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What Is Lead Scoring? (+How To Create an Effective Scoring Model)

March 19, 2019

The more leads, the better – right?

Actually, that’s not always the case. In sales and business development, a lead is an individual or business that expresses interest in buying what you’re selling. The catch? Although they might be interested, that doesn’t mean they’re actually going 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 most likely to buy?

Luckily, there’s a fix for that. It’s called lead scoring.

What is lead scoring?

Before we start, let’s break down the definition of lead scoring.

The main goal of lead scoring is to save salespeople time and maximize the overall efficiency of the sales 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. 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.

How does a lead scoring model work?

Lead scoring is customizable and highly adaptable to many different types of businesses, industries, etc. 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 model. This model is the foundation for your overall scoring strategy and will contain important details that outline how each attribute is scored.

There are several steps to take in order to build an effective lead scoring model. Let’s dive in.

1. Identify your ideal prospect

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, etc. This is the criteria that separates a good lead from a great lead.

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.

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2. Assign point values

Now that you have a list of characteristics that determine a qualified lead, it’s time to rank and assign scores to them. The best way to do this is by splitting them up into two categories of data: explicit and implicit.

Explicit data

Explicit data is information given to you outright by the lead, often by filling out a lead form. These attributes fall directly in line with many of the characteristics that are built into your target prospect profile.

Some examples of explicit data include:

  • Geographic location
  • Job title
  • Area of expertise
  • Company size
  • Budget

The point values you assign to explicit attributes are going to depend entirely on the criteria that are specific to your target audience. For example, if your target prospects are C-level marketing executives, you should assign a higher point value to leads that come through with those job titles.

Tip: 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 scoring.

Implicit data

Implicit data is 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 examples of implicit lead data:

  • Attending a webinar or e-learning event
  • Downloading a piece of content such as an ebook or report
  • Subscribing to an email marketing newsletter
  • Interacting with a chatbot or browsing your website
  • 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.

Tip: If you’re just starting out, it’s best to keep all of this data organized in a spreadsheet. As you build out your lead scoring process and hone in on what works best for your business, consider automating some of the manual work with lead scoring software.

lead scoring chart for prioritizing sales outreach

3. Set a course of action

Once you’ve put in the work to sort through and organize this data, the next step is to set up a course of action. Scoring leads is a great starting point, but this method will only bring results once the scores are actually used to dictate outreach.

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 team follows 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 nurture campaigns to ensure your brand stays on their radar should they become qualified in the future.

Reminder: 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. Track progress and make adjustments

Like many other aspects of sales and marketing, lead scoring will be a process of trial-and-error. It’s important to track your progress and make adjustments as necessary. See which leads rank the highest or lowest, and follow their trajectory throughout the sales funnel to see if they eventually convert to customers.

For additional insight into how your lead scoring model could improve, seek feedback from the members of your team that are on the front lines. The sales and business development representatives are the ones at the forefront of the sales funnel – they’re interacting with these leads on a daily basis. Their feedback is valuable, so be sure to seek it out.

TIP: Discover the best sales qualifying questions to ask in 2019.

Bottom line

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.

Curious to know more about sales qualification? Brush up on the benefits of using BANT with our guide.

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