? And how do I explain this? So as they start to create definitions around what's qualified and who wants to buy, who do I actually want to talk to, and who would I want to send back to the marketing team so that they can nurture the more, we're finding that people are making decisions based on what's easiest for their day to day as the salesperson, and that is not really the right lens, what we want to be doing is making it easier for the customer or the prospect to purchase. And so if we're making choices about who gets nurtured and who gets talked to based on what's easiest for me, in my day, we actually back to your point, Frank are leaving a lot on the table in terms of who could be ready to talk if we were just a little bit more proactive in reaching out to them at different times. So that's where this came from. And so now, if we break down the MQL, SQL opportunity lifecycle stages, I think we'll start to uncover what, maybe even in your organization, you hear a lot, and maybe a new way to look at things. 
 
Frank  
So I think one of the interesting things you said when we were talking before we started recording this episode, is you said there was a particular company you're talking to where the salesperson said, Well, if they're SQL, but they're not ready to buy SQL being sales, qualified lead, meaning they have budget, authority and need, but they don't have timing, that that person would like them to just be go back to SQL status. And when the they're ready, they're gonna reach out, and then you'll sell them at that time, but you don't, you don't want to have them in your worldview. This is the salesperson the huge problem there is and you mentioned this is that's all fine and good. And you think they're gonna reach out and you think they're gonna remember you just because they're getting your company's nurturing emails. But the problem is, is someone's gonna swoop in and whisper sweet nothings in their ear. And that that's someone is your competitor, that your competitor, absolutely, will be wanting to nurture them. One to One personally. And so when that person is ready to buy, they're not going to say, Oh, wait, you know what? This guy Jimmy that I talked to, you know, seven months ago, who I just vividly remember, every day when I come into the office, let me give him a try, that's not going to happen. 
 
Joe  
Well, it's worse, they're not going to your competitor is not going to nurture them, you're going to nurture them, you're going to get them all of the information they need. But you decided that you don't want to reach out and talk to them, they'll reach out to you. And oh, by the way, that's when your competitors going to step in, and for the first time, reach out and say, want to talk. And you know, what, they've been nurtured to the point that they do want to talk, 
 
Frank  
you know, what, now, is the time that I gotta get off my rear and do something about this problem that I have.
 
Joe  
So you've done all the nurturing work, and they get to reap the spoils. It's how you say that, I don't know, they get a reward benefit, 
 
Frank  
they get the rewards. 
 
Joe  
Yeah. So we want to avoid that right? marketing, qualified lead MQL, moves to an SQL sales, qualified lead moves to an opportunity. And that's an actual creating a deal. 
 
Frank  
That's the progression 
 
Joe  
holds on for them. So I think we should maybe break down, we did cover this in an earlier episode. But let's just remind people of what we think, or have seen work well, in terms of definitions for each of these. And actually, let's take it back one step before that to the lead. So we're talking in HubSpot terms specifically here. But these are very, you know, similar terms are sometimes you'll see in different software's and different, you know, approaches to to lead nurturing, but a lead, what the way we would define a lead is your ICP, your ideal customer profile. So if they fit the high level demographics, we would call them a lead. And that means they have the right, you know, job title, they are at the right type of company at the right size, they have the right number of employees or revenue number. They're in the right industry, if you are selling specifically to an industry, they're in the right geography. So it's all of the stuff that's pretty easy to pick out whether they fill out a form and give you that information, or you have a BDR run out and find it on LinkedIn or zoom info or, or just, you know, scrounge it up from somewhere, you can get that information, fill out their profile, and you can pretty quickly decide without a lot of input from the actual prospect, whether or not they're elite. Right? 
 
Frank  
Yeah. leads in MQLs are people have to remember this is qualified from afar. Meaning, you know, the analogy I like to use is if your ideal prospect is across the street, but they can't hear you and you can't talk to them, you know, from what you can make out based on what you see and what you see them doing. Does that look qualified? Right? You know, based on what you see, that's a lead, and then you can observe their behavior from afar, then then they become mq L Word. So go ahead and talk about that, which is the behavioral component that gets added to lead to then become MQL. 
 
Joe  
Yeah. So what we do once they're in the database marked as a lead, we now know that maybe we could tell them this is, you know, you're looking out the window from a big and tall store and you see across the street, six foot seven 300 pound men, that's a lead like you could probably sell to that person. Now whether or not they want to buy we don't know. But the lead then becomes a marketing qualified lead based on their behaviors. Okay, so we already demographically know they fit the profile. But now when they start making moves in the right direction, when that big and tall gentleman across the street, crosses over to our shop, and starts looking in the window, and maybe even hanging out by the front door, he's starting to take some actions that feel like, Okay, this person might be more than a lead, it might be actually what we could call a marketing qualified lead. 
 
Frank  
Yeah, the behavior right there window shopping now there, you can now observe this, right? 
 
Joe  
Yeah, you can observe it. I mean, they're actually taking actions that you can write down and say, okay, they did that they looked in the window, they came in the door, they started touching some of the clothes. These are quantifiable actions. And this is where I think we get into a little bit of trouble with a lot of organizations around lead scoring, will often get into an organization that is set up their own lead scoring. And often it's pretty complex. And more times than not everybody in their company agrees it's worthless, right? You've got lead scoring set up to figure out how many times they opened an email and how many times they clicked on an email link and how many times they came back to your website and you know, all of these little micro conversions which actually are all important, but you can overcomplicate that way too quickly. And what we recommend is take your leads, and pick out just a few major activities that would be akin to looking through the window walking through the door touching the clothes, yeah, that clothing right. Just pick out the best ones start with that for your lead scoring. Don't worry about all of the little micro stuff and then if they don't come back to the website for five days, you know, not going to back down like that stuff can be important and you can grow it into that just start simple. So what we usually say is what makes them an M qL is that they are a lead so they match match that demographic criteria and they also have 100 points 100 points and how do they get their behavior in their base? Quickly? 100 points in their behavior. So lead scoring, how do they get the points? Well, we like to focus on a few big things we'd like to focus on, have they interacted with a what we call a lead magnet offer. So this would be, you know, kind of like a downloadable from a website, right? Actually, Frank, if you can, maybe we should stop and talk through because I'm going to talk through the scoring against our blueprint, maybe you can talk through the blueprint really quickly.
 
Frank  
Yeah, the blueprint that is a tool where you can identify a specific buyer persona in a specific pain point that you solve for that buyer persona. And then what you do is you create various content and offers that address the various stages of the journey that your buyers just naturally go through. So that way, when they come in contact with your brand, you have something that's relevant based on where they're at in their journey, as opposed to being very binary, which is they're not buying or they are buying. And so you have different content and offers based on that journey. So when they're just a visitor when they're just the lead or when they're qualified, or when they're an opportunity. So you have these different things to cater to where they're at, in their buyer buying journey. But I did want to make a note on lead scoring. What I like to tell people and you're right, most organizations overcomplicate this, what I like to tell people is that lead scoring becomes more valuable, the more leads that you have, that you then have to pile on to yourself sales team to sift through. So the point at which that ratio of leads to salespeople becomes big, and it starts to become overwhelming, that it directly correlates to the value of lead scoring, because what lead scoring will do is it will help you filter and lower the number of MQLs. And the reason you do that is because you want to bring it back down to a manageable level, because mq ELLs get passed over to salespeople. And so that's where lead scoring becomes really valuable. So if you're at a point, your organization, and you're not overwhelmed with mq ELLs, then your lead scoring, your behavioral criteria is going to be pretty low. It's like you mentioned, Joe, it's just going to be a couple of things, a couple of big actions. And that's all you need to worry about, to try to go beyond that. You're asking the technology to do too much. When you don't need it, you know, it's like, like, if you're going to go hunt, you know, rabbits, you wouldn't bring like a big game elk gun, right? You just wouldn't do that. Like, it's it's too much for the job. Okay. So same thing here with lead scoring, you know, if you if you don't have this insane volume of leads, and that ratio of mq ELLs to salespeople is not very high. You don't need like really crazy lead scoring setup, you just need a couple of basic rules in place. 
 
Joe  
Yeah. So we usually base it off of 100 points. Now you can pick anything that you want, but 100 is easy to work with. So we say if they are a lead, and they have 100 points, that is what makes them a marketing qualified lead. And the way we get them that 100 points is we take we basically break down all of the offers and activities on our websites into three big buckets. Now, this is oversimplified, but you'll get the point. The three big buckets being something worth 25 points. So maybe like a downloadable white paper, maybe a down loadable, checklists, something like that, something that is not high, high value, but it's it's interesting enough to your specific persona with a specific pain point. Now, if they download that, and they download four of them, Well, they've just given themselves 100 points, because they were 25 points each. And so that might be somebody you want to talk to, they didn't show really high intent, they didn't fill out a contact form, they didn't fill out, they didn't call you that that's all true. They didn't do those things. But downloading for things for your website and visiting, you know, clicking on a whole bunch of stuff that seems like somebody who's interested in what you are pitching. So we would say that's 100 points, because they did for 25 pointers, and you should talk to them, or you should put them on the MQL list. Similar that we have the next level up that we get 50 points. And this would be their deeper dive stuff. So if they downloaded one of those lead magnets, and now they start going and maybe they watch a webinar, maybe they start looking at pricing in a pretty robust way they visit your pricing page several times, you can come up with what is a higher, intense sort of activity around this, or several of them and give those 50 points. So now if they've downloaded a lead magnet, maybe they download two lead magnets and they go watch a webinar, when you've got 25 points, 25 points in the webinars 50 that becomes an M QL. You should talk to them. Or maybe they go and watch a webinar. And maybe in addition to that, they go download a high value case study and that was worth 50 points, that becomes 100. They're an empty well. Okay, so you've got the lower tier of 25. We've got the middle tier 50. And then the highest one would be those high intent, hand raising sort of activities, right? That would be fill out a contact form that says I want to Talk, that would be calling a phone number on your website that would maybe be filling out a support ticket erroneously because they're looking to talk to somebody and they don't realize they're not a customer. And they found that, like anything that you think, is them raising their hand to want to talk should be 100 points and 
 
Frank  
request a quote, request a demo request a trial. 
 
Joe  
Oh, yeah, exactly. Those things. Yeah. So if you have somebody who fills out a form, like a contact form, in that form, you should be asking them that qualifying demographic criteria, because that form itself is going to give them 100 points right away. You also want to know if they met your lead criteria right away, if they fill it out, and they get 100 points, but they say I'm a student, and you don't cater to students? Well, you probably still need to follow up with them in some way, because they asked to talk to somebody, but you'll immediately know what to do with that you'll notice send them an email, say we're not a good fit, or you'll know that you only need to block out seven minutes of your time, not a full hour to talk to them, 
 
Frank  
you now have a subscriber who's not a lead, and they've met the behavioral criteria, but haven't met the profile criteria. 
 
Joe  
Right. So that's still going to jump on your plate, but it's not going to turn into an MQL a marketing qualified lead, right? Correct. Now, now, so far, what we've talked about is pretty automated, they download a form, it gives them some points, they, you know, it moves their lifecycle stage along for you. But now we're getting into the part where humans are involved in a bigger way. Right. So they have gotten to the point where they've got 100 points, and they meet that lead demographic mature criteria. And so now someone's going to talk to them. And they're sitting in the MQL stage at this point. Now, until you actually talk to them until you get on the phone with them or exchange emails or something. And you have a good idea from that exchange that you actually could sell to them. They are not sales qualified, they are still marketing qualified until you validate that as a salesperson.
 
Frank  
Yes, SQL is a human one to one validation, right? Because remember, if the SQL was about qualified from afar, SQL is qualified up close. Qualified up close. 
 
Joe  
And this is where we start to bring in the BANT tyria. So if you're familiar with BANT, its budget authority, need and timing, right? If you have all of those four things, then you're probably pretty pretty. Yeah, you could be an opportunity. But at the SQL stage, really what we tell people is just look for budget authority and need don't look for timing. Even though most sales people only want to talk to people who are ready to buy now. And I get that. The reality is most people are not ready to buy now. And you don't just want to throw them away. And this is where we started the episode saying Don't be lazy, right? If you have somebody who has the budget has the authority and has the need, but they say I'm not really ready, I you know, maybe in six months on tak me, Do not throw those back to marketing, do not hope that those people in six months, follow back up with you and reach out because all of a sudden, they have the real need, they have the timing and they remember you what you need to do is sure maybe keep them on the marketing, qualified, nurturing queue, maybe they continue to get that nurturing once a week or once a month from you. But you also need at that point to mark them as sales qualified because they are, do not make an opportunity for them. Because there's no timing for that right now. But put in either automated or manually a whole bunch of follow ups for yourself in terms of personal touch. Right. So along with the automated nurturing they're getting, they're going to be sitting as a sales qualified lead. And you are going to have a cue that reminds you every two weeks, every two months, whatever the cadence you choose is to reach out to them and not just say is it time, but reach out and say, Oh, I found this cool article I want you to check out or there's a cool trade show coming up. Do you know about it right? And find a reason to reengage with him? Because if you do not, again, you're going to be nurturing them automatically. Through those nurturing emails, predators gonna swoop in and do exactly what I just said you should do. They're going to swoop in and say, Have you heard about this trade show and next thing, you know, they're going to sell to them.
 
Frank  
Someone who is an SQL, which they they have the budget, they have the authority, they have the need, just they're not quite ready yet. Those are the people that salespeople are supposed to be developing relationships with. I mean, this is just good, old fashioned relationship driven, value giving, selling, right? So when you when you meet this person, you're taking notes like, Oh, you know, they like the wolves. Like, you know, I came across this great thing, you know, tickets to the wolves game, and, you know, they they're going to this conference, I know in May, so let me let them know that, you know, I've got an associate there that they should really connect with and let's get in touch with them a couple of weeks before and remind them about this associate that they should meet at this conference. They're going to, like that's selling that's relationship building giving value until they are ready to your point so you don't call just to say, Is it time? Are you ready now, like that? Nobody wants that. Call. So good old fashioned selling, stay in touch, become a friend, be valuable. And those are your SQL. And so the sales team should have their own personal SQL list that, hey, these are the 100 people. He's been 100 people that I personally stay in touch with. I know who these people are, I'm keeping in touch with them, I'm, I'm finding out about what they need. And I know what their likes and their interests are, that's just good old fashioned selling. And so they are to your point, they need to sit in that SQL bucket. And there's nothing wrong with them getting the marketing, nurturing emails that can help provide ground cover for us salespeople. But salespeople have to keep in touch and do the personal one to one nurturing. 
 
Joe  
Yeah, and by keeping them in SQL, what this is also going to do is show you if you are tracking conversion rates against your conversion funnel, it's going to show you how far people make it before they get stalled. And if they get stalled there for a long time. Well, you guys, as an organization have some work to do to figure out how do we re engage them in a more meaningful way to push them along or get them out of there once and for all, right? But keeping them in SQL, there's no harm in that. Now the pushback that we will get from salespeople on that as well, it's a lot of noise, it clutters my view. I don't want to see a whole bunch of people sitting in nurturing there, too, which I say, Well, if it's that big of a problem, filter them out. But also, you don't want to see a reminder every single day of all of the potential that you have in front of you, you want that thrown back into marketing world and just hopefully, somebody over there, I mean, I get that you want to kind of pass the responsibility back. And if it doesn't close, what was marketing's problem, but it's not, it's your problem sales? 
 
Frank  
Well, this is where I think organizations as they grow and mature, they can have a BDR role. Oh, yeah, their only job is to get in front of people. And when they have B, A, n and t, then tee them up with, you know, a consultant, a wealth advisor, you know, whatever that like a role is in your company that the selling role is in your company, then those people can just truly just deal with deals. And there's no end that that is actually a very good structure. But if you're a company where you don't have the resources to split that out, then as a salesperson, you're kind of doing the full spectrum of selling, you're doing the nurturing, and you're doing the deal making. And so season sales, people only want to do deal making, which I get it, it's fun. It's you know, it's the highest ROI on your time. But if you're with an organization where you don't have someone doing the BDR role, and if you've got to do that, you've got to do the one to one nurturing. But as organizations grow, they should definitely put someone in that role because that is the job keeping in touch with people and especially those those SQLs, they need that love they need that attention, they need that personal hand, hand to hand approach.
 
Joe  
Yep. Yes, another SQL, they have to be the a the end the budget authority and need, they do not have timing necessarily. Or maybe they do maybe now is the time in which case, you know to do with that you're going to create that they both life cycles, opportunity, whatever you call it, you're going to create that and that's going to move their life cycle stage from SQL to opportunity. And, you know, if you're doing your job, and you have a great product and a great pitch if they're going to become a customer. Okay, so you know what to do from there. But I think where most people get stuck is that lead mq SQL up to opportunity level, and what we see a lot of salespeople doing is just putting contacts in immediately and creating an opportunity out of it. And then the opportunity sits there and gets stale for a long time. That creates for poor reporting, that creates for missed expectations, it looks like you've got a lot of in the pipeline. And this just sits there and gets stale and never closes. And so you've got all these missed promises or you know, kind of quote unquote, promises. Don't do that. Clean this up once and for all, make not only your life easier as as a salesperson as well, maybe as a salesperson, it doesn't get easier, maybe it gets a little bit harder. But what gets easier is the fact that you can get some Predictable Revenue in there, you can start to finally see and and project what's really going to come down the pipe in a real way. 
 
Frank  
And I'm gonna interrupt I'm gonna interrupt you, Joe. Gentlemen, interrupt, please. I think it can be easier if you if you implement this the right way. So I go back to what I said earlier, if it's murder on you as a salesperson, because now you have more people and you're overwhelmed, then just tighten up your criteria. Just tighten up your lead scoring criteria, tighten up your MQL. criteria, the whole the whole purpose of putting in both the profile and the behavioral criteria is to create a filter. So if you find that too many are tripping and becoming MQL, and you're overwhelmed, tighten up your filter. So this this should actually make your job easier, but it does mean you have to get really Clear on what's the profile criteria, and what's the behavioral criteria. And once everyone agrees on that, then by God, these people need to be reached out to, by that definition, by your organization's definition, these are hot leads, start to make friends with these people. 
 
Joe  
Yep, a couple notes on the technical implementation of this. So depending on the system you're using, there's all kinds of different ways to bring this to life. But one thing to note is, we talked about them moving from lead to MQL to SQL to opportunity, super important that they don't miss any of those stages, none of them, because as soon as they miss a stage, your conversion rates are no longer valid, you can't really tell where your drop off points are. So what this means is that some people will come in immediately ready to talk. And they will go through lead MQL. And potentially up to SQL within an hour, within minutes. And you know, that it could happen very quickly that that all happens right? Right away. And for some people, they're going to become a lead and sit there for two months, and they're going to become an mq l later, and that's going to take a whole year, you know, it could be, it could be a longer timeline. But make sure that however you build it, they go through all of those stages. Another bid is at the MQL stage, there's actually a whole concept of lead status that we didn't talk about here, that should be discussed. At some point. When they're in MQL, it's not always that you can get them on the phone immediately. Right, they meet, they've got their score, and then it might take days, weeks months to actually get them on the phone, you shouldn't give up on that you should have a prescribed outreach program there. And that should be tied to your lead status. So you understand what attempts are being made and how far along they are there. 
 
Frank  
Let's do that on another episode. Because I think what's really fun about that is how you can use some of these technology tools, specifically in HubSpot. What what we do and what I try to encourage companies to do is to have two sales pipelines at minimum. So one is your regular deal pipeline. It's that's opportunity that there's dollars associated with what's in there. But the other pipeline is like a lower level pipeline. And that's your BDR pipeline. And that's where your MQLs go. So that way, you can like track the progress like, Okay, we've got these new MQLs, are we going through our standard process, are we going through our standard sequence of events, to see if we can get them on the phone to see if we can get a conversation going and see if there's that B and A and the end, and maybe the T, right? You're trying to progress that mq l through that process, a deal pipeline is perfect for that, especially if you set it up in kandam view. And then additionally, you can set up automation to then change those life cycles that you just referenced as they go through that process. So now you're going to know exactly what's happening with your MQL. So I think we should talk about that on another episode, and go into detail on how to get that done using a deal pipeline, and then automatic triggers to change those recommended statuses. 
 
Joe  
Yep. So bottom line here is let's stop building our processes. And let's start building our definitions around our own internal needs to start building them around the needs of the journey that the customer is going to go through to get to your desired end state, which is a sale. 
 
Frank  
Perfect, perfect. Well, on that note, let's end this here. Next time when we come back Episode 40. Let's talk about the nuances then of MQL. And, and the statuses of those leads, and how you can use deal pipeline specifically for those leads, even though there's no deal to be won there. There's some really cool things you can do with deal pipelines and automation, as I mentioned. So join us on episode 40, where we talk about that and go into that in detail. Thanks for joining us today. Y'all have a good one.
 
 

 

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