Product-led Growth

11 lead scoring best practices

Hans Ott
Hans Ott
March 10, 2022
11 lead scoring best practices

Having a great sales team in place helps. Using marketing automation to run multichannel marketing campaigns as part of your lead generation efforts helps. However, not all leads are cut from the same cloth. You can generate leads all day, but lead quality is a highly important factor in your ability to convert them to customers.

First, we’re going to set your thresholds. Thresholds are synonymous with the lifecycle stages of your sales process. Contacts will move “up” or “down” between stages based on their actions.

In this framework, we’ll use the following thresholds, which are standard stages of the sales process:

  • Prospect – potential contacts
  • Lead – more engaged leads
  • MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead) – The most engaged leads and the contacts your marketing team should be creating opportunities to get them to Sales. Basically, Marketing does this by giving these leads something to interact with that proves their level of interest and engagement.
  • SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) – the primary target for the sales team. Sales should spend the majority of their time on contacts identified as SQLs.

We’re going to base this on a 100 point system. This will give you plenty of flexibility with the framework so you can easily make adjustments as needed.

In a 100 point system, the sales team should be working any contacts with a score of 100 or above. Again, these SQLs are where Sales should spend the majority of their time.

Balanced business scorecard. Coherent project, harmonious company development, optimized workflow. Skillful business management expert. Vector isolated concept metaphor illustration
Balanced business scorecard. Coherent project, harmonious company development, optimized workflow. Skillful business management expert. Vector isolated concept metaphor illustration

Properties you can score

Demographic Information

Demographic segmentation involves assigning gathered personal information to your contacts. Examples of demographics include age, gender, political affiliation, income, and more.  The more you know about your contact, the better equipped you'll be to nurture them.

Company Information

Company information for any given lead can help you and your sales team strategize the language and means of your outreach. Nurturing a lead at a Fortune 500 corporation will look much different than nurturing a lead at a 10-person company.

Website Activity

Find more information on how your lead interacts with the web — find their social channels and discover their blog content. You might be able to uncover pain points, giving you the opportunity to add value to their digital experience and start building trust.

Email Engagement

Dig deeper into how your lead engages with your emails. Do they open them multiple times, or do they leave them unread? Depending on how your lead interacts with you, you'll get a better sense of when to ramp up communication or when to ease up.

Social Engagement

Check out whether your lead is engaging with your company on social media. This is a great way to gauge their interest in your company's offerings. If your lead is active on social media and posts often, this is a great opportunity to have a more candid and informal conversation with your prospect to start building rapport and trust.

1. Track Health and Engagement Scores

Monitor all of your leads and customers, from very first web visit to becoming a paying customer to possibly churning. Discover how engaged they are on your social channels, website and platforms, at each stage of the funnel.

Group them into specific segments, and use their individual engagement metrics in your workflows. Measure health at each lifecycle stage define simple rules for good and bad health, for both accounts and users, and for each lifecycle stage, and see which contacts are worth taking actions for.

2. Align sales and marketing

One of the first steps for rolling out a lead scoring model is to align the sales and marketing teams. Over time, sales teams begin to identify trends in conversations that turn into opportunities for the pipeline. These trends include who the decision-makers are, what problems they are attempting to solve and what pain points prospects have. From these conversations, sales teams are much closer to the leads than marketing teams.

Marketing teams can work with sales to determine which demographics yield positive point assignment and show which content those qualified leads were interested in. Marketing teams can begin to develop a scoring model with this information that incorporates historical patterns to the buyers.

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Microsite development abstract concept vector illustration. Microsite web development, small internet site, graphic design service, landing page, software programming team abstract metaphor.

3. Score leads based on demographic data

Scoring on demographic data helps you hone in on the leads that are, in theory, a good fit for your product or service. Using the example above—job title—we could say that a someone with the job title of receptionist should receive a lower score for that scoring category than someone who is listed as the CEO. The CEO, being the decision maker, has better potential as a convertible lead than the receptionist, and so deserves a higher score for that piece of demographic data.

Other common demographic attributes that marketers award scores for include:

  • Level of seniority
  • Department
  • Number of employees a company has
  • Annual revenue
  • Industry segment
  • Geographic location

Your scoring model can be set up to automatically award points to leads when those or other fields are populated in the CRM. That information gets automatically synced over to your MA solution, and the lead is scored accordingly.

4. Talk to your customers.

While your sales team might claim certain content converts customers, you might find that the people who actually went through the sales process have different opinions. That's okay: You want to hear it from both sides.

Conduct a few customer interviews to learn what they think was responsible for their decision to buy from you. Be sure you're interviewing customers who had both short and long sales cycles so you get diverse perspectives.

5. Set Lead Score Rules

Now, let’s identify the actions contacts can take that correspond with each threshold we have defined:

  • Prospect – Downloaded a free offer
  • Lead – Filled out a contact form
  • MQL – Scheduled time (or registers for an event)
  • SQL – Attended an event or meeting

Your Whitepaper offer is worth 10 points. If a contact downloads your free offer they become a Prospect.

The contact form is worth 50 points. If a contact fills out your contact form, or downloads all 5 of your free offerings, they become a Lead.

The opportunity to put time on the calendar to talk is worth 75 points. If a contact schedules time to discuss your product with you, they become a MQI.

And demo attendance is worth 100 points. Once a contact attends a meeting to discuss your product, they become a MQL—a “hot” lead!

If your Salesteam accepts the Lead it will become a SAL. So this lifts the opportunity closing possibility to 10%. If the offer and the support are in line with the customer expectations an opportunity is created and the Contact becomes a SQL.

This means that a contact can move quickly through your lead scoring system by taking specific actions.

6. Use negative attributes/scoring to avoid inflated scores

Lead scores that rely solely on positives as a means of scoring lead to score inflation. In order to offset score inflation, you must apply the necessary negative attributes to any given lead to help decrease scores based on inactivity or lack of fit. There are many ways to combat score inflation. An easy one is to include industries you don't serve as negative scoring criteria.

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Tiny student sitting on book pile and reading flat vector illustration. Cartoon bookworm people studying and getting new knowledge. Library, literature and education concept

7. Revisit lead scoring models frequently

If qualified leads aren't turning into opportunities or a marketing team is constantly adding on new campaigns that require their own scoring model, sales and marketing teams should schedule regular check-ins to evaluate the performance of the existing model.

Holding a meeting between the sales and marketing teams once a quarter gives the opportunity to discuss if the lead scoring mechanism works, where there is room for improvement or what scores they need to adjust based on performance.

8. Disqualify dead-end leads

Some leads that enter your database will never convert into customers, plain and simple. For example, imagine someone completes one of your content download forms and lists their occupation as “student.” You can rest assured that they are probably doing academic research, not looking to buy your product.

You can use your marketing automation and lead scoring tools to automatically disqualify leads like this. Doing so ensured you don’t waste time marketing to them. The importance of disqualifying leads shouldn’t be underestimated.

9. Ask for Feedback

Marketing teams should regularly send out Net Promoter Score surveys but should also interview or survey customers beyond that. Customers often have a different experience than the way sales or support would describe it, so it's important to account for all angles of their experience.

When speaking with customers, the best information to collect -- outside of their demographics data, which assists with company and persona profiles -- are specifics around what drove them to make their purchase. Between short sales cycles or long sales cycles, teams want to know what causes customers to convert quickly or what activities assisted in their decision-making process. This helps marketers develop more content or campaigns that align with those customers' experiences.

10. Automate alerts to sales for new MQLs

Sales needs to be notified as soon as possible when a lead becomes qualified. Your possibility to qualify a contact after a form submission decreases with every minute where no action is taken. After 60 minutes it decreases by 6x times.

You can ensure rapid outreach when a lead becomes marketing qualified with automatic task notifications in your CRM. You can set this up as part of the automated workflow for lead scoring. Simply add a step that sends that notification to the sales rep the moment someone becomes an MQL. You can also customize the task to include all the touchpoints that led that lead to being qualified.

11. Track your Conversions from MQL to Closed Won

Once you qualify a lead and send them to sales, your rep starts a conversation with them. At that point, they are considered a sales accepted lead (SAL). This means that sales has accepted them as a valid lead and is now working them.

If the conversation goes well, your sales rep will open an opportunity or deal with that lead, which means they have been marked as a sales qualified lead (SQL).

Measuring the percentage of MQLs that turn into SQLs gives you an idea of the quality of leads you are passing to sales. If sales is only qualifying one out of every 20 MQLs you pass them, that indicates that you are probably qualifying them too soon. Use this metric to help analyze results each time you revisit the scoring mechanism with sales.

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