What Is A PQL (Product-Qualified Lead)?
A Product-Qualified Lead, or PQL, is a potential customer who has already used a company’s product (typically through a free trial or demo) and understands the value created by that product or service.
As the designation is based on experience with the product instead of being pushed down the sales funnel, a PQL does not need to have previously been a sales-qualified lead.
What Makes Someone a PQL?
For as long as there has been marketing, there have been money-back guarantees and risk-free trials. This is because one of the best ways to convince someone of the merits of a product or service is to give them the opportunity to try it themselves.
Many software and SaaS companies offer a free or trial version of their product, typically with some kind of feature restriction. For example, a company may offer access to the entirety of their program, but have a storage limit.
The criteria for determining a PQL is specific to every individual company, as it is informed by the data collected through product use.
However, some factors that could be used for qualification are:
- How much time is spent using the software
- Which features are being used
- The size of a team or company
- If there are additional interactions (i.e. downloading content or contacting support)
Which Model Works for Your Business?
While the sales funnel is predicated on educating and informing prospects, it is still a marketing-driven process. Potential customers can devote significant time and energy into learning about how a solution can help them, but they may not actually have a need, and they don’t find this out until every late in the process.
While the model of MQLs and SQLs is far more applicable to the majority of companies, this scenario can still be frustrating.
With the PQL model, the process focuses on the product and not the marketing surrounding it. Not only does this create the opportunity to analyze user data for insights, having a unified set of qualifying metrics allows the sales and marketing teams to be better aligned.
Informational material will always be necessary, so companies may still wish to use an MQL framework to suggest plan upgrades or feature exploration. The key difference is that it’s ultimately the customer—not sales—who determines if a product is a good fit for their needs.
In doing so, they demonstrate that they understand how the product can add value, and become better qualified for purchasing as a result.
The increasing adoption of PQLs across software and SaaS companies may suggest that the model is the future of sales, and where digital products are concerned, it may very well be. Despite how promising it has been, that it is only applicable to that niche puts it outside the reach of the majority of the world’s companies.
While there are companies that offer trial periods for products or services, there are a great many things for which that approach doesn’t make sense, like defibrillators or bulldozers. So long as companies manufacture physical products, qualifying leads through their use will simply be an alternate route, not a better one.