When done right, lead scoring can ensure that marketing and sales teams focus their attention on the most promising leads that have been nurtured and qualified.

In the last few years, the consumer journey has shifted online in unprecedented volumes, generating a gold mine of inbound prospect and customer insights for companies–if they know how to organize, prioritize and utilize it to drive revenue. This is where lead scoring comes into play.

Lead scoring is a methodology that helps prioritize prospects based on their sales-readiness. It enables you to focus energy and resources on the most promising leads for your business. When done right, lead scoring can give you a 192% higher average lead qualification rate in comparison to companies that do not have a practice in place (per Aberdeen research).

According to HubSpot, 51% of prospects are not a good fit for what a business sells, and 40% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. It’s important to note that lead scoring isn’t about creating more leads. The goal of lead scoring is to make the most out of every lead that enters your pipeline at face value, thus driving conversation-ready opportunities into the business. This is what helps growth-focused companies manage internal resources and achieve scale.

How lead scoring helps deliver value

There are many ways that lead scoring can help drive efficiency for your teams and improve pipeline metrics. Ever found yourself in these situations?

  • My lead qualification team is overwhelmed and spending too much time with low quality leads. Lead scoring can better prioritize high intent leads for them and balance where they spend their time.
  • Our MQL-SQL conversation rate is 20% but my lead qualification team has capacity to take on more. With lead scoring, you can adjust (in this case, lower) your criteria to funnel more quality leads to the team and push more into the pipeline.
  • The qualification team has a low MQL-to-SQL conversion rate and are inconsistently following up with new leads due to the volume. Lead scoring will bubble up high intent leads for your sales organization and reduce the noise of low-quality leads.

In these, and many other scenarios, lead scoring can drive process improvements for your team, better use of the technology you have in place, and ultimately a stronger pipeline. “Our clients who use lead scoring approaches experience numerous benefits including higher lead conversion rates, shorter lead to opportunity conversion cycles, and greater visibility to return on marketing investment,” said Domenic Colasante, CEO of 2X, a B2B marketing-as-a-service solution provider and partner to LLR’s Value Creation Team.

What makes a top prospect, and what types of marketing content or campaigns draw them into the sales funnel or to close at a higher rate?

Steps to implement an effective lead scoring strategy

1. Establish an internal partnership between sales & marketing

Lead scoring should be a collaborative process between Sales and Marketing from the start. Before you get into the weeds on criteria and scoring, make sure internal ownership of the effort is defined, along with clear accountabilities for ensuring lead quality and follow up activity to convert them to opportunities.

Then, sales and marketing teams should review together your customer journey and ideal client profile (ICP) criteria such as challenges, job title, location, industry and company size. Open the dialogue further to ask yourselves “what are the types of companies we want to sell to and who is the perfect customer for us?”

Based on both experience and historical data, what makes a top prospect, and what types of marketing content or campaigns draw them into the sales funnel or to close at a higher rate? At the same time, are there any common characteristics among prospects who typically don’t become customers?

2. Determine lead scoring attributes

There are two primary types of attributes to consider in a lead sore: demographics and behavior. They can both vary significantly as you evolve in your marketing maturity, but start with what you know today – ideally, historically significant data trends of implicit activity that led to closed deals – and then you can revisit as the company grows.

Look at demographics (title, persona, seniority, purchase authority) and firmographics (account type, size, revenue, industry, location) to see how the fit of the person and organization match your ICP. Then think about the type of responder behavior, or action, that should trigger follow up. It could be form fills, email opens or clicks, event attendance or website visits.

To do this, try creating a summary report of closed-won opportunities and the identifiable activities that were consistently associated with those opportunities. Incorporate feedback from sales on what they consider to be quality leads and what behaviors make up the definition of an MQL based on your organization. Don’t forget to explore activities relative to content marketing (think eBook downloads).

Don’t forget to incorporate negative scoring criteria

Identifying negative consumer activities is just as important as identifying the positives. Look at consistent variables which typically have resulted in unqualified leads or lost opportunities – unsubscribes or visits to your careers page, for example. Having effective positive and negative activity-based parameters helps to avoid inflated lead scores and continue to prioritize the most active, promising leads. For example, if someone had a high demographic and behavior score but then their form fill of the unsubscribe triggers a positive, rather than negative impact on their score, it can cause them to bubble up to the sales group when they aren’t necessarily qualified.

Keep the maturity and capacity of your sales team in mind when determining the lead score threshold. Negative scoring can help balance weeding out prospects they shouldn’t spend time on.

3. Create a model to score high attributes that lead to downstream impact

Determine what lead score threshold indicates an MQL for your business and capacity, and therefore a follow up action trigger by the sales team. Customize your model to prioritize those demographic and firmographic attributes from Step 2, coupled with high-value behaviors, to determine at what point indicates the prospect is ready to talk, or take whatever next action is important for your sales process.

The maturity and capacity of your sales team is a nuance to keep in mind when determining the lead score threshold. Negative scoring is important here to balance weeding out prospects that the BDRs shouldn’t spend time on.

4. Implement lead scoring in your marketing automation platform

Larger CRMs and marketing automation platforms, like Marketo, Salesforce Pardot, HubSpot, SharpSpring and Eloqua usually include a simple rules-based lead scoring solution or offer it as an add-on. Once your criteria is entered, along with a plan for routing leads to the right people, the tools will manage automatically sending leads to sales when they reach a certain score so that sales can immediately follow up. These tools also enable reporting to track the success of your lead scoring model as well as visibility into trending of leads based on their scores over time.

5. Review and optimize

Once a quarter or every six months, look at the average lead scores across your marketing database and report on whether it’s aligning to your goals for conversions and wins. With these checks and balances, you will be able to identify if your strategy is correctly scoring the leads you want as well as the leads you aren’t interested in.

Lead scoring isn’t a “one and done” project. It’s an iterative process that you must constantly monitor. In terms of outcomes, an Eloqua study of companies that used lead scoring systems showed a 30% increase in close rates, an 18% increase in company revenue and a 17% increase in revenue per deal.

Follow up should consist of something that adds value to the prospect and be customized to where they stand in their buying journey.

Follow leads through the entire journey

Alignment on a process for transferring high-scoring, qualified leads from marketing to sales is just as essential as setting up a thoughtful scoring model. Examine what your current handoff looks like and how effective it is at converting leads to customers. Timing is one critical component – set clear expectations for how much time should pass between when the lead is received to followed up with. Based on my experience, five to thirty minutes after receiving is highly recommended.

Follow up should consist of something that adds value to the prospect and be customized to where they stand in their buying journey. Base follow up on the phase that the lead is in and try to meet prospects where they are to move them along instead of focusing on making the sale.

Here’s the bottom line.

Lead scoring offers businesses the potential to completely transform their sales and marketing success, resulting in a real-time impact on revenues. When done right, it can ensure that marketing and sales teams focus their attention on the most promising leads that have been nurtured and qualified. Before you embark on a lead scoring project, you will need to evaluate your current status and build out the people, processes and technology you will need to succeed.

Want more help getting started? Fill in this form to download Wes’ Lead Scoring Guide.

This GrowthBit is featured in LLR’s 2023 Growth Guide, along with other exclusive insights from our portfolio company leaders and Value Creation Team. Download the eBook here.