The more leads, the better, right? Not necessarily.
In sales, time is money. And there's no bigger waste of both your sales reps’ time and bandwidth than pursuing dead end leads. A lead is any individual or business that expresses interest in buying what you’re selling with the hope that they'll eventually become a new customer.
The catch? Not every lead that shows interest in your product is ready to buy.
Now, imagine having hundreds of leads to work with – less than half of which will likely ever convert to customers. As a time-strapped sales rep, how are you supposed to find and prioritize the leads that are sales-ready? This is where lead scoring comes into play.
What is lead scoring?
Lead scoring is a methodology used to determine the quality of a sales lead based on various attributes. Leads are given a score based on these attributes, and then ranked in order of priority.
The main goal of lead scoring is to save salespeople time and maximize the overall efficiency of the sales prospecting process. If you’re able to visualize your highest and lowest quality leads before you begin reaching out to them, then your plan of attack can be much more strategic.
The key to successful lead scoring is strong alignment between marketing and sales. At most companies, marketing is responsible for bringing in a steady stream of inbound leads. Sales is then responsible for converting those leads to prospects and eventually, to customers.
How to choose the right lead scoring model
Lead scoring is customizable and highly adaptable to many different types of businesses and industries. Since there are many ways in which you can apply this method, it’s important to document exactly how your business will adopt a lead scoring strategy.
Documenting this process ensures that all team members know exactly how to follow the model, ensuring alignment across all departments that are affected by it. To get started, you need to create a lead scoring process. Your lead scoring model is the foundation for your overall scoring strategy and will contain important details that outline how each attribute is scored.
Here are five common lead scoring systems you can use depending on the type of data you collect from leads.
1. Demographic lead scoring
Demographic lead scoring uses explicit data given to you outright by the lead, often by filling out a lead capture form. These attributes fall directly in line with many of the characteristics that are built into your target prospect profile.
Here are some common demographic data points used to score leads:
Personal information: name, job title, industry experience
Business information: company size, industry, employee headcount
Collecting this information early in the sales cycle lays the groundwork for the rest of your lead nurturing strategy. These data points can often indicate the difference between high-value prospects who fit your ideal customer profile and consumers who are just interested in the free content your team is putting out.
2. Behavioral lead scoring
Behavioral lead scoring relies on the collection of implicit data from your contacts. Implicit data refers to any sort of interaction or behavior that implies that the buyer is interested in your product or service. This information isn’t intentionally provided by the lead but is implied through their online and offline behaviors.
Here are some common behavioral data points used to score leads:
Email open rates and newsletter subscription
Web page visits and return visits
Interacting with a chatbot or browsing your website
Form submissions (product demos, free trial offers, etc.)
Meeting in-person at a company event or trade show
Gathering this type of data requires a bit more research but allows you to gauge how interested the lead actually is. Some of these actions may be better indicators of interest than others, so use your best judgement when assigning point values to them.
A good lead scoring model will take into account both explicit and implicit data. Combining these two data sets helps paint a much clearer picture of the value of a lead, and will help sales reps prioritize their outreach more effectively.
3. Point value lead scoring
The point value lead scoring model is pretty straightforward. Marketing and sales teams work together to create point values for certain marketing efforts. The marketing team then tracks leads as they navigate different lead generation channels. Each action a lead takes is assigned a certain score. When a lead reaches a certain cumulative score, they’re considered a hot lead. This scoring criteria will change depending on individual buyer journeys.
Here’s an example of an average MQL to SQL handoff using this strategy:
Leads take actions that have certain values attached to them (signing up for an email newsletter is a low value action compared to signing up for a product demo)
Marketing tracks the lifecycle of a lead and measures how involved they are with a brand, as well as where they’re at in the buyer’s cycle
When a lead takes enough qualified actions, marketing qualifies the lead as an MQL and then sends it to sales
Sales scores the lead and if the lead if considered high quality, it becomes an SQL and sales continues to nurture the relationship
The highest ranking leads are going to be first priority. These leads fit your customer profile and have expressed an interest in your product or service. Ensure that the sales reps follow up with these leads as soon as possible.
From there, sales and marketing should collaborate to determine the best approach for following up with leads of lower rank and priority. In most cases, leads with lower scores will be placed in lead nurturing campaigns to ensure your brand stays on their radar should they become qualified in the future.
Remember, a lead’s point value is only meant to act as a benchmark for prioritization. Don’t forget that you’re still interacting with real humans, not numbers. Every lead should feel valued, even if they’re not a good fit.
4. Predictive lead scoring
Predictive lead scoring is a lead scoring strategy that uses predictive analytics and historical company data to identify which leads are the most likely to become customers. The benefit of predictive lead scoring is that it removes the human elementing from lead qualification, reducing both time spent on scoring leads and human error. Predictive lead scoring also helps your sales forecasting efforts by using predictive modeling to project future outcomes based on your current data.
How does predictive lead scoring work?
First, the predictive modeling algorithm pulls in all of your lead data and analyzes both successful and unsuccessful leads to determine patterns.
These patterns can then be used to create lead scoring criteria, ideal customer profiles, and other important lead metrics
With this information in hand, marketers and sales teams can predict with higher accuracy which MQLs and SQLs are more likely to make a purchase based on previous customer lifecycles
Most organizations that use predictive lead scoring invest in predictive analytics softwareto help them manage their workflows. These software solutions offer sales teams an easy way to collect and manage all of their prospecting data in one platform. They also allow for data to be imported from other sources, such as your CRM, ERP, or marketing automation platforms.
5. Negative lead scoring
Because it takes awhile to nurture high-quality leads, there’s always the chance some leads will lose interest in your product or company. To weed out outliers, you can choose to subtract points for leads that fall into the categories you don’t sell to. This is called negative lead scoring.
A negative lead score is when you subject points from a lead score based on negative actions they take while interacting with your brand. These negative interactions often signal that a prospect might be creating distance between themselves and your business.
Some activities that indicate a negative lead score are:
Unsubscribing from email lists or unfollowing on social media
Reporting a company post, email, or communication as spam
Asking not to be contacted by your company anymore
Negative comments or complaints on a company channel
Leaving negative reviews of your company or product on third-party websites
If you notice certain leads taking actions that indicate a bad fit for your product, it’s important to account for those negative points as well. Continuing to nurture these leads is not only a waste or your time, there’s the potential for annoying or even angering these leads.
How to identify your ideal prospect
In order for a lead scoring method to be successful, both sales and marketing need to be on the same page about what constitutes a high quality lead.
The first step in creating a quality lead scoring model is to identify your ideal prospect. This can be done by looking at your target customer profile, which is created by the marketing team.
Pinpoint which characteristics qualify an individual to be a potential customer – look at demographics, company size, geographic location, and more. This is the criteria that separates a good lead from a great lead.
Here are a few things to consider when building a customer profile:
What makes a great prospect? (Company size, industry, revenue, etc.)
What criteria does a lead need to meet to move to the next stage of the sales funnel?
What do our ideal customers look like? (customer lifetime value, capacity to upsell, loyalty to your brand, etc.)
When does marketing-qualified lead (MQL) become a sales-qualified lead (SQL)?
If you build the foundation of your lead scoring model on a flawed customer profile, it could tremendously impact your overall scoring method. For this reason, make sure that both sales and marketing are familiar with the qualifying criteria before moving forward.
Best lead scoring software
Lead scoring falls to both marketing and sales teams, which means having a centralized location for tracking leads is crucial for your collaboration. Lead scoring software is used for creating lead benchmarks, tracking where leads are along the sales funnel, and determining when leads are primed for sales outreach. Lead scoring software offers an easy-to-use and scalable platform that can grow with your business.
In order to be included in this list, a product must:
Provide integrations and features that allow users to create individual lead criteria and lists based on specific criteria like industry, employee headcount, budget, and revenue
Allow users the option to compare and score individual leads against internal company benchmarks and lead criteria
Integration with other sales and marketing software solutions like marketing automation, predictive analytics, and CRM systems
Reporting features that easily allow users to import data from other SaaS platforms and export data in the form of reports, spreadsheets, and more
*Below are the top five lead scoring software solutions from G2’s Fall 2020 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity.
ActiveCampaign is a lead scoring provider that focuses on creating world class customer experiences. Using top of the line customer experience automation technology, ActiveCampaign makes it easier to source, score, and send qualified leads off to your sales team.
What users like:
“I have been using ActiveCampaign for our business for 4.5 years.
After switching over from another big name, ActiveCampaign provided everything I needed to grow our mailing list, keep in touch with customers and potential customers. The analytics are excellent, allowing us to evaluate campaigns.
The ability to use campaign templates or create our own is great for ensuring our brand identity shines through. I've recommended ActiveCampaign to several entrepreneur friends and teammates over the years.”
“I found it difficult to navigate the site at first. There were a lot of options coming at me at once. The "Getting Started" page helped a little bit, but I wish there were a short 60-second video at the top of it. Just a quick animated video that says: Here's what you need to do first. That would have been awesome. I did eventually figure it out myself so I'm not unhappy. Just be prepared to be a little bit overwhelmed.”
VanillaSoft is a leading sales engagement platform that allows salespeople to connect with qualified leads faster than ever before. VanillaSoft can be used as a standalone lead scoring tool or alongside other sales and marketing technology. Generate quality leads across more channels and never miss another sales touchpoint with VanillaSoft.
What users like:
“I have been using Vanillasoft here at our company for the past two years for our in-house telemarketing team. I did use Vanillasoft at my previous employer, which was an outbound lead generation department in a call center environment. Vanillasoft ticked all the boxes for us in both environments.
It was easy to set up, had great customer service and technical support and made it really easy for our telemarketers to generate leads for us seamlessly. The ease of use both on the administrator and caller sides allows everyone working with this platform the ability not to worry about mechanics and just get on with our jobs.”
“One thing which does get a bit cluttered - and could be improved upon - is how my entire team shows up under Reports. So, for a campaign like ours, we have to sort through all of our closed deals, dates, times, emails, etc. and compare against our names and those of the contacts. It can get confusing and take some time.”
Velocify is a leading sales acceleration platform that allows teams to bring speed and efficiency to their lead generation strategy. The full-stack capabilities and integrations available through Velocify allows reps to prospect with precision. Teams can source, nurture, and convert more leads with the help of Velocify.
What users like:
“I love how fast responses are between phone, program and leads. It keeps all of my leads organized. Easy to keep notes and access file information while I'm taking the call. It completes an application and moves everything into my other program, "encompass" very well. Everything updates as it's put in and makes sure it's correctly filled out before the file is saved and transferred.”
“The reporting is very limited unless data is exported to an external analysis or BI tool. Integrations in the system can only be triggered via status change or action on a record and it would be helpful to trigger on other fields and filter logic on the system as well. As of late the system has been becoming more unstable and having outages.
There is also SOW required to complete simple tasks that the system does not support, but are necessary to operate at scale. One of these is the ability to swap numbers out while retaining inbound routing for old numbers.”
Infer is a predictive lead scoring platform that uses historical data to power lead generation. Their hands-on approach to data science helps sales teams determine their ideal buyers and understand their motivations for purchasing. Waste less time on cold leads and target prospects who are ready to buy with Infer.
What users like:
“With Infer, it is easier to automate the processes behind an advertising campaign. Since the platform is responsible for analyzing and segmenting our databases, saving us a valuable amount of time. You just have to connect our CRM system through an API that Infer itself provides us.
Once our CRM system is integrated, Infer begins an exhaustive work of data enrichment, as it compares our databases with theirs and those of their partners. It also evaluates the positive and negative points of our previous campaigns to create a very interesting lead prediction system.”
“I really consider that the only problem that Infer currently has is its price, because although it is a very good service and great functionality, its cost structure is very high and this is a factor that limits many to acquire Infer.
Personally, I would love Infer to have a more competitive cost so that many people are encouraged to use this great service, as Infer really provides very good results of its service to any business. As for its operation Infer is very good and in all the time I have been working with this platform has never presented irregularities in its functionality.”
6sense’s account enablement platform puts the power of relationship management into the hands of your sales team. 6sense’s robust capabilities allow teams to uncover anonymous buyer behavior, prioritize accounts based on sales readiness, and track attribution across multiple marketing channels and campaigns.
What users like:
“The sophistication and freakishly accurate intent profiling data makes identifying target accounts that are currently in-market for our services so much easier.
The ability to take tens of thousands of accounts and have 6sense tell us which ones to concentrate on this week gives my entire sales and marketing team a single set of prospects to concentrate our efforts on.”
“Because of the nature of ABM and depending on your ABM maturity, there is some planning and preparation that goes into optimizing your CRM for ABM and aligning with sales to get the most out of the tool. 6sense helps with all of this and the team is very knowledgeable and helpful but do realize there is some time commitment on your part to get things set up correctly.”
Higher-quality leads, better conversion rates, more sales
If you notice your sales pipeline is getting stagnant, adopting a lead scoring methodology might be exactly what your team needs to pick things back up again. Building out an effective lead scoring model will take time, but the payoff is well worth it.
Still struggling to attract new leads? Learn how to build a lead capture form that actually converts.
Lauren Pope is a Content Marketing Manager at Oracle and a former content marketer at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, the G2 Learning Hub, and other sites. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and singing karaoke. (she/her/hers)
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