Dozens of our sales experts give their advice on the best SMART sales goals to employ with your teams to see more results, and better pipeline performance.
Sales | Mar 31
Elise Dopson on August 21, 2019 • 17 minute read
What’s going wrong?
The most common answer is that you’re following-up (and wasting time) with poor quality leads–the people who submit an inquiry without any motivation to purchase from you.
There’s one thing that could be your saving grace: A lead scoring model.
In this ultimate guide to scoring leads, we’ll talk about:
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Lead scoring is the process of giving your leads a score (usually out of 100), with those towards the higher end being your highest quality leads. You’ll have a list of criteria, with each box ticked increasing their score.
Here’s what that might look like:
…Which lead should you prioritize?
It’s Lead A–the one with a higher lead score, and the contact that seems more keen on purchasing from you.
Sales reps spend just a third of their time actually selling. That’s a huge chunk of time they’re spending on non-revenue-generating tasks–AKA, the tasks you’re paying them for.
Lead scoring can solve this problem, as Repsly‘s Gil Resnick explains: “We all know what the ideal lead looks like, but if we are using a lead scoring model to help prioritize which leads to go after first, having the leads who have shown interest in your site or product should really put them at the top of the list.”
Lead Crunch‘s Emma Valentiner also adds that “pursuing right fit leads has long-term impact [since] your sales team is happier because they’re getting leads they can sell to.”
“Right fit customers are more satisfied with what you provide, and more likely to become long-term customers and loyal, vocal advocates,” Valentiner writes.
In a nutshell: You’re focusing on leads that are more likely to purchase, rather than attempting to convert those who might not be interested.
“It all comes down to measuring how good a fit the product is for a particular user and how high is the user’s purchase intent. Fit and intent is the basis on which you determine which leads are qualified and which aren’t,” says Shane Barker.
You can also score a lead higher based on these qualities:
Did you know that 61% of B2B marketers think generating high-quality leads is their biggest challenge? Identifying the channel where the majority of your top leads come from is like hitting the jackpot for a sales rep.
“As a salesperson, the most important thing to me about a lead is where it came from,” says G2‘s Joe Arko.
“The close rate for different lead sources varies from 2%-50%. Word of mouth closes at an insanely high rate, whereas a one-click web form isn’t going to be in the same ballpark.”
Arko continues: “All other variables are interesting, but there’s no better indicator of ‘likely to buy’ than the way in which they reached out to begin with.”
*Editor’s note: Track where your leads are coming from with our HubSpot Sources Report dashboard. You’ll be able to identify the sources that generate leads and customers, along with how many opportunities you’ve had per channel:
A1 Future Technologies‘ Srish Agrawal agrees with this approach: “Always check the source of your leads and have a tracking system in place to know where the best leads are coming from. This way, you can remove the lower quality traffic/lead sources, and focus on the ones working best.”
…As does Mailbird‘s Andrea Loubier: “When scoring a lead, one of the most important factors is the point of origin. Was this a user who signed up for your newsletter, or an individual who sent you an email or called about a particular product or service? Or, was this a prospect from a cold call?”
“Under most circumstances, whenever a hopeful customer reaches out to your company, that is the most valuable lead imaginable.”
Loubier continues: “If without any prompting whatsoever, they made the move to inquire, then they are already in the mindset to listen to a pitch and potentially make a purchase or sign up for a service.”
AeroLeads‘ Pushkar Gaikwad puts that into practice: “For example, a user searching for our software name from Google should have a high score as compared to someone who is coming from different sources.”
In fact, content visited through a search engine is reported to be the best source of high-quality leads:
COFORGE‘s team score their leads based on job roles, as Eric Melillo explains: “As with most sales processes a deal is best influenced by decision- makers. I’ve found that segmenting our leads by job roles that fit our buyer personas best, we can have better conversations with the right people.”
“This also helps sales efficiency as I’ll stop chasing poor fit leads that have lower leads scores. This allows me to be much more effective while nurturing prospects,” Melillo adds.
“Smart email marketers have a process for sending their emails,” says Mailcharts‘ Tom Buchok. “The first may merely build anticipation, working up to the actual introduction of the product or service.”
Buchok thinks the responses to these emails are a great way to score your leads: “When you begin to see hits to your website from these emails, or even responses to the email, those customers are ready to make a purchase. They should be contacted immediately, so you can answer any questions and finalize the deal.”
“Most email service providers report which page the person was on when they filled out a form, so you can use that to put your leads into different categories based on which product may be the best fit for them.”
Miva‘s Luke Wester adds: “If a visitor subscribes to your newsletter, they are more of a general lead. If they fill out a form to schedule a consultation, they are showing more buying intent and are therefore more qualified.”
“One of the most effective ways I’ve seen for scoring leads is also the simplest – it’s based on how many times they’ve engaged with your content,” says James Pollard of The Advisor Coach.
“In fact, the whole concept of remarketing and retargeting is based on this. If someone has already interacted with your content, that person is more likely to convert.”
For that reason, Pollard thinks: “A good lead scoring system will assign points based on how many times someone has downloaded your content, watched your webinars, liked your pages, and so on. The rule of thumb is that the higher the score, the better the prospect.”
It’s not just the pages they’re visiting, though. The frequency of each engagement is the most popular criteria our experts consider when scoring a lead:
HealthMarkets‘ David Peterson also “highly recommend[s] content-based scoring that segments based on where the lead is in the marketing funnel.”
“There is an important difference when scoring digital behaviors related to informational content versus transactional content,” Peterson says.
“For instance, a lead viewing an article titled “what is Medicare?” should be engaged with differently than someone who is looking at an article about “How to buy Medicare Advantage in Texas”.
Giselle Bardwell says Kiwi Creative follow the same process: “One thing we’ve done to qualify our leads is to score them based on content viewed or downloaded on our website. Every single piece of content has its own score based on our ideal customer profile and buyer journey.”
“Using content consumption as our lead scoring strategy has helped us shorten our sales cycle and develop more meaningful connections with our prospective clients,” Bardwell summarizes.
We all want to work with nice people, right?
“This might be a little unconventional, but as a service business, our leads need to be qualified over the phone,” writes Heather Baker of TopLine Explainers.
“If the person is rude or unpleasant to deal with, we immediately (and politely) qualify out, no questions asked. That’s because we know from experience that no amount of budget can compensate for a client that makes your team miserable.”
Once you’ve got your lead scoring criteria, remember to follow Genroe‘s Adam Ramshaw advice: “Don’t rely on gut feel – go back and analyze several years of sales, and losses, to understand exactly which lead attributes predict a high probability of conversion. Then use those in your lead scoring algorithm.”
Then, once your scoring model is perfected, use these nine lead scoring tips to find (and convert) your highest quality contacts:
You’ve got a list of leads you’re ready to score. But before you start working on them, Jonathan Greene of LeadCrunch thinks you should “have your leads verified and cleaned using an outside vendor.”
Greene continues: “There are tons of companies out there, some of which can verify that your lead is a real person, with a working email, and a LinkedIn profile, for as little as $.50 per record. Then, have them output the leads into buckets and score them according to how accurate the information is and how workable the lead.”
Sean Dudayev of Frootful Marketing advises doing this with qualifying questions: “When you ask for a name and email address, especially in something like a Facebook ad, its very easy for people to fall into the funnel that have no intention of taking action.”
“Qualifying questions makes it so that the potential lead is forced to asses their own situation and provide that information,” Dudayev continues.
“This does two things: on one end it filters out the “tire kickers” and another end it helps the salespeople do their job better. The marketers can use the questions as a way to score those leads from top to low priority based on the answer.”
Jeroen Minks of Vazooky Digital also recommends to “ask for more details in the contact form [because] once leads provide certain information, like phone number, project details, or any other type of more valuable information, you can classify these leads as higher quality leads.”
Tempted to skip this step? Be warned.
Research has shown that 67% of lost sales are caused by sales reps not properly qualifying their potential customers before taking them through the full sales process–meaning you could waste time and money by skipping qualifying questions.
A Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) is a contact that a sales rep thinks has a good chance of converting.
They usually differ from Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), which can often be poor quality as marketers don’t usually vet them before passing them through to sales. (Just 31.3% of website MQLs convert into SQLs.)
iSynergy‘s Steve Cross thinks you should “work directly with the sales staff [because] they are the hardest graders of sales qualified vs marketing qualified leads. They can provide the best insight into the type of lead they want.”
Lightico‘s Howard Schulman agrees: “To build the score marketers must get feedback from sales and revenue operation, and marketing must explain what the score ranges mean. Without alignment the score is meaningless.”
“Most leads don’t buy. That’s the sad truth. All the benchmark data says so,” writes David Green of LeadCrunch[ai].
It’s true: The average lead conversion rate for a SaaS company is just 7%.
Green continues: “For that reason, you need to see which leads look like your best customers. What are the most important attributes? What correlations can you find between types of engagement and closed-won deals?”
Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe + co adds: “If you know who is currently using your products/services and understand the process in which they search for solutions, the types of content that resonate with them, the channels they use, the terms they use, and the keywords they search, you can better segment your database into good-fit leads, prospects that need more nurturing, and contacts you can refer to another vendor.”
Once you’ve got those buyer personas in mind, UpLead‘s Will Cannon recommends to “use a data enrichment tool to append key firmographics to your incoming B2B leads. Such as company size, industry, location, etc.”
Sally Duby of The Bridge Group summarizes: “From a sales perspective, its not as important on what activities the lead is doing as is the person and company the right role and company.”
“Aligning your lead scoring to incorporate your ideal customer profile and target buyer persona are the most critical for SDRs and sales reps.”
Earlier, we mentioned how a lead’s engagement with your website can help calculate their lead score.
Following on from this, Garret Seevers of Azuga recommends to “pay attention to your website analytics [by analyzing] what’s converting and why.”
“It’s likely that the page with the most conversions what users are looking for. Do your best to ensure that other pages follow the same model as successful pages. Keep monitoring these analytics and adjust as needed,” Seevers says.
According to Dan Moyle of Impulse Creative, “when marketing and sales communicate and look at data from current clients (do they visit the website, which pages, how often, do they watch videos, how often do they open/click emails), and sales can tell you exactly what you’re looking for, you can find what qualifies YOUR leads the best.”
“One business may say it’s critical to know when a lead visits the “about” page. Another may say the most important factor is when someone visits a pricing page. It’s different for everyone.”
Moyle continues: “But when sales and marketing collaborate and look through the data, finding the most important lead score factors will happen.”
Once you’ve found those pages your leads are enquiring through, Kris Gunnars of Search Facts adds that: “If the page they landed on pre-conversion “is about something that your product is an excellent fit for, then that indicates that the individual is more likely to convert.”
However, Persist Communications‘ Grace Montealegre takes this a step further and advises to “run an attribution report to find out where they convert in the funnel.”
“And, hopefully, you’ve been segmenting your marketing to see which type converts best (video is known to convert well, same with whitepapers via best practices). Is it a trial period, is it the e-book, etc.?”
*Editor’s note: Unsure which pages your leads are visiting? Grab our Google Analytics Content Analysis dashboard to view which lead is converting on which page, along a full breakdown of your top-performing URLs:
The team at Inseev Interactive score their leads using the BANT method–an abbreviation for:
Samuel Wheeler explains: “The BANT system is perfect for understanding if someone is a good lead, but the quality of good leads can change depending on the service or the products involved.”
“Creating a simple “probability” calculation based on budget and timeline will not only help score leads but will also give your pipeline a more accurate valuation.”
Andy Hoek’s team at Invalshoek also use the same framework: “So basically, does the lead have budget to buy your solution, decision making authority to buy it, does the company the lead works for a need for the product you’re selling and is there a timeframe for selling it? If three out of for criteria are met, then it’s a good lead.”
“One tip that I would give for scoring your leads, is to know your limits. The score of a lead shouldn’t be determined solely by the value it can bring to your business, but also by the value that you can provide to the prospect,” says Mark Hughes of Inspired B2B Marketing.
“When scoring a lead, you need to consider whether you can provide them with the same quality of service that you provide to all of your clients. Although ambition is important when it comes to business, it should never result in a compromise on the quality of your product or service.”
Hughes continues: “Biting off more than you can chew when it comes to the size of an opportunity, can result in damage to your business’ professional reputation and integrity.”
“If you are unsure as to what your limits are, analyze your business’ resources and your processes.”
“These analyses should be used to make a judgement as to whether, at your current size, you have enough resources to take on the opportunity, e.g. staff and hardware, enough time to take on the opportunity, and the right level of expertise and capability that will be needed to provide a quality product or service to the client,” Hughes concludes.
Car Loans Canada‘s Jesse Perreault has a unique opinion on lead scoring: “Assuming most companies aren’t using a machine learning predictive lead scoring model there really isn’t a universal measurement. It will vary from company to company.”
For that reason, Perreault thinks “you need to build a unique lead scoring model based on your companies needs when it comes to lead acquisition.”
“I personally feel that by trying to find a one size fits all scoring model your criteria weight won’t be accurate to your businesses specific needs. Even if 10 of 12 companies value the criteria “lead source” and in particular SEO, you may still very well find that emails produce higher quality leads for your specific business.”
“Don’t just score for the sale or transaction,” says Jeff Stanislow of Chief Internet Marketer. “Think bigger picture.”
Stanislow thinks the “lifetime value of that customer needs to be considered and applied against the cost per acquisition.”
Andrew McLoughlin says Colibri Digital Marketing‘s “most important leads have some sort of a personal connection. Many are referrals, for example.”
That’s why McLoughlin adds: “When it comes to scoring leads, our best advice is to consider the personal element and imagine whether your business would be a good fit. If the partnership feels like C+ compatibility, then the lead itself is probably going to score similarly.”
We’ve got a list of qualities that identify a lead as having potential.
But how many leads actually score towards the top end of the scale?
Our survey found the majority fall somewhere between a score of 41-60, with less than 10% of a company’s overall leads reaching the 81 score mark:
However, Jay Atcheson says R2i “only see approximately 20% of our leads in the B2B space with a/any score, however, the ones that do attain a combined engagement and profile score, almost 50% lead to a CRM opportunity.”
It’s tricky (and time-consuming) to run through each lead in your CRM manually and give them an individual lead score.
Our experts use these tools to help them:
The team at Oxygen “use HubSpot to score our leads by creating custom score properties in the CRM tool to add or remove points from contacts according to their engagement with our brand,” says Amanda Lopes.
“This allows us to qualify our leads based on criteria we set, and feel important.”
“With a Segment integration, you can then pour that data into your CRM, such as Salesforce, and create touchpoints tailored to how high the lead is scoring.”
Kral adds: “Examples of actions include viewing a product, viewing multiple variations of a product, sharing to social, marking a product as favorite, subscribing to a newsletter.”
You could also use lead scoring tools such as:
Are you ready to create your own lead scoring model?
Not only can you use your sales team’s time more effectively (and close more deals), but you could be building a competitive advantage–especially when just 44% of companies use lead scoring systems.
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