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5 Best Ways to Qualify Leads and Push them Down your Funnel

By Alessandra Ceresa


A lead is not a lead is not a lead. Got it? Every lead is different, and not everyone flows through your funnel the same way. So to set up an effective funnel with better conversion rates, you first need to understand that not every lead you get is ready to buy. 

To start, let’s explore the different types and stages of ‘lead-om’.

The Basic Lead –  This is a contact that has come into contact with your brand at some point. They may have perused your website or checked out your social media, but have not gone any further. They have probably only looked at a page or two on your website and have really taken no further action signaling they are ready to talk to someone at your company, let alone purchase. However, this doesn't mean they will not become a viable lead at some point. Keep these leads on the back burner. Nurture them. We will explore later.

The MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) – A marketing qualified lead is someone who is ready to get to know what you are offering. They are not ready to buy, but have indicated they are interested. They have downloaded an eBook, signed up for a webinar, or requested more information. The MQL is window-shopping.

The SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) – A sales qualified lead is ready to talk. They are interested in your product, they are ready to try it out and get the ball rolling. This lead is further down the funnel than your MQLs. Don’t ever let this lead slip away!

Sales and marketing is a process. It takes strategy and consistency to drive your leads down the funnel. The first step is to design your funnel. What are the stages of your funnel and what happens at each stage? Then, establish what you want to have happen from the time your leads first comes in contact with your brand up until conversion. This will help guide your sales and marketing strategy and help you determine a qualified lead from a non-qualified lead.


Engage early

If your lead landed on your site or engaged with you on some other medium, do not miss the opportunity to immediately reach out. Forrester Research found that companies who engage early win 74% of deals, while those that do not, win around 26%. Early engagement means getting in touch with the lead from the moment they express interest in your company whether it is in the form of an auto-responder, a phone call, a personal email or even social media activity.

Early engagement gives this blossoming new relationship some wheels to go the distance. Show your leads from the get go that you have their needs in mind and that you are ready and able to support and guide them in their decision making process. Trust is critical in any relationship and the sooner you can start to build up this trust, the more likely you are to secure this lead down the road.


Lead Nurture

Lead nurturing is all the rage. The concept behind lead nurturing is to gracefully drive your leads down your funnel until they are ready to convert. Nurturing happens at every stage of the funnel from awareness through conversion. It starts as soon as you engage. A great lead nurturing strategy starts early and features a wide range of content and activities, including drip campaigns, eBooks, webinars, personal emails from sales reps, targeted content, and of course social media.

First, as aforementioned, think about what you would like your customer experience to look like from the time a lead comes into contact with your brand to the time they convert. Let’s dig deeper.


What sort of information do they need about your company to help them make a decision to purchase?

Create different content for different stages of the funnel. See the image below for content ideas at every stage.


If they signup on a signup form, what happens?

What does your follow up process look like? Is the lead sent a thank you email and then contacted immediately by an assigned sales rep? What other steps does your customer go through after filling out a form on your website.

Keep in mind; this is where the MQL and SQL leads really come into play. Depending on the signup form’s CTA, they are either downloading a marketing piece for more information (MQL) or requesting a live demo, trial, or other sales-directed activity (SQL). Your lead nurturing strategy should be different for each.

A MQL is going to need more top of the funnel content, while a sales ready lead requires more in-depth and highly targeted communication, including meetings, calls, etc. with your sales reps.

Design each journey and visually map it out so every department can see how a lead flows through the funnel depending on their behavior. For example, if a lead clicks on a link they move on to the next stage, whereas if the lead did not click, they would receive a different message to help drive them to the next step. Take a look at the journey below.



Just like I started this post, a lead is not a lead is not a lead. You’ve got your posers who give you fake email addresses, you have your MQLs and then you have your SQLs. Of course the goal is to get all of your leads to purchase, but if we’re being real, we hope to get max half of all of our leads to the SQL phase.

How do you tell a MQL from a SQL? Three words. Interest versus intent.


Here are a few behaviors to identify either an MQL or a SQL:


  • First time signup
  • Marketing coordinator or other non-managerial role
  • Downloaded an eBook
  • Attended a webinar
  • Shared one of your articles
  • Signed up for more information (Note: They signed up for more information, not a live demo or a trial).



  • Requested a live demo, trial or to speak with a sales rep
  • Called the company
  • Responded to a sales person’s email and requested for a meeting
  • C-level executive or other with decision-making power

Always incorporate lead scoring to help you qualify your leads. Assigning a number value to each activity or demographic score helps you determine who is most engaged and most interested in your product or service. Lead scoring identifies your hot contacts, so your sales reps can maximize their time and focus on the leads that are most likely to close.



Whether you are in marketing, sales or customer service, one of the best things you can do to make your job easier is to listen. When you listen to how your leads and customers react to your communication, the more you will understand who they are and most importantly what they want.

In order to listen, you must find where. A good place to start is social media. Are they on LinkedIn? Connect with them. Are they on Twitter? Have your social media team follow and engage with them. Use Google Alerts to get instantly notified when any content on the web mentions your brand and use other content sites such as SocialMention to get a birds eye view of your online reputation.

Integrate social media into your automation strategy. For example, if a lead replies to a Tweet or likes a Facebook post, trigger workflows to help you and your team stay on top of your social listening. This is a great way to listen and effectively nurture your leads and customers.


Follow up often

Follow up often, but not TOO often. We all lead very busy lives and there is nothing worse than getting a phone call from an unknown number repeatedly, especially without a voicemail. The key is to find a happy balance between your lead nurturing campaigns, personal follow up email and calls, and any other touch points. Think of yourself as the customer. How much is too much based on your past experiences?

Be persistent, be concise, be persuasive, but don’t be annoying.

With so much competition and even more distraction, it is important to follow the above steps to help you identify your best leads, convert MQLs into SQLs and of course drive revenue.





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