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Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL): Founder-Led Sales Explained

In the world of Software as a Service (SaaS), the term 'Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)' is a critical concept that every founder must understand. It is a key metric that indicates the effectiveness of your marketing strategies and the potential of a lead to become a paying customer. This article will delve into the depths of what an MQL is, how it is determined, and why it is so crucial in a founder-led sales process.

marketing qualified leads (MQL) founder-led sales process

As a founder, you're likely wearing many hats, and one of them is sales. Understanding the concept of MQL can help you streamline your sales process, prioritize your efforts, and ultimately drive your startup's growth. So, let's dive into the world of MQL and explore how it can shape your SaaS startup's sales strategy.

Understanding Marketing Qualified Leads

Before we delve into the intricacies of MQL, it is essential to understand what a lead is in the context of sales and marketing. A lead is an individual or organization that has shown interest in your product or service. They have taken some action, such as filling out a form on your website, downloading a whitepaper, or subscribing to your newsletter, indicating their interest.

However, not all leads are created equal. This is where the concept of a Marketing Qualified Lead comes in. An MQL is a lead that the marketing team has deemed more likely to become a customer compared to other leads, based on lead intelligence and behaviors. They have not only shown interest but have also engaged with your brand in a way that indicates a higher likelihood of purchasing.

Criteria for MQL

So, how do you determine if a lead is an MQL? The criteria for an MQL can vary from one SaaS startup to another, depending on the nature of the product or service, the target audience, and the sales cycle. However, some common criteria include the level of engagement with your brand, the fit with your ideal customer profile, and the lead's behavior on your website or other digital platforms.

For example, if a lead has downloaded a high-value piece of content like a product guide or a pricing sheet, they may be considered an MQL. Similarly, if they have attended a webinar or requested a demo, they are showing a high level of interest and engagement, making them a potential MQL.

Importance of MQL in SaaS Startups

In a SaaS startup, where resources are often limited, focusing on MQLs can help you optimize your sales efforts. By identifying the leads that are most likely to convert, you can prioritize your time and resources to nurture these leads, increasing your chances of converting them into customers.

Moreover, tracking MQLs can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your marketing strategies. If you're generating a high number of MQLs, it indicates that your marketing efforts are resonating with your target audience. On the other hand, a low number of MQLs may signal a need to reassess your marketing tactics.

Founder-Led Sales Process

In the early stages of a SaaS startup, the founder often leads the sales process. This is because, as a founder, you have the most in-depth knowledge of your product and the passion to sell it. However, founder-led sales is not just about selling; it's about learning from your customers, understanding their needs, and refining your product and sales strategy based on these insights.

As a founder, you're not just selling a product; you're building relationships with your customers. This is where understanding MQLs can be particularly beneficial. By focusing on MQLs, you can ensure that you're building relationships with leads who are most likely to convert, thereby maximizing your sales efforts.

Role of MQL in Founder-Led Sales

In a founder-led sales process, MQLs play a crucial role. They help you identify the leads that are worth pursuing, allowing you to focus your efforts on leads that have a higher probability of converting. This not only saves time and resources but also increases your conversion rates.

Moreover, MQLs can provide valuable insights that can inform your sales strategy. By analyzing the characteristics and behaviors of your MQLs, you can gain a better understanding of your target audience, their needs, and their buying journey. This can help you refine your sales process, making it more effective and efficient.

Transitioning from Founder-Led Sales

As your SaaS startup grows, there will come a point when you need to transition from founder-led sales to a dedicated sales team. This transition can be challenging, but understanding and tracking MQLs can make it smoother.

By establishing clear criteria for MQLs, you can ensure that your sales team knows which leads to prioritize. Moreover, the insights gained from tracking MQLs can inform the training of your sales team, ensuring that they understand your target audience and how to effectively sell to them.

Measuring and Tracking MQLs

Now that we understand the importance of MQLs in a founder-led sales process, the question arises: how do we measure and track MQLs? The process of measuring and tracking MQLs involves defining clear criteria for MQLs, setting up systems to track these criteria, and regularly analyzing the data to gain insights.

The first step in measuring MQLs is to define what constitutes an MQL for your SaaS startup. This involves understanding your target audience, their buying journey, and the actions that indicate a high likelihood of purchasing. Once you have defined your MQL criteria, you can set up systems to track these criteria. This could involve using a CRM system, marketing automation software, or other tools.

Tools for Tracking MQLs

There are numerous tools available that can help you track MQLs. These tools can automate the process of identifying and tracking MQLs, saving you time and ensuring accuracy. Some popular tools for tracking MQLs include HubSpot, Salesforce, and Marketo.

These tools allow you to set up lead scoring systems, where you assign points to different actions or behaviors, and a lead becomes an MQL when they reach a certain score. They also provide analytics and reporting features, allowing you to track the number of MQLs, their conversion rates, and other key metrics.

Analyzing MQL Data

Once you have set up systems to track MQLs, the next step is to regularly analyze this data. This involves looking at the number of MQLs, their conversion rates, and the time it takes to convert an MQL into a customer. By analyzing this data, you can gain insights into the effectiveness of your marketing and sales strategies and identify areas for improvement.

For example, if you notice that a high percentage of your MQLs are not converting into customers, it could indicate a problem with your sales process. On the other hand, if you see that certain actions or behaviors are consistently associated with MQLs that convert, you can focus your marketing efforts on encouraging these actions.


Understanding and leveraging the concept of Marketing Qualified Leads is crucial for any SaaS startup, especially in a founder-led sales process. MQLs can help you prioritize your sales efforts, optimize your marketing strategies, and drive your startup's growth.

By defining clear criteria for MQLs, setting up systems to track these criteria, and regularly analyzing the data, you can ensure that you're focusing on the leads that are most likely to convert and gaining valuable insights to inform your sales strategy. So, start focusing on your MQLs today and watch your SaaS startup thrive.

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