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What Is Lead Scoring and How Does It Work?

By Jackie Van MeterDec 27, 2016

lead-scoring.jpgA customer relationship management (CRM) system makes it easier for your organization to not only track, organize and maintain relationships with prospects and customer, but to also nurture your leads and score them based on the criteria that matter to you most.

But according to HubSpot, 79 percent of B2B marketers have not established lead scoring.

When you have a properly developed lead scoring system, it makes it easier to prioritize prospects, convert more sales and make better use of the resources and personnel at your disposal. Let’s take a closer look at lead scoring.

What Is Lead Scoring?

Every company has prospects. But if you don’t have a way of categorizing and prioritizing them, you are essentially saying they are all the same quality. As you may have guessed, however, your leads are not all equal. Some are only have casual interest in your company, while others are looking to buy today.

HubSpot tells us that only 37 percent of companies respond to their leads within an hour. Meanwhile, 35 to 50 percent of sales go to the vendor who responds first.

If you don’t have a lead scoring system, you have no choice but to go through your contact list one by one to separate the wheat from the chaff. The problem is that you’ve likely missed out on some sales opportunities by the time you’ve gone through that process.

Ideally, if the perceived value of the lead is clearly represented by an accurate score, you can do a better job of reaching out to prospects more valuable to you. You can prioritize calls that are more likely to lead to a sale, as opposed to dead ends.

Qualified leads can be passed on to sales immediately. The ones that don’t meet your criteria can be left with your marketing department for further nurturing.

A lead scoring system, however, is only as good as the rules you apply to it. Lead scores are typically a combination of demographic information and a user’s activity, such as visits to your website, eBook downloads, or email opens, which demonstrates their overall interest. More on this later.

How Does Lead Scoring Work?

Lead scoring allows you to assign a value to your leads automatically (this is where the use of a CRM comes in). That’s right, there isn’t any manual work involved once you’ve set it up.

You’ve probably guessed by now that the value of a lead doesn’t stay constant over time. Most lead scoring systems have a 100-point scoring model. A lead that has a score of 90 today, for example, isn’t necessarily going to be as valuable a week or two later, depending on your nurturing process and whether you’ve reached out to them.

This increase and decrease in value is also automated, which makes it easy for sales to prioritize leads that are sales-ready.

When you’re looking to develop a lead scoring model for your company, it needs to be a joint effort between marketing and sales. If you know who your ideal customer is, this makes it much easier to formulate your lead scoring model. Warm, qualified leads need to be handed off to sales, and marketing and sales can work together to define exactly what that means.

Simultaneously, you shouldn’t expect immediate results from establishing your lead scoring model. Some leads will require significant time to nurture, and this also depends on your industry and the niche you’re serving.

Explicit & Implicit Scoring

As we’ve already noted, there are different ways to score your leads. There’s explicit scoring, which is also called demographic scoring. This refers to the data you’ve collected on a given lead, including information they entered in a form. If you serve customers from several different industries, you might rank them differently depending on what you see as being more valuable or less valuable. Similarly, if their job title tells you whether they’re decision makers or not, this might be another factor that you want to affect your scoring.

And there’s implicit scoring, also known as behavioral scoring. This refers to what your prospects are doing on your website or a distinct sales channel. For instance, they may have viewed more than one product page on your site, they may have signed up for your newsletter, or they may have downloaded a whitepaper. Again, you would likely weigh these actions differently with your scoring process. You’ll want to differentiate between casual interest and someone who is clearly looking for a solution.

A well-developed lead scoring setup often uses a combination of these two methods. It’s likely that negative scoring will also be a part of your overall model. This enables you to deduct points from leads when they unsubscribe from your newsletter or when they view your employment page. Negative scoring helps you rank your leads more accurately.

Improve Your Sales & Marketing Effectiveness With Lead Scoring

When your lead scoring system has been set up correctly, your sales team will become more efficient and effective at their job. They’ll be reaching out to the leads that matter to you, versus tracking down low-value prospects or engaging in meaningless busywork.

Your marketing team will also be more effective. Because they’ll be able to improve the targeting of their marketing initiatives, they’ll do a better job of finding and attracting the right prospects.

As a result, you’ll have more cohesion between sales and marketing, which is sometimes hard to achieve. When your lead scoring methodology is on-point, it will improve communication between the two departments. Optimizing your lead flow and sales funnel becomes much easier when the two departments are talking to each other.

Finally, lead scoring should result in an increase in revenue for your organization. You’ll waste less time on prospects that will never close, and spend more time attracting and converting qualified leads. When synergy is achieved between sales and marketing, you’ll be better positioned to meet important business objectives.

Sales Enablement and CRM guide

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The Author

Jackie Van Meter

Jackie is a seasoned media executive with 17 years of advertising sales, online media and event marketing experience. Jackie has helped to launch four magazines and their corresponding websites and apps, ranging from technical trade titles to local glossy tabloids. Working with national and local brands, Jackie has a proven track record of offering her clients earned, owned and paid media to grow their bottom line.
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