Drive Growth With 5 Elevated Sales-Qualified Lead Tactics

September 4, 2023
Contributor: Shubham Gupta

Level up your lead generation strategy with these tactics and boost your sales-ready leads to accelerate revenue.

With the pace quickening and competition intensifying in the SaaS space, tech sales teams face a relentless quest for bottom-of-funnel leads that are closer to purchase. Yet, the stark reality presented by a recent Gartner survey[1] is revealing—while 34% of marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) convert to sales-accepted leads (SALs), only 47% of these SALs evolve into sales-qualified leads (SQLs), with just over half closing as won deals.

This implies a pressing need—and a golden opportunity—to refine your lead generation strategies. Let’s discover five practical ways to generate more sales-ready leads and accelerate your sales pipeline. But first, let's define what SQLs are and how they fit into the funnel. 

What are Sales-Qualified Leads (SQLs)?

A sales-qualified lead refers to a potential buyer who has advanced through various stages of the sales process, starting as a marketing-qualified lead and progressing to a sales-accepted lead. At this point, the sales team has the opportunity to focus on converting them into a paying customer, often through a targeted sales pitch.

How does the SQL fit into the entire sales funnel?

SQLs typically fall between sales-accepted leads (SALs) and sales-qualified opportunities (SQOs) in the sales funnel. SALs are marketing-qualified leads that your sales team has further qualified, and SQOs are leads who have expressed a strong intent to buy and have been qualified by your sales team.

5 practical ways to generate more sales-qualified leads

Navigating the nuanced sales funnel stages, from MQLs to SQOs, demands a keen strategy. Here are five transformative approaches to amplify your SQL acquisition and secure promising, ready-to-convert leads.


1. Select the right channels

Choosing the right channels is paramount to attracting in-market buyers—those high-quality leads that are actively seeking solutions and more likely to convert into paying clients. Start by leveraging software comparison sites such as Capterra, GetApp and Software Advice to position your product in front of these in-market buyers. 

Remember, it's not about collecting many leads but attracting the right ones. By investing in the channels where in-market buyers congregate, you connect with warm leads specific to your category and prioritize quality over quantity.

How to maximize your impact on software review sites
  • Establish a dominant presence: List your product on software review platforms to gain visibility among users actively seeking solutions in your category. Your potential customers are already there, comparing their options.
  • Collect authentic reviews: Encourage existing users to leave reviews on software comparison sites. Positive reviews boost your product's credibility, influencing potential customers' purchase decisions.
  • Invest in premium profiles: Get seen by more in-market buyers by promoting your software at the top of category searches. These listings ensure you remain top of mind from increased brand awareness.
  • Engage with user reviews: Actively respond to users' questions or concerns in their reviews on these platforms. Engagement demonstrates commitment to your customers and can tip the scales in your favor.
  • Analyze and optimize: Regularly review your product’s demand generation performance on these platforms. Understand what's working and what's not, then optimize your campaigns accordingly to ensure a steady flow of high-quality leads.


2. Implement a lead-scoring system

Lead scoring is a method used to rank potential customers according to their perceived value and readiness to buy. The main goal of lead scoring is to determine which leads are ready for sales and which need further nurturing. Essentially, it helps prioritize leads most likely to convert into sales-qualified leads.

Lead scoring is typically done based on demographic or profile data (such as job title and company size) and intent data (such as online behavior and engagement with content).

How to implement an effective lead-scoring system
  • Define your ideal customer profile (ICP): Your ICP describes the attributes of your most valuable customers, which you should use to guide your scoring system.
  • Weight criteria based on importance: Assign higher scores to attributes or behaviors that are strong indicators of purchasing intent or fit with your ICP. 
  • Adjust scores over time: As you gather more data and insights, refine your scoring model to better predict which leads will convert.
  • Collaborate with sales: Work closely with your sales team to ensure the lead scoring system aligns with their perception of an SQL.
  • Use negative scoring: Deduct points for actions that indicate a lead might not fit or is not ready to buy, such as a website visitor going to the careers page or long periods of inactivity.


Integrating intent data is another way to improve your lead-scoring process. This data offers more profound insights into lead readiness. For instance, a lead frequently researching related keywords or competitors might show high purchase intent and will likely score higher. Buyer Discovery, Gartner Digital Markets' intent data, can provide these kinds of granular insights, fine-tuning your lead scoring to be more precise.


3. Nurture your leads

Lead nurturing is a pillar in the sales process, dedicated to engaging, informing, and guiding potential customers toward purchase-readiness. 

The journey from initial interest (MQLs) to readiness to buy (SQLs) isn't usually instant, but alignment between marketing and sales teams can accelerate it—42% of businesses noticed faster connections with qualified leads when their sales and marketing staff were aligned, as per Gartner Digital Markets' 2023 Marketing and Sales Alignment Survey[*].

It is crucial for software providers to keep the prospective client engaged during the entire purchase journey so that when decision-making happens, the provider is top of mind for the lead. 

This is where the sales follow-up process becomes important. Timeliness, relevance, and personalization are key to a compelling follow-up strategy.

How to effectively nurture leads


  • Segment your leads: Group leads based on interests, behaviors, or stages in the buying journey. This allows for more targeted nurturing campaigns.
  • Educate and inform: Provide value in every interaction by offering additional resources, insights, or solutions that cater to the lead's specific pain points or interests.
  • Track and analyze engagement: Monitor how leads interact with your content to refine your nurturing strategies continuously.
  • Leverage triggered automation: Set up automated follow-ups based on specific actions, ensuring you're always timely and relevant.
  • Use multi-channel touchpoints: Don’t just rely solely on one marketing channel. Use phone calls, SMS, push notifications, or social media messages on top of standard email marketing. To keep your brand top of mind, stay consistent with regular touchpoints such as newsletters or check-ins.
  • Align sales and marketing teams: Ensure both teams are in sync regarding when and how leads are transitioned and engaged.
4. Optimize your sales funnel

A well-structured sales funnel is needed to generate SQLs. By understanding each stage of your funnel and optimizing it for smooth transitions, you can improve the efficiency of lead conversion.

Take, for example, innRoad, a hotel management software provider that sought to diversify its lead gen channel strategy to reach and engage more buyers. The company initially launched pay-per-click (PPC) lead generation campaigns on Gartner Digital Markets’ software review sites and immediately saw success in driving marketing-ready leads to their high-converting landing pages.  

After some time, the company wanted to ramp up its lead generation and implemented the pay-per-lead (PPL) program. By focusing on sales-ready leads matching their ICP, innRoad was able to reduce the percentage of leads disqualified from 20% to 5%, achieving a 5x ROI due to higher opportunity and close ratios. 

InnRoad quote
How to optimize your sales funnel for lead conversion


  • Map buyer journeys: Chart the typical path your prospects take, from awareness to purchase, and strategize engagement methods to guide them seamlessly through each stage.
  • Focus on hyper-targeted leads: Emphasize prequalification (ensuring leads meet specific criteria before engaging) to enhance SQL generation. With PPL programs, you can reach an audience that matches your ideal customer profile, increasing conversions.
  • Test and review: Regularly evaluate your funnel's performance and employ A/B testing to pinpoint and improve weak spots.
  • Leverage technology: Use your CRM and marketing automation tools to organize and manage leads within funnel stages. This means setting up automated actions or reminders for leads at various stages, ensuring timely follow-ups, and preventing potential customers from being overlooked.
5. Utilize CRM effectively

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are vital in the lead management process. They not only centralize and organize data about prospects and customers but also offer insights into buyers' journeys and help coordinate marketing and sales teams more efficiently.

How to utilize your CRM effectively


  • Segment leads: Use CRM data to segment leads based on behavior, demographics, and buying intent signals. This helps tailor communication, ensuring you're addressing specific needs and interests.
  • Automate processes: Implement workflow automation within your CRM to ensure timely follow-ups and personalized messaging, furthering lead nurturing to accelerate SQL conversion.
  • Analyze data: Use CRM analytics to identify which strategies work best, refining your lead management process.
  • Integrate with other tools: Ensure your CRM allows integrations to pull in data from other platforms or devices you use (such as marketing automation tools, social media channels or customer support software). This can offer a holistic view of your leads.

Consider partnering with lead generation providers that offer integration with your CRM. Gartner Digital Markets' PPL campaigns are designed to deliver sales-ready leads to your email or CRM in real time and alert sales reps about key opportunities.


Accelerate revenue with a focus on SQLs

SQLs are like the fuel that drives your revenue engine. By generating bottom-of-funnel leads, your sales team can close deals faster and accelerate growth. 

Remember, the quality of your leads matters more than quantity. With a defined ideal customer profile and a coordinated sales and marketing strategy, you can get more SQL opportunities that are more likely to convert into paying customers.

Ready to grow your pipeline with sales-ready leads? Jump-start your journey with our pay-per-lead program today.


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Shubham Gupta

Shubham Gupta is a Content Writer at Gartner Digital Markets who ideates and creates purpose-driven content to help modern technology businesses achieve their goals. Outside of work, he enjoys reading thriller novels and Urdu poetry, as well as spending time with his dog. Connect with Shubham on LinkedIn.



Survey methodology*

Gartner Digital Markets' 2023 Marketing and Sales Alignment Survey

Gartner Digital Markets' Marketing and Sales Alignment Survey was conducted in June 2023 among 175 U.S. respondents to learn more about the benefits and obstacles of integrating sales and marketing teams. Respondents were screened for roles in marketing or advertising at companies with 101 - 2,500 employees and more than one full-time sales employee and more than one full-time marketing employee.


  1. Quick Answer: What Should CSOs Know When Benchmarking Tech Sales Pipeline Conversion Rates? (Gartner)
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