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Playing for Keeps: Expert Ideas for Effective Lead Scoring

Ranking prospective buyers and their potential budgets may seem like an art, but there is methodology to the madness. Lead scoring increases your organization's efficiency and effectiveness, and thus is an important aspect of sales and marketing automation strategies. Instead of wasting a lot of money buying lists and repeatedly marketing to the same leads, develop a good lead scoring framework and you will shorten sales cycles, improve win rates, and yield higher-than-average contract values. Ultimately, proper lead scoring will be apparent in your bottom line.

The Buyer's Journey

Behavioral aspects are important to take into account when developing a good lead scoring system. Many organizations struggle with behavioral scoring and only score on basic behaviors such as downloads, web visits, and form fills. What really needs to be tracked is the buyer's location in the buyer's journey.

Tracking behavioral scoring can lead to errors and poor leads if the buyer's journey isn't considered. Carlos Hidalgo of ANNUITAS (@cahidalgo) says, "the key to demographic scoring is understanding what criteria is necessary to determine if this is a viable lead. If it is understood that your product or service is only suitable for organizations greater than $500m in revenue, then this is a key demographic criteria as qualifying an organization for $10m is a waste of time for the buyer and the seller. Determine what demographic criteria is necessary in order to produce the highest quality leads for sales, prioritize those criteria, and score accordingly."

Jeff Pedowitz from Pedowitz Group (@revenuemarketer) reminds marketers to stay focused on the buyer in order to position them correctly. "It is also important to score intent. Just because you are talking to the decision maker in your target prospect and a need is established, doesn’t mean that the prospect is ready to buy right now. How hot is the fire burning? Don’t ask when they will make a decision. Ask how important it is to spend money to fix this problem within the next three months. If they provide a low value, they aren’t moving forward. Put them into nurturing."

Collaborating for the Win

While developing a high quality lead scoring strategy, it is absolutely vital for sales and marketing to work together. Timing is everything. It's important to know when a buyer is ready to be approached by the sales team. The sales team will be competing for their attention if sales is too late, but going in too early is a waste of sales resources. Cliff Pollan of Postwire (@cliffpollan) knows that "The person who helps the buyer establish a clear vision for success wins the deal over 70% of the time."

Pollan continues, "The goal of lead scoring is to get the ‘right’ leads into the hands of sales at the right moment. Flood the team with too many leads, and they spend too much time on leads that are not qualified and miss getting to the ‘good’ leads. Often, we think of lead scoring as helping to identify needles in the haystack. More likely we are trying to identify the best needles in what looks like a stack of needles."

Paul Paulen, B2B Marketing (@MarketingB2B) considers internal relationships to be a large part of external success. "As a marketer, you need to forge a close working relationship with your sales team to ensure that the fields that you are scoring and weighting via your lead scoring platform are key indicators of your ideal customer profile and behaviours. Working together and asking the right questions of sales will offer invaluable insight to improve your lead scoring efforts and ensure that your marketing activities are clearly targeted to accelerate your sales funnel."

The Sales Feedback Cycle

The role of sales teams in lead scoring is vital to fine tuning the process. Sales can monitor what type of leads convert, and give feedback on the timing of receiving the lead.

Pollan recommends that sales and marketing teams to meet regularly to review the cycle, look for trends, and adjust their scoring process as factors change. Here are some potential review topics he suggests:

  • Take the top 10 leads for the month and discuss what made them good. See which ones moved most quickly from lead to opportunity.
  • Take 10 deals that closed last month and review their lead characteristics.
  • Look at leads sourced by sales, and determine the characteristics of those that became opportunities and/or closed.
  • See good leads that were lost - why where they lost? Were they given to sales too late? Where they not the right titles/roles? Was the segment they were in not a good fit for your business?
  • Together, call wins, losses and recycles to see what you can learn that will help the scoring process.

Start Simple, then Grow

Researching lead scoring can lead to all sorts of complex and overwhelming examples. Remember, many of these companies have been doing this for years already. Their models have been tuned to their business and product, not yours.

As Pedowitz points out, "When starting out, keep it simple and don’t try to over-engineer it. Come up with five to seven core attributes for explicit and five to seven core attributes for behavior. See how well your model works on deals that have closed. Adjust as necessary and then implement in phases."

Paulen also weighed in on starting small: "People often create complex lead scoring models too quickly through lack of understanding. Like any marketing automation tool, lead scoring should be carried out through habitual testing and adaptation. Start basic and develop the model based on lead quality to ensure maximum results for both marketing and sales. It’s better to return leads that you can validate and recycle than none at all."

The Easy Sell

If the marketing team is properly scoring leads then the sales team will have the right customer at the right time. Building a lead scoring process takes time and testing, but with good communication and collaboration between sales and marketing teams the sales funnel will naturally guide hot leads to the optimal point of contact. At the end of the day, taking the time to build an intelligent lead scoring program will result in increased effectiveness and more sales.