It’s easy to confuse sales qualified leads (SQL) and opportunities. After all, if a lead is qualified for a sales call, doesn’t that make them a sales opportunity?
Not quite. Distinguishing between SQLs and opportunities means understanding the difference between a lead and a conversation. If you know how to turn the former into the latter, you just might have found the perfect recipe to maximize your lead conversion, generate more customers, and grow your business.
We’ve written in the past about sales qualified leads, a term that describes contacts in your database who have engaged with your marketing messages enough to move toward the bottom of the sales funnel. In other words, they’re ready for more targeted, sale-oriented outreach.
Tracking your SQLs is crucial to success especially for companies with longer buyer’s journeys. If you can identify contacts in your database who are ready for sales outreach, you can significantly increase both productivity and minimize waste in your sales process.
At the same time, don’t assume that all sales qualified leads are ready to make the leap and become customers. They are more likely to do so, but always be mindful of the fact that in the course of your lead nurturing process, you have yet to reach out to them with a direct sales proposition. That, in fact, is the answer to the question of what makes SQLs different from opportunities.
How Opportunities Differ
As mentioned in the intro, opportunities may seem similar or even identical to SQLs. And yet, they are not.
Opportunities are conversations. They are, in a way, the ideal sales qualified lead: your sales team has already conducted some initial outreach, and is beginning to nail down the details of a potential customer relationship or contract.
Research has found that only 50% of your qualified leads are actually ready to become customers. And that makes perfect sense: no matter how interested a lead is in your product or service, if they’re not ready to sign on the dotted line, they should not be considered an opportunity.
Perhaps that’s why distinguishing between SQLs and opportunities is especially important when marketing to businesses. In fact, 57% of B2B marketers consider turning qualified leads into opportunities their top funnel priority
3 Ways to Turn an SQL into an Opportunity
Tracking how many of your leads are qualified, and estimating the moment it happens, is a great idea. Finding a reliable strategy to turn these SQLs into opportunities, of course, makes even more sense. Here are 3 quick strategies you can implement to help achieve that goal.
1) Speak to Their needs
At this stage in the funnel, you have done plenty to inform your leads about your product, while establishing your credibility as a thought leader. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to their individual needs.
As part of your outreach, begin to talk about exactly how your product can help your audience solve core problems. Show your audience examples of how it can ease their life, through sales demos and free trials. Get them in touch with current and past customers of yours, who can verify your message and provide helpful information on how to be successful with your offer.
When converting SQLs into opportunities, every business can benefit from the account-based marketing philosophy. You probably already segment your audience according to common characteristics as part of your lead nurturing strategy. At this point, though, 1:1 outreach is key. You can only speak to individual needs if you actually provide individual outreach.
2) Lay Out the Pricing Model
It’s tempting to play games with your pricing as part of the marketing process. But this late in the funnel, don’t even think about it. Once your leads are close enough to becoming customers, they want (and deserve) detailed and honest information about what that step will cost them.
So to help convert your SQLs, lay it all out on the table. Inform your customers about subscription options, bulk discounts, and other features that can not be easily explained on a website. The more detail you provide, the more likely your leads will be to engage with you and talk about what that means on their end – turning into an opportunity in the process.
3) Be Patient
You probably don’t know how long an SQL takes to turn into an opportunity. The closest you get are average sales cycles, and depending on your industry, individual leads can differ wildly from that mean. That’s why patience is key in turning your qualified leads into opportunities and, eventually, customers.
Don’t count out a lead that doesn’t turn into a customer as lost easily. Continue to provide outreach, positioning yourself as a resource in helping to guide that final step. Only stop in your efforts if you’re explicitly told to do so. If not, continue to record your conversations to narrow in on your potential customers’ individual needs.
Getting the Most from Your Sales Process
Increasingly, sales teams across industries are beginning to realize the importance of considering sales opportunities as separate from sales qualified leads. While the latter is undoubtedly a crucial objective in guiding your contacts through the sales funnel, it may be for naught if you ignore the personal conversations that often have to take place to turn a lead into a customer.
So make sure you incorporate this step into your marketing and sales strategy.