July 26, 2016
Why I Stopped Caring About MQLs

If you’re leading the marketing efforts for a B2B SaaS company and are feeling frustrated with the lack of alignment with sales, I have one simple question: Is your main metric of reporting a marketing qualified lead (MQL)?

Maybe it shouldn’t be. 

I would have answered yes to the question of MQL importance a year ago. The marketing team was creating hundreds of MQLs per month, handing them over to sales with pride, and then seeing frustratingly low conversion rates. I pored over literature from analyst firms, convinced that we had to dive into a place within the funnel and get a conversion metric fixed. 

Instead, we made a different change to the funnel: We changed the metric that inside sales reps were comped on — from demos seen to enterprise-accepted opportunities created. 


This change from quantity to quality had several important ramifications. 

First, it required the inside sales reps (we have inside reps that are doing qualification and outside reps that are quota-carrying) to do a better job of qualifying. Rather than getting comped on a demo with anyone who “fogged a mirror” as being the activity they were comped on, we lowered their quota to highly qualified opportunities created. 

Creating opportunities sometimes means showing multiple demos to multiple different stakeholders.

And here’s where we were failing the sales organization when we only cared about MQLs: We were facilitating a demo, but it wasn’t facilitating a buying committee decision. So the inside sales reps were happy (sort of), but our contribution to pipeline was only about 20 percent. I could sense a tension in the usefulness of our activities. 

By focusing instead on enterprise accepted opportunities (EAOs), that tension has melted away. I’m not reporting MQLs to the CEO or the Board. It’s all about EAOs and pipeline generated from those sources EAOs. 


But EAOs require a lot of work throughout the sales process — it’s not enough for us to use first-touch attribution and walk away. We’re targeting large companies. That effort is a linked-arms approach with the inside sales team that involves hyper-personalized content creation through the sales process. 

So we’re also looking at how many pieces of content are contributing to our closed/won deals and making sure we’re creating more of that type of content. Multi-touch attribution allows us to see how else we’re helping advance sales cycles that isn’t simply first touch. MQLs are all inherently first-touch attribution, which don’t really tell the full picture of marketing’s contribution to the sales org.

If I could do it over again, I’d align to EAOs and ditch MQLs a lot sooner. Now that we have, the inside sales team is comped and reporting out on the exact same metric that we’re attempting to drive — and that alignment has made many of our lives a lot easier.


Daniel Rodriguez is VP of Marketing at Seismic. Follow him on Twitter: @dlrdaniel.

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