3 Reasons Why Your MQL Conversion Rate is Low (+ How to Fix it)

September 3, 2019 | Kirsten Lyons

Salespeople know that “coffee is for closers,” meaning it only counts if you can get your prospect over the finish line, and generate revenue for the business. 


While this bottom line-focused ethos has always been a part of sales culture, marketers are increasingly on the hook for how the leads they deliver perform and convert within a sales cycle. Because of this shift, 68% of marketers identify their top goals for the next six months as directly tied to sales and revenue. 

As marketers adapt to the pressure to be closers themselves, many are trading in arbitrary MQL targets for metrics like marketing generated opportunities, pipeline contribution, or deals-closed, that offer a clearer picture of marketing’s contribution to revenue

Marketers need to deliver leads that convert to be successful in this new environment, making MQL to SQL conversion rates a critical leading indicator. However, the vast majority of marketers need to rethink their approach to deliver on new goals, when the industry average MQL to SQL conversion rate is only 13%

So how do marketers improve their MQL to SQL conversion rates? Focus on addressing these 3 common missteps that reduce lead quality and decrease the likelihood that sales will accept and work marketing leads.

1. Your sales team learned that chasing marketing leads is a waste of time 

Sales teams ignore 50% of marketing leads on average. When sales can’t count on marketing leads to convert to SQLs, they don’t waste their time working marketing leads, which means MQL to SQL conversion rates tank.

Unfortunately, this is a common problem. Only 8% of marketing and sales teams report strong alignment, meaning efficiently transitioning marketing leads to SQLs and eventually customers is challenging, and leads to low conversion rates. 

The fix: Sales doesn’t follow up on marketing leads because they believe they’re a waste of time and effort. However, when marketing and sales teams can get on the same page about what a quality lead looks like for their business, working MQLs becomes a great use of sales’ time.

Learn how to start getting your marketing and sales teams aligned around lead quality in our guide.

2. You send all leads to sales

You’ve probably heard the adage that more isn’t better, better is better. This applies directly to marketers who want to improve their MQL to SQL conversion rate. Expecting your sales team to be able to sort through a haystack of unqualified leads to find needle with the potential to convert is inefficient and leads to low conversion rates. To solve this issue, marketers need to focus on only sending the best leads to sales.

The fix: Marketers who prioritize lead quality enjoy a better relationship with their sales team, and higher conversion rates. Nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads. 

Nurturing helps your leads be ready to talk to your sales team by positioning your solution as the answer to their problems. However, when done correctly, it also helps marketing and sales be prepared for prospects. As qualifying information is gathered about prospects through the nurture process, it can be used to inform future sales conversations and increase the likelihood of MQL to SQL conversion. 

Learn how to build nurture programs that lead to better conversion rates here.

3. You treat interest like its buying intent 

Whether you’re currently sending all of your leads to sales or doing some nurturing, marketers often fail to understand which of their leads are simply interested in content, and which are displaying real buying intent. This critical distinction means the difference between MQLs that become SQLs, and leads that languish in a sales cadence for months before being marked disqualified. 

Even marketers diligently working to prioritize high quality leads with activity-based lead scoring can miss the boat on this.

In the example above, there’s no way to distinguish whether Jane unsubscribed because she found another solution, or if your cadence was just overwhelming. Lead scoring also can’t tell us if Carol is in a buying process and evaluating your solution, or is simply interested in your content. 

The fix: Marketers can distinguish between buying intent and interest by bringing their prospects into the conversation using conversational marketing. When prospects displaying clear buying intent can be identified and fast-tracked to sales, MQL to SQL conversion rates skyrocket. Learn how to uncover which of your leads are displaying buying intent here.

Final Thoughts

MQL to SQL conversion rates are more important than ever for marketers, who are increasingly being asked to move the needle on goals directly tied sales and revenue. While industry averages for conversion rates are low, marketers can right the ship by working with their sales team to align on MQL and SQL definitions, focusing on lead quality over quantity, and prioritizing leads displaying buying intent. 

Take a deeper dive into improving the “Q” factor in your MQLs as well as your conversion rate in our guide.

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