The MQL and SQL Shift From Quantity to Quality

The MQL and SQL  have long been core metrics for B2B marketing and sales teams. Generating enough marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to feed the sales pipeline has historically been a key goal and measure of marketing success. However, for many firms, the focus is shifting from lead quantity to lead quality.

I recently had the chance to speak with a group of healthtech marketing leads who have been running B2B programs for several decades. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the tide is shifting from an addiction to volume to a greater emphasis on the quality of leads.

MQL Volume still matters, but…

…this is no longer the only or the most important metric.

There has been a shift in the last few years from lead quantity to lead quality.

Many B2B companies are now more focused on the quality of MQLs that convert better to sales opportunities rather than just driving large numbers of leads at the top of the funnel.

Many of the companies I spoke with still have goals around hitting a certain number of MQLs, especially if that is tied to the budget. But for most, leads are now seen as more of a leading indicator rather than an important KPI. The end goal is driving pipeline and revenue through high-quality opportunities.

Leads are still tracked at events and campaigns as an early signal of interest, but there is less focus on aggregate lead counts. The quality of leads and the ability to identify and nurture the leads most likely to convert is now the priority.

There are several factors driving change:

  • Sales teams have been overwhelmed by the volume of unqualified leads. They prefer fewer, higher-quality leads to ensure they spend time on prospects likely to buy.
  • Higher quality leads convert at a much higher rate to opportunities and sales. Focusing on quality improves marketing’s impact on the sales funnel.
  • Relationships and trust matter in long B2B sales cycles. Quality interactions build relationships; quantity does not.

MQL and SQL Expectations From Leadership

While some leadership teams still want marketing to achieve a specific lead volume, many now understand that quality and conversion matter more. However, the expectations vary:

  • Some still set firm MQL goals and tie budget/headcount to lead volume. Marketing is still often pressured to drive lead numbers.
  • Others look at leads more as an early indicator. They care more about marketing’s impact on pipeline and revenue.
  • There is often still a need to explain and prove the value of quality over quantity through data/analysis. Change can require convincing.
  • Goals are evolving from lead counts to metrics like opportunity creation, pipeline velocity, and dollars influenced.

The expectation is shifting from marketing simply generating a lead list to identifying and nurturing the leads most likely to drive pipeline and closed deals. Marketing is expected to focus on and deliver quality, not just quantity.

The Key to Change is Collaboration Between Sales and Marketing

Improving lead quality requires tight collaboration between sales and marketing teams.

Some important elements of collaboration:

Agreement on what constitutes a qualified lead makes hand-off more seamless

  • Marketing nurtures leads based on feedback from sales on what matters most to convert leads
  • Marketing and sales hold joint meetings with key prospects to build relationships
  • The teams share knowledge of prospects to prioritize follow-up and nurture better
  • Sales provide insights on why leads convert or don’t convert to refine targeting
  • Marketing segments and targets leads based on sales input to align with the ideal customer profile
  • The teams share a common goal of driving pipeline and revenue, not just leads

Collaboration and shared goals between sales and marketing ensure lead generation and nurturing are tailored to what matters most for sales conversions and revenue growth.

Tracking the Buyer Collective

Many B2B companies are also shifting from counting individual leads to tracking groups of connected buyers, or “buyer collectives.” This builds on principles of account-based marketing.

Tactics like profiling target accounts, identifying buying groups, and mapping customer journeys are becoming more common. This allows companies to market not just to individual leads but to the groups involved in purchase decisions.

Outreach can then be coordinated across multiple roles in an account to drive engagement and conversions. Marketing campaigns are designed to resonate with specific buyer groups vs. generic messages to individual leads.

Success is measured by engagement and sales progress with target accounts, not just conversions from individual leads. The focus expands from leads to the broader groups involved in buying decisions.

What Does The Future of the MQL and SQL Look Like?

It’s clear that high-quality leads that convert to sales are more important than ever. While individual leads are still tracked, the focus is shifting to accounts, buyer groups, and marketing’s impact on the metrics that matter most to sales.

This requires collaboration between sales and marketing to understand buying groups, identify high-potential targets, deliver relevant messaging, and track what matters. As technology improves, marketing will continue to get smarter about identifying and engaging with the right groups of buyers.

While leads are going to be around, the future is about orchestrated outreach to accounts to build relationships and drive pipeline and revenue growth. Lead quality trumps lead quantity in driving sales impact and B2B growth.

What Can You Do About It

Here are 7 recommendations based on the key points in the article:

  1. Shift focus from aggregate lead counts to tracking lead quality and conversion rates. Judge marketing effectiveness on sales pipeline and revenue impact vs. just lead volumes.
  2. Work closely with sales to understand what constitutes a qualified, sales-ready lead. Tailor targeting and nurturing to focus on these high-potential leads only.
  3. Invest time in profiling target accounts and buyer groups versus blind lead generation. Identify the titles, needs, and journey of the decision-makers.
  4. Craft targeted campaigns with messaging and content tailored to priority accounts and buyer groups. Make outreach coordinated and relevant.
  5. Set shared goals between sales and marketing based on pipeline velocity and sales cycle stages, not just lead counts. Create joint metrics focused on quality.
  6. Build relationships with target accounts through sales and marketing collaboration. Orchestrate touchpoints to establish trust with decision-makers.
  7. Continually refine targeting as you learn more about what accounts and buyer group profiles convert best. Optimization is ongoing.

Do You Want to Learn More?

We are helping many healthtech clients grow their sales pipeline. If you want to learn more and see how this approach could work for you, let’s schedule a call.

If you liked this post and want to learn more…

  1. Check out more posts like this in the Healthtech MarketingLearning Center. It is chock-full of articles, use cases, how-to’s, and ideas to get you started on your ABM journey.
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  3. Buy Total Customer Growth: Our book on how to win and grow customers for life with ABM and ABX.
  4. Work with me directly. Let’s book a growth session and we can explore ways you can improve your marketing using the latest techniques in account-based marketing.
Posted by Adam Turinas
Posted in ABM Strategy Blogs, Growth Enablement, Running ABM Campaigns on November 8, 2023

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About the Author Adam Turinas

Hi, I am Adam Turinas, Healthlaunchpad's founder. I am passionate about helping healthtech firms succeed through better sales and marketing. I have hard-earned experience in healthcare technolgy as I started two healthcare businesses in the US, the first with zero healthcare experience. We sold the second business to a strategic buyer seven years later. Over 9 years building a healhtech businesses, I have learned how to sell and market effectively to healthcare organizations. Prior to this, I spent two decades in digital marketing across healthcare and other consumer industries where I sold over $100 million in products and services to corporations and healthcare orgs. I would love to talk with you. You can book a call with me on the right hand side. Best Adam (This is page 0 of many)