MQL Follow-Up Best Practices: How and Where to Focus your Time and Effort

How much should SDRs value inbound leads? The short answer: A lot. Inbound Leads and MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) are great opportunities for SDRs to quickly qualify an account by either immediately flipping them to the sales team or nurturing them along for the future, allowing them to build up their pipeline.

But not every MQL looks the same – they come in different forms based on prospect engagement – and this can create issues for the SDR teams following up. Your team will need to adapt their call plan and processes based on the specific attributes of the inbound lead. If you find the right MQL and follow-up tactic you could be cruising down easy street. Get it wrong, and you could be wasting your time and effort into an account that will never be a customer. Learn how to avoid those situations by understanding what types of MQL exist and the best follow-up method for each.

Different Types of MQLs

Commonly, SDR teams break up their MQLs into four different categories:

1. Direct Requests
“Contact Us” forms, Freemiums, Assessment Requests, etc.

These are prospects that raise their hands and asked to be contacted. Based on the information they’ve been fed by marketing and the research they’ve done online, they believe that your product / service could be a fit for their future plans. It’s up to your SDRs to determine if that’s true or not!

2. Pre-Qualified Leads
Leads generated by automated outreach into Cold Target Account Lists, Predictive Analysis, etc.

These are accounts that meet your desired criteria for a customer, and have engaged in a way that indicates they would be a fit. They match (at a high-level) your Ideal Customer Profile, and would theoretically be a great customer. It’s up to your SDR team to further qualify.

3. Content Downloads / Information Seekers
Whitepaper / Brochure downloads, Content Syndication, PPC Campaigns, Webinars, Tradeshows, etc.

These are prospects who are in their information gathering stage. These prospects are in the process of compiling information on all the products / services they can find. Sometimes there’s an active initiative, sometimes they’re kicking tires – and it’s up to your SDRs to help them as much as possible.

4. Browsers
Page Visits, Web Captures, etc.

The most passive form of MQL, these are prospects that happened upon your website or content and failed to engage at a high enough level. They could have no interest in learning more, but it’s up to your SDRs to see if that’s the case

Inbound leads can be grouped into (generally) these four categories, and they all answer a specific set of questions: How long should you wait? Who should you contact? What medium should you use? What do you say? What’s the next step? We’ll ID each form of MQL, show you how to prioritize the follow-up, and how to effectively and efficiently connect with the account.

1. Direct Requests

The most rare and sought after MQL, Direct Requests are the most valuable inbound lead you can expect to see. Because of this, the immediacy of contacting these leads is of the highest importance. We recommend contacting them within 10 minutes of their submission. Why do we suggest that you reach out so quickly? These are prospects that have done their research and are looking to fill a need within their company, and you can bet that you’re not the only company they’ve contacted. Statistics show that 35-50% of sales go to the prospect that makes the first contact – so the faster the better!

We also recommend picking up the phone and calling the submitter of the request directly. Too often we see organizations rely on email for this situation, and that message gets lost in a sea of companies reaching out. Remember – you’re not the only product/service the prospect is looking at! By giving them a call you’ll increase your chance of connecting with the prospect before anyone else, and it allows you to consult with them on their needs. Even though they submitted a Direct Request you might not be the best product or service, and by talking through pain points and needs that will become apparent. Ultimately you’ll come to an agreement and either book an SQL meeting or disqualify the prospect from contention.

2. Pre-Qualified

These MQL’s are a little different because they’ll either come in batches (like a list of pre-qualified leads) or staggered over time (like predictive leads). External factors have qualified this prospect to a certain standard (your ICP (ideal customer profile)). The key here is that you know a lot about them, and they fit the typical profile that your current customers do. These are the least “inbound-like” leads, but they provide the most value in terms of conversion rates. Based on this they should almost be treated as target accounts for your SDRs to reach out to.

We recommend that the priority here is to leverage the known information you have to engage the prospect. External factors have indicated that they would be an ideal buyer, so it’s up to your SDR team to reach out with a combination of phone and email touches to further qualify. Account mapping is key to making sure you have a full picture of the organization. This process could take some time, and we recommend that you don’t sit on these leads too long. Due to the potential value of these leads you should be starting your outreach ASAP. Ideally, your SDRs will be through the accounts within a month.

3. Content Downloads / Information Seekers

A more traditional indicator of interest is a download of content, a webinar or tradeshow attendee, information provided by a PPC campaign, or some kind of syndicated download. All of these prospects are firmly in the information gathering phase and could be looking for a product/service like yours. These prospects haven’t finalized if and who they’re going to evaluate, and are keeping options open. It’s up to your SDRs to further qualify them and gain as much account information as possible – this will help your team either book an SQL meeting or nurture them along for future potential.

Attention spans aren’t the longest among those who download content or attend events – more often than not they attend, gather the necessary materials (recordings, slideshows, and brochures) and file them away into a “potential vendor” folder. By catching these prospects early on in their information gathering phase and consulting them on your product / service, more often than not your name is at the top of that vendor list. This is why we recommend reaching out 0 – 5 days post event. Do your research as well! More often than not the decision maker isn’t going to be the one downloading content or attending webinars / tradeshows, so you have to account map to make sure that you’re talking with the right people immediately.

4. Browsers

The most passive MQL, Browsers are usually generated by Web Capture Technology and often don’t take an action when they visit your site or content. Because of this, they’re the lowest level of priority when it comes to your SDRs reaching out. It’s still important to connect in a timely manner, but it can be done in a much more limited capacity.

Due to the low level of priority of these MQL’s we recommend that instead of picking up the phone the SDR creates an email campaign with strong CTAs as their primary method of outreach. Additionally, it’s not pertinent that you reach out to the individual generated by the web capture – account mapping will be your best friend when reaching out to these organizations. Treat them almost as an outbound account, as the information you have is limited. It’s important to leverage what you know based on the account mapping you’ve done to consult and inform the prospect, much like you would in an outbound scenario.

Not all Inbound Leads are Created Equal

Like it was mentioned at the start of all this, not all MQLs look the same. While most of them will fall into one of these four categories, you could very well have a situation that doesn’t match up. These are guidelines for what to do based on how much you know about the MQL and what you’re able to leverage while speaking to them. If you know a lot – they fit your ICP, they have an active project, they’re downloading a lot of similar information – you can match them up with a direct request or pre-qualified lead. If you don’t know a lot it might be better to treat them as a browser and reach out as if it were an outbound account.

Use the above information as a guideline, and pretty soon you’ll be more effective at qualifying and categorizing inbound leads.


AJ Alonzo
AJ Alonzo
Director of Marketing

AJ is the Director of Marketing for demandDrive, a leading demand generation firm for tech companies in the Boston area. He's the main contributor to their blog and heads up all campaign creation for both inbound and outbound efforts. As someone relatively new to the marketing world, AJ is focused on creating content the resonates with established professionals and up-and-coming writers like himself.
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