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Lead Scoring 101: Top Ways to Determine Which Leads Matter the Most

Lead scoring can be a great way to determine a prospective customer’s level of interest in what your company has to offer. But there is more to lead scoring than static knowledge about customer interest.

With a lead scoring program, you can leverage this knowledge to drive more targeted engagements, which can help speed up the sales cycle and quickly convert your engaged prospects into paying customers.

This article offers what you need to know to integrate a robust lead scoring protocol into your business development operations. After offering an overview of lead scoring, this guide explores the benefits of lead scoring, gives examples of applicable lead scoring models, and offers valuable insights into lead scoring best practices. 

What is lead scoring? 

Sales or marketing lead scoring is a method by which companies place leads into a hierarchical order, designating them as hot, warm or cold based on a pre-set numbering system determined by assigning values to certain qualities and behaviors. While each company will ultimately have its own system for determining lead value, factors that come into play with lead scoring marketing include where the lead is in the sales buying system—often referred to as the sales funnel or sales pipeline—the level of interest the prospect shows in the company’s offerings, and where the lead falls within a list of pre-set demographic and behavioral criteria. 

Since most businesses limit the number of resources they can devote to following a lead, the lead scoring system is an efficient way to discern how much energy should be put into which leads and when. 

The power of lead scoring 

A properly-designed lead scoring system takes much of the subjectivity out of the sales process. With more objective criteria, you can focus on the leads with the greatest chances of converting. Some of the benefits of lead scoring are:

  • Aligning sales and marketing. One of the biggest impediments to a successful sales operation occurs when there is a misalignment between marketing and sales. If marketing turns every inbound marketing inquiry over to sales as a potential lead, the pipeline will get clogged with people who either can’t afford the item or service being sold or simply don’t have enough need or interest in the item to buy it. However, a good lead scoring system puts marketing and sales on the same page. This helps ensure that every lead marketing passes to the sales funnel is a qualified prospective buyer. 
  • Drives marketing campaigns. Since sales and marketing are aligned as to what constitutes a high-scoring lead, marketing will be able to create and execute marketing plans that reap results in attracting these qualified leads. 
  • Speeds up sales. With only qualified leads entering the sales system, the sales team wastes much less time working on non-starter leads and much more time converting leads that fall squarely within the company’s customer profile. Countless hours that might have been wasted on bad leads are used to work the leads with the highest probability of successful conversion 
  • Increases revenue. Better leads traveling through the sales process at a faster rate means more sales. And that means more revenue. The relationship between proper lead scoring and an increase in sales revenue is undeniable. 

The bottom line is this: When you adopt a lead scoring system that takes most of the subjectivity out of the sales equation, you end up with qualified hot leads that are likely to convert. 

Lead scoring models 

There are many different lead scoring model examples you can draw from. Determining which lead scoring examples make sense for your organization is going to depend on several factors, including the type of data you are able to collect from current customers, whether you sell business-to-consumer or business-to-business , and/or use email outreach as a primary marketing tool. 

B2C demographics model

Do you have sufficient information about current users or buyers to discern their most prevalent demographic traits? For example, if you are involved in providing home improvement services to consumers in a specific area, you’d want to qualify your leads by ZIP code and homeownership status. 

You can gather this information through a landing page questionnaire, by asking qualifying questions on incoming calls, or asking home show booth visitors to fill out a contest postcard at your show booth. Then, attribute a number score to each desirable attribute and detract a predetermined number for each. On a scale of 1-5, for example, you’ll give a 5 to someone living in your operation ZIP code but subtract five points for anyone who isn’t a homeowner. Or, you might provide a homeowner a 5, but subtract three if they are a few miles out of your desired geographic boundaries. If they are an hour or more out of your desired geographic boundaries, you might subtract five if the area is just too far to service. 

B2B company model

If your organization is in the business of selling B2B, you probably have a particular type of business in mind when you think of your ideal customer or client. Is there a particular industry you target? Does a company need to be a specific size to qualify as a substantial lead? Do you have geographical limitations for where you can supply the ideal client in question?

You can qualify your candidates for all of these characteristics using information gleaned from visitors to your website landing pages and your inbound marketing efforts. By giving each desired attribute a score—then making subtractions for significant outlier qualities—you end up with a lead score that will be useful in directing the efforts of your sales staff. 

Email engagement model 

Look at how prospects behave concerning your email outreach efforts. If you can see a high number of opens and click-throughs from a particular lead, this is cause to rank them high on your lead score board.

On the other hand, if someone opens emails but doesn’t click through, your rank for their interest level will be lower. Sales teams know that if they focus on the higher-engaged leads, the ROI of their time and efforts will be higher than if they pursue cold or lukewarm leads. 

Lead scoring best practices

To make the most out of your lead scoring system, consider adopting these best practices:

  • Be clear on what qualifies and disqualifies leads. Always start with defining your sales-qualified criteria—demographics, company characteristics, online behaviors, etc.—and the criteria that disqualify leads. Look at factors like lack of budget and no clear decision-maker. Let the lead drop off the system if it isn’t all it should be.  
  • Pay attention to customer behavior. While lead scoring primarily relies on objective criteria, that doesn’t mean you should discount consumer behavior. Look for patterns in the behaviors of leads that did convert, then seek out similar patterns in leads you are still qualifying. If promising leads typically open up three or more emails before clicking through to your landing page and filling out your demo request form, use that knowledge to keep pursuing promising targets. 
  • Make sure the scores you assign correlate to the attributes you value. While it’s important to assign a score to every attribute or action you value, it’s equally essential that the higher-value scores are assigned to your higher-value attributes. If leaving a message for a sales callback gets a 5, then signing up for a newsletter—even if your marketing team is really pushing newsletters to get new leads—deserves a 3. If you value too many things at a high score, you lose the triage value of lead scoring. 
  • Regularly reevaluate scores and models. To keep up with changing consumer behaviors, shifts in the economy, and trending issues that ebb and flow, it’s important to stay open to making lead scoring adjustments from time to time. Yesterday’s soccer mom target for childcare items might have given way to today’s work-at-home dad demographic. Keep up or get left behind. 

Crunchbase can help you score leads

Sound lead scoring starts with intelligent sales prospecting tools, and that’s where Crunchbase can help. Our sales prospecting tools use sales intelligence to help you quickly identify the right accounts and track key buy signals so you can set up a lead scoring model that makes sense for your business. 

Contact us today to start a free trial. And, be sure to check out Crunchbase News to learn more about the latest industry developments and trends that matter.

  • Originally published August 11, 2022