98% of Your MQLs Will Never Result in Closed Business

Peter Gracey




“98% of your MQLs will never result in closed business.”

The first time I read this SiriusDecisions statistic, I couldn’t comprehend it. It was the most staggering stat I’d seen in the last several years. Two others struck a chord with me as well:


At QuotaFactory, we see firsthand how hard our clients work to generate an MQL, and how many resources have to be devoted to this task. That makes this “98%” number even more painful.

So how can businesses take control of the issue? Understanding the root causes is a good place to start. Here are the top three things that cause this stat to be real and some suggested fixes to address the problems.

1) It’s indicative of a classic disconnect about MQLs.

If the past 12 years I spent at AG Salesworks have taught me one thing, it’s how to spot a disconnect between Sales and Marketing about marketing qualified leads. In the majority of cases, Marketing is pumping their MQLs into the hands of sales development reps. In this instance, the issue is simple. Marketing has unreasonable expectations and Sales has no regimented plan for follow up.


Marketing: Tighten up your scoring and be a little more judicious about who you send to Sales for follow up. If the contact you’ve generated isn’t at a director level or above, don’t send it. Nurture it.

Sales: Automate the follow up. Don’t reinvent the wheel; contract with someone that can automate the call plan follow up for you.

Cheat Sheet:

Hit up our friends at The Bridge Group for some guidance on how to establish rules and metrics around the Marketing and Sales relationship.

2) Your ideal buyer profile is off.

Nothing ensures a lack of closed business from MQLs more than inaccurate customer profiling. Ideal profiling, when done correctly, can drive this metric through the floor. However, it’s not an exact science and requires constant tweaking. If you adopt the Ron Popeil “set it and forget it” mentality then you are doomed to live at the 98% mark.


Marketing: Run your ideal profiling exercise once a month. Yes, you read that right. Markets change, and buyer habits shift like the weather. You can’t just set it once and think it’s never going to change. And what if you were wrong the first time? Having a regular cadence to how you manage your ideal profiles is essential to eliminating this problem.

Sales: Make your sales and sales development reps understand the ideal profiles in use. Chances are you’ve got more than one ideal profile, so why do you have only one sales message? Create a separate message for each persona Marketing gives you. You’ll be glad you did.

Cheat Sheet: 

Seek out experts in this space. If you can automate the ideal profile review and get it cranking more frequently than once a month, your sales force will be in great shape.

3) Your sales development team is weak (or worse -- you don’t have one).

I know this sounds harsh, but a weak team is a top cause of the devastating “98%” stat. In many cases, sales development has been treated as an afterthought, haphazardly built in the hopes of maintaining a bullpen for sales talent. Perhaps your organization doesn't even have a sales development team (get one!) and quota-carrying sales reps are responsible for follow up.


Marketing: Get a commitment from the sales development team on a call plan for your MQLs and put reporting in place to monitor reps' performance.

Sales: Get the right people to follow up. Salespeople are arguably the worst people to follow up on MQLs. If you have a sales development team, train them on the difference between following up on inbound interest and talking to a prospect sourced via outbound efforts.

Cheat Sheet: 

Check out the Sales Best Practices for Prospecting Inbound Leads guide to help you build a call plan structure for your inbound personas. If you don’t have a sales development team, look to companies like AG Salesworks to build one from scratch for you. If you have a team and need to make sure they are best in class, seek out training from companies like Vorsight to ensure they are up to par on the latest sales prospecting practices.

As always, I’m open to any thoughts on what other factors cause this problem and how to fix it. These are the top three causes we’ve seen. How are you solving them inside your organization?

Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Sales Wars, and is republished here with permission.

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