Sales Enablement

Sales Enablement: The Difference Between Leads and Qualified Leads

Luke Marthinusen | January 5 2021

Knowing and applying the difference between a lead and a qualified lead is essential before any marketing and sales activities begin.

A lead is anyone who has interacted with your company. They may or may not become a customer.

A qualified lead is anyone who has gone through qualifying criteria to assess their quality as a lead, their fit as a customer, and their readiness to buy.

Based on their demographics and tracked behaviour, leads can be categorised. Categorising leads makes them easier to sort and work with. 

Leads ultimately become opportunities and convert to customers. Customers that sing your praises are called Evangelists. Collectively these all make up the Lifecycle Stages for your company.

qualified leads - lifecycle stagesBut back to leads. Categorising leads helps salespeople focus on the leads that are more ready to buy. This ultimately helps them be more efficient with their time and close more deals.

The different types of qualified leads

Qualified leads can be further categorised into Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) and Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).

Some companies take it further and introduce more stages. Some of these are outlined by Square2Marketing as Sales-Ready Leads, Sales-Opportunities and Sales Agreements.

The use of these labels is dependent on the company, but at MO Agency, we use leads, MQLS and SQLs. This is our qualifying criteria:

Lead: Anyone who has interacted with our company (Call-in, website lead, networking, events)

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): A lead that by virtue of their position, company revenue/ type and tracked actions they have taken on our website and/or email communication qualifies as a good prospect for sales outreach.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): A lead that a salesperson has spoken to and is confirmed as sales-ready.


The above graphic outlines how a marketing and sales funnel is structured. Once a lead completes certain actions, they move down the funnel and become Marketing or Sales Qualified Leads.

Leads near the top of the funnel need a lot of nurturing to close. This can be achieved through sharing information, emails and sales meetings.

Leads near the bottom of the funnel are near to conversions and require a different set of actions to nurture to close.

Why should you define different leads

Going through the exercise of categorising leads can seem like an arduous process, but defining what qualifies different leads is crucial to both your marketing strategy and your sales strategy.

While a salesperson is well-equipped to know when a lead is more likely to close, which they seem to know almost intuitively, the marketing team may not know what to look for.

By defining the different stages of lead qualification, the marketing team is better able to understand what makes a lead qualified or not, and can then produce content that will encourage behaviour that marks them as Marketing Qualified.

These Marketing Qualified Leads get sent to the sales team who qualify them as sales-qualified and, hey presto, the sales team is able to sell more by focusing on the qualified leads.

Final thoughts

A well-defined sales funnel is the key to generating and converting better-qualified leads, and is the first step for a better sales enablement strategy.

You can find out more about how we qualified our leads and used our sales funnel in our ebook on Sales Enablement. Click on the button below to get your copy.

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