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How sales qualified leads work

A sales qualified lead is more likely to win work for tradespeople. This article contrasts it with a marketing qualified lead and offers profit-generating ideas.

Tradespeople probably focus most of their efforts on getting jobs done. And quite right too. But lining up your next job is one of the essentials for maintaining a long-term business.

This is where tradespeople need to think about sales qualified leads and marketing qualified leads. We’re entering a world of pipelines and funnels, but don’t worry. Sales lead generation is all very practical.

Sure, you can rely on word-of-mouth recommendations or sit waiting for the phone to ring. But these methods of winning work can be a bit hit and miss.

A better way is to take control of the process of winning more business. You can do this by looking at generating a sales qualified lead.

The trick is to focus on the sales leads that are worth it. A lead qualification process is simply an effective way of doing this.

It helps you learn how to prioritise your time identifying people most likely to give you work.

What is a sales qualified lead?

View it as the holy grail for winning business. A sales qualified lead is usually the endpoint in what can be quite a long process.

This begins with identifying a potential customer. You then make progress in nurturing their interest in your business. Finally, when you can confidently predict they are likely to be a customer you have a sales qualified lead.

Another way of looking at it is the potential customer entering your sales pipeline. They have now moved nearly all the way along it.

Alternatively, think of your sales coming through a funnel. You pour loads of possible customers into the funnel. What comes out at the end is the relatively small number who become actual customers.

What is a marketing qualified lead?

A marketing qualified lead comes before the sales qualified lead. These are people who you think might be interested in using you.

They have probably heard of you and they could become a customer. This could be where your marketing activities pay off. Our free marketing planning guide is packed with useful ideas for reaching people.

They are still some way from making a commitment to use you. Unlike the sales qualified lead, you aren’t yet totally confident that they will choose you.

What turns a marketing lead into a sales qualified lead?

A marketing qualified lead only gets you some of the way to landing a job. To become a sales qualified lead the person knows all about you and has probably made a purchasing decision.

This is probably through your marketing activities. They have more or less decided to use you.

In larger businesses, all this activity typically involves more than one person. Many tradespeople are their marketing and the sales department rolled into one.

In a way, this makes it easier to know when a potential customer has moved from being ‘warm’ to ‘hot’.

Why is a sales qualified lead so important?

The key thing is how much time you spend on each lead. It’s far more effective to devote most of your effort to a sales qualified lead as they are very close to becoming a customer.

Too much time spent on a marketing qualified lead could be a waste of your efforts. You are devoting effort on people who might not be that interested in you. That’s time you could have spent turning a hot lead into a job.

For tradespeople, the sales qualified lead is about working smarter. You are concentrating most of your efforts where it is most likely to generate profits.

tradesperson meeting a new customer

Lead qualification process

Here are some ways to help you see where a potential customer sits in your sales pipeline.

A marketing qualified lead is someone who has:

  • Responded to your marketing, such as leaflets or adverts
  • Found your business on an internet search
  • Responded to your digital marketing, perhaps by visiting your website and contacting you
  • Downloaded material from your website
  • Responded to you on social media, for example, by liking a Tweet or messaging you

A sales qualified lead is someone who has:

  • Talked to you about costs and budgets
  • Discussed your availability and timescales for a job
  • Asked you to provide a quote
  • Asked you to provide suggestions and ideas on work you could do for them

Once you have decided who is a sales qualified lead you can rank them. Put the strongest contenders at the top of the list. These are the leads closest to becoming customers.

It should hopefully only take a little more contact and interaction to win their work.

You can see how important it is to have sufficient time to spend nurturing your best leads. The extra time will be available by not wasting it on less likely prospects.

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How to make your lead follow up more effective

As you hone in on the people most likely to become customers you can fine-tune your assessment. By now, you’ll be at the stage where you are in contact with the potential customer.

This is when you find out as much as possible about their requirements. This includes identifying:

  • Their needs
  • Their priorities, if they are asking you to lot of things
  • Their timescale
  • Their budget, as this will affect what are the strongest leads

A helpful way to see if someone should be a sales qualified lead is to compare them with previous customers. See if they want similar services at a similar price and timescale.

Remember, it’s far easier to repeat a successful sales approach than starting from scratch.

Think about removing the weakest leads from your list. These people are least likely to become a customer.

You might worry about not chasing every lead as it could mean turning down potential work. But it could be worth it in the long run.

By concentrating more of your efforts on sales qualified lead you are more likely to win work and increase your profits.

Qualified sales lead checklist

No business process would be complete without some acronyms to help you remember the important bits. Here are a couple of suggestions:


Budget – do they have money to spend?

Authority – are you talking to the right person, someone who can authorise the work?

Needs – do they need your services right now? If they don’t then they’re not really a sales lead

Timing – when are they likely to decide on going ahead? Is it soon enough for you?


Challenges – what do they need and are you the answer to that need?

Authority – as above

Money – like budget, above

Prioritisation – like timing, above


What is a sales qualified lead?

This is someone you are very confident will choose you for a job.

What is a marketing qualified lead?

These are people a stage before the sales qualified lead. They have expressed interest in you but could be some way from deciding to use you.

How does the lead qualification process work?

This is where you whittle down your leads and rank them based on those most likely to choose you for a job.

How do you undertake a sales lead follow up?

The follow-up is when you are in direct contact with a prospective customer, finding out more about what they want, their timescale and budget.

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