4 Common Ways Companies of All Sizes Categorize Leads


"Just what makes a qualified lead, anyway?"

Believe it or not, this is a common question slung far and wide within the wood-paneled walls of established corporations and virtual meeting rooms of brand-new start-ups. 

Most sales or marketing pros can tell you a qualified lead is a prospect who could become a customer based on their expressed interest in, or intent to purchase, your product or service.

From here is where it gets more difficult. Even if you understand what a lead is in your mind, what about in the minds of your co-workers? Your Department? Is EVERYONE on the same page? Where a lead is in their journey to become a customer at any given time can also spark interesting water-cooler debates. 

Don't worry; if you can't easily rattle off your own company's classification of a lead you're not alone. According to CSO Insights' annual sales performance optimization studies, only about half of the companies that participated have a formal definition of a qualified lead that both Marketing and Sales teams follow. What's even more surprising is nearly 20% had no definition at all. 

Without clear definitions that both sales and marketing teams follow, it's tougher to convert leads into customers because the opportunity to convert can get bobbled like a mishandled baton. And when the sales manager attempts to ascertain why no one followed up with this once-promising prospect, mouths in both departments are agape and fingers are pointing at the other guy. 

GSI has put together this BASIC list of four common ways companies can to categorize leads as HubSpot defines them. It's a baseline and your company can customize from there.

1. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) 

A Marketing Qualified Lead is someone who has responded to inbound marketing in a way that indicates they are potentially an interested buyer. For example, this might be someone who clicks on one of your Facebook ads that offers a free eBook and fills out a form on the landing page to download it. 

2. Sales Qualified Leads (SQL)

A Sales Qualified Lead is someone who has jumped directly into the buyer's journey and wants to buy and that they are ready for a direct sales follow-up. An example of a SQL is a contact who submits a question about your product through a contact form. Think of SQLs as people who have not used your product or service yet and want a demonstration of some sort

3. Product Qualified Leads (PQL)

A product qualified lead (PQL) is a lead who has actually used or experienced your product through some sort of trial or free offer. The chances of converting PQLs into a customer are higher because there's no need to convince them on the product's value. 

4. Service Qualified Lead

These were the favorites of a former boss, Service Qualified Leads are individuals that have communicated to your customer service staff in becoming a paying customer. Oftentimes these are existing customers who were convinced to buy more product by a service rep, or loved your product so much they want to buy again. These are also prime launching pads for turning customers into "evangelists," but that's a blog for another day.

Make Your Software Work for Your Business

What about your experience? How do you or your organization categorize leads? Do you think these work for you or are they a bunch of malarkey? Please let us know in the comments section below.

If you have a database of a few hundred or a few hundred thousand, managing how these leads are categorized and who among your marketing sales and service team handles them can be facilitated with a cloud-based CRM solution like HubSpot.

Contact GSI to learn more about how we can help you find and implement the ideal sales and marketing solution for your unique needs.