The Drive-Thru Approach to Accelerating MQLs Through the Funnel

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Ever notice that when you go to a drive-thru window, some have timers? Why? Because the franchise has a goal for moving you through the system quickly—process your order (hopefully with a smile) and get you the heck out of there.

Best-practice organizations treat Marketing Qualified Lead (MQLs) like the person going through the drive-thru window. Move it through the system to the next stage quickly like how your local Dunkin Donuts gets you your coffee.

One to two days is usually the standard timeframe/SLA for many organizations to process the MQL. Faster is better.  In fact, one study suggests that calling the lead within 5 minutes can boost your connect rates by 10x.’s Kellogg School of Management study notes that:

Your odds of reaching a new sales lead drop over 10x if you wait longer than the first hour of shown interest, and the odds of qualifying that lead decrease 6x after the first 60 minutes.

Accelerate MQLs through Your Pipeline

MQL Conversion

Like a kid in class that raises his hand to go to the bathroom, an MQL is someone that raises his or her hand to say, “I’m ready for Sales.” However, you wait too long and good things don’t happen.

Maybe the lead hits a lead score threshold or the lead fast tracks to Sales because of a high-value activity (requests a software evaluation). A Sales rep may even go into the shark tank of trade show leads to cherry pick some MQLs.

No matter the source, an MQL should be viewed as a temporary “get it in/get it out” stage. MQLs should not sit for longer than a day.  Aligning Sales and Marketing, Sales reps should jump on MQLs as fast as they can to move the lead forward to the next stage. A lead doesn’t always have to move forward, it can also move out. If Mickey Mouse comes in as an MQL, a Sales rep should immediately disqualify the lead out of the success path.

Develop a Best Practice MQL Conversion Approach – Measure It

MQL Conversion

How do we know Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941? Major League Baseball keeps track of these figures because batting average is an important success metric for a baseball player.

Best-practice organizations measure MQLs and their conversions. Don’t let your potential customers sit waiting at the drive-thru window. Make your funnel measurable to speed up the MQL process and reduce lead leakage:

  • Get an SLA in place between Marketing and Sales. Many organizations don’t have a measurable SLA process in place for MQLs. Agree on one and start to measure it. Don’t worry about getting to follow-up nirvana (5 minutes). Do something simple like a one-day SLA. Once you have that nailed, make it faster. Use reports and alerts to track progress.
  • Make MQL Reporting a KPI. Take some of the focus off of volume based metrics and move to funnel based metrics. If you don’t know metrics like your MQL-to-SQL rate, make that a goal for this year. See point 3 in 5 Marketing Resolutions to Kickoff 2015
  • Add a Stage to Your Model. Make sure to have a success conversion stage for the MQL to show it’s been processed. Otherwise, you’ll see a ton of MQL inventory because reps don’t have a place to put them. Sirius Decisions suggests using a Teleprospecting Accept Lead (TAL) stage to show that the lead has moved out of the temporary stage and has been accepted by the teleprospecting team.
  • Train Your Reps to Use the Process. A CRM system is no Houdini—it needs to be told when a lead is processed. When a Sales rep gets the MQL, the rep needs to perform some kind of action to indicate that the lead has been processed (change the status, log a call). This small point is one of the top process issues I see when finding stale MQLs.
  • Timestamp the Transitions. Using your CRM or Marketing Automation Platform, time stamp the date a lead enters its various stages. This will provide insight on how fast an MQL is converting to the next stage. Some systems track this automatically but it never hurts to add a date for flexibility.


A healthy MQL process brings leads in and out of the process in a timely fashion. Make sure to establish the process and measure it.

And if you are stopping by the Dunkin Donuts drive through on the way to our office, I’ll take a “large regular” (Boston jargon for cream and sugar).


Josh Verrill

Services: Strategy, Assessment, Ongoing Services

“RevEngine Marketing has helped Dyn reach amazing results. Within 60 days, REM helped Dyn establish repeatable best practices to improve marketing efficiencies over 50%. That enabled our business owners to focus on the business, not on our system.
With REM as our long term partner, we’ve seen marketing’s contribution revenue double over the past year. REM has helped us achieve success with everything from managing the lead lifecycle to gaining visibility into marketing effectiveness.”


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