B2B SaaS Leads Differences: Sales Leads vs Sales-Qualified Leads

Written by: Elena Daskalova
Jul / 13 / 2023

The B2B SaaS industry is sometimes pretty complex, but once the business owners know the separate sales elements, they can surely navigate success and achieve their goals. And leads play a significant part in closing the deals and buying the SaaS product or solution. 

And while not all leads are equal, it’s essential to understand the main differences between them. We already explored the MQL vs SQL differences, but now we can better understand the B2B SaaS leads and their qualification potential. That’s why we’ll cover the sales leads vs sales-qualified leads comparison and learn how to prioritize them effectively in order to convert them into paying customers. 

But first, we have some basic things to learn:

Sales Leads

A sales lead is a potential sales contact that shows interest in your services. They can be individuals, but in the B2B SaaS landscape, we mostly talk about organizations and companies. Still, they aren’t completely evaluated or qualified and need more engagement and education to qualify. 

Often they come through referrals from existing customers or may show initial interest by seeing an ad somewhere online or even offline. Their interest is valuable because you weren’t targeting them directly with your marketing activities, but they came from other referral channels. 

Anyway, they schedule a call or meeting with the B2B SaaS company in order to get to know the product or solution better. After that, they’re aware of your company’s offerings, and it gets easier for them to understand if they need that solution or not.

Sales-Qualified Leads

These leads often move from marketing-qualified leads to sales-accepted leads, converting to sales-qualified ones. Opposite of the sales leads, they were targeted by your marketing efforts, and you want these people to come to you as customers. 

SQLs meet specific criteria and belong to your target audience. They are pretty likely to convert once they understand the value you provide as a B2B SaaS provider. 

According to that, sales leads and SQLs have pretty different buyer journeys in the B2B SaaS sales process. Still, it’s important to prioritize the ones and put more energy into converting. But how to know how to fairly treat your B2B SaaS leads? Who deserves more attention and why? 

How to ensure you do the right thing? 

Let’s get there:

Buyer’s Journey Sales Leads vs Sales-Qualified Leads

As we mentioned, these two lead types have a different buyer journey, so let’s approximate it:

Sales Lead Buyer Journey

Knowing that sales leads aren’t the initial marketing target, they may come from anywhere. These leads often see an ad online and get interested or receive some referral from a friend or acquaintance. They show some initial interest in your B2B SaaS product or service driven by some pain point, but not necessarily painful enough to become customers. 

The best thing is that they come to you alone because they need something you offer. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have to capture, qualify, and nurture them. First, you need to acquire them and show you what exactly they need. Then, lead qualification involves evaluating whether the leads meet basic criteria, such as fitting your target market, having a genuine need for your solution, and having the potential to become paying customers.

At some point, sales leads will become marketing-qualified leads as you nurture them appropriately with personalized communication and targeted content.

From MQLs, as these people receive further validation, they become sales-accepted leads, and if they meet the qualification criteria and show conversion potential, they become SQLs.

SQL Buyer Journey

Maybe it seems like this journey is shorter compared to sales leads, but we must say that you still have a lot of work. The process doesn’t stop with qualifying but continues with evaluation and providing information about your B2B SaaS solution. 

SQL leads may have been sales leads first, or they’re already showing high interest as a result of your marketing efforts. And as you evaluate them, they do the same for you and your product. At this point, they may ask for interaction with the sales team to understand the product’s value and how it scales their workflow. 

Sometimes SQLs want to know if the product is customizable according to their unique requirements. The sales team collaborates with other teams, such as product specialists or solution architects, to develop a tailored proposal that addresses the prospect’s specific needs – if possible. 

Qualifying SQLs in B2B SaaS

The qualification SQL process in B2B SaaS involves a few key factors ensuring higher conversion probability. These factors may include budget availability, decision-making authority, timeline for implementation, alignment with the target market, and fit with the ideal customer profile.

Sales teams may use these criteria to estimate what leads are most likely to convert and prioritize them. By dedicating resources to SQLs, sales representatives can focus on engaging with prospects who have already demonstrated a stronger interest and alignment with the product or service. 

Nurturing Leads Towards SQL

Congratulations! Now you have many relevant leads close to sales. And if you think you can take some air now, we suggest only taking a deep breath and start working on nurturing these leads. This is a pretty critical point because even the tiniest error may discourage the lead, resulting in getting back in some of the previous stages or completely leaving your B2B SaaS leads base. 

We encourage adopting personalized communication with every lead. As they’re already SQLs or close to it, you already have enough information to communicate on an individual level, addressing particular specific needs and pain points. You can leverage personalized emails, one-on-one calls or interactions, or targeted messaging through other channels. 

By demonstrating a genuine understanding of the lead’s challenges and providing tailored solutions, you can establish a stronger connection and increase the chances of progressing toward SQL status.

You still need to deliver relevant content to the leads interested and willing to buy your B2B SaaS solution or product. No matter if you provide useful blog posts, ebooks, webinars, industry reports, or best industry practices, you always must highlight what’s the benefit the lead gets if they become buyers.

Of course, never stop engaging and nurturing the leads. All B2B SaaS companies must do this continuously without skipping any phase. Consistent communication builds trust and showcases the value of your solution. That’s why nurturing is essential – leads must feel like you give the value they specifically need.

Sales Leads vs Sales-Qualified Leads Final Words

Understanding the difference between sales leads and sales-qualified leads is crucial for optimizing the B2B SaaS sales efforts and relocating the resources effectively. 

By understanding the distinction on time, you empower the sales teams to work more efficiently and properly prioritize the leads based on their conversion potential.  By strategically qualifying and nurturing leads, businesses can optimize their sales pipeline, increase conversion rates, and achieve greater success in the competitive B2B SaaS landscape.

About the Author

Picture of Elena Daskalova

Elena Daskalova

Experienced content writer with a focus on SaaS content marketing and copywriting. With a passion for crafting compelling stories, paired with expertise, delivers narratives that drive customer engagement and growth.