Lead scoring strategy to improve your pipeline
By: Aya Gharbawi | 06/07/2022
We know that high-quality leads have a clear business need and immediacy for the solutions you offer. The question is: How do we get these leads to sales development for nurturing in a quick and efficient way? The answer is lead scoring and automation.
Before lead nurturing can take place, it is important to qualify leads to ensure that sales development time and resources are being allocated efficiently.
Nothing is more frustrating for sales development than to have mountains of leads that are unlikely to convert. Not only does this waste time and resources, it clogs up your sales pipeline with dead ends.
Lead scoring will help you remove that first barrier by highlighting strong leads that show intent and willingness to learn more about your organization.
With lead scoring in place, your sales development team will not only know what leads to focus on, but they will also have a clear picture of who the lead is in fine detail – from demographic information, to how they have interacted with your organization, and what their greatest business fears are.
This is fuel for your sales development to use in their lead nurturing efforts to engage with leads on a personal level, which is a must.
Marketing Sherpa found that companies using lead scoring systems, increase their ROI for lead nurturing activities by 77%. Another study they conducted found that 68% of high performing marketers attribute their success to lead scoring processes.
In this article, we explain lead scoring, and discuss top strategies to ensure your lead scoring system helps you separate the wheat from the chaff to find the leads that your sales development team will enjoy pursuing.
What is lead scoring?
Lead scoring is a tried-and-true strategy to identify what leads have the most potential value for your organization. In practice, lead scoring is assigning a value to a lead to determine its worthiness.
The scoring system and measurements used will differ from organization to organization and depend on who your ideal buyer is, and the effectiveness of marketing materials. However, all lead scoring systems will assign value to leads based on their attributes and actions towards your organization. For example, demographic information, such as job title, industry, and location. And also behavioral information such as email opens, web page visits and registrations.
These actions and attributes will provide a positive or negative score, which will help you determine if the lead should be pursued for lead nurturing.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all method for scoring your leads. However, to make it a success, every lead scoring model you create should be consistent with the characteristics of the ideal buyer persona you have created. Attributes and actions that are consistent with your ideal persona will generate more points for the lead.
A buyer persona will help you determine what criteria has to be met for your lead to become a Sales Accepted Lead (SAL). This is a research-based profile of what you consider to be your ideal buyer, down to what kind of business challenges they face, how much money they will spend, their job title and more.
For example, if you find that webinar attendees have high conversion rates, this may demand a high score compared to a lead that simply opens a lot of emails.
You no doubt have many touchpoints that will each have its own score, and this may get overwhelming quickly. Start with the data points that provide the highest score and work your way down in increments. That way, your scoring will be consistent and predictable.
We will come back to buyer personas later in the article.
Learn more about lead scoring here.
Why is lead scoring important?
Generating leads is a good first step, but wouldn’t you want to know if they are showing the telltale signs of becoming a buyer? For example, the difference between a lead that is looking for educational content, versus a decision maker that is serious about buying a product. With a lead scoring system, you will know immediately which one you should pursue.
In addition, lead scoring will provide valuable information for lead nurturing. Remember, every interaction and touchpoint reveals information about the lead and what their intentions might be. A lead which reads content and attends webinars on a specific subject may have a singular business challenge that you can help them solve.
Lead scoring removes the guesswork and ensures that your sales funnel is packed with leads that are more likely to convert. Sales development can use this information to kickstart lead nurturing efforts based on the levels of interest the lead shows in your products and services.
How lead scoring improves sales and marketing relationships
Collaboration and a shared strategy are key. Sales and marketing should understand what leads they are after and why to develop a coordinated strategy. Lead scoring effectively does this, knocking out two birds with one stone.
Marketing and sales need to agree on an ideal buyer persona and the scoring system used in the lead qualification strategy. By clearly defining where the lead is in the buyer’s journey, it will provide all teams with the information to decide if sales should pursue them or not. Conversely, if the lead is valuable, but is not ready for a sales call, it can be further nurtured by the sales development team.
This will reduce the likelihood of friction that is caused by sales complaining about being given poor leads, and marketing complaints about not having the right information to target suitable leads.
Are your teams set up for success? 5 key elements for a successful business development team: Is your organization set up for success?
How lead scoring supports strong marketing campaigns
Good marketers should run a fine-tooth comb over their marketing efforts to see what is performing and what isn’t. We all know iterative improvement over time is the key to success, and lead scoring facilitates this in spades. In fact, it serves as a tool to check the health of marketing efforts.
By analyzing and applying scores to your various touchpoints, you gain knowledge of how they perform and contribute to the goal of helping a lead learn more about your organization.
For example, after analysis, you may find that a series of webinars you host and dedicate a lot of resources to results in very few conversions, and has a low score attached to it when it is attended by a prospect.
However, the monthly report you publish, which requires fewer resources and leads to more conversions down the line, has a high score and signifies a stronger intent for a lead to become a buyer. This helps your marketing team narrow in on what works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be improved.
A lead scoring system can be a tremendous boost for your ROI. If scores are applied logically and consistently, you will see improved conversion rates and sales development and marketing productivity. Remember, lead scoring does not increase the volume of leads, it highlights high quality leads. And regardless of the size of your organization, focusing on lead quality over lead quantity will yield more conversions.
It is a data driven framework that respects the valuable time of your sales development team to ensure they only spend time nurturing leads that have an obvious need for your solution. It will improve ROI by:
- Helping you see which touchpoints, content, tactics and strategies help improve your relationships with leads
- It ensures your sales development team focuses their efforts on high-value leads
- It provides data to help you improve your marketing efforts to generate personalized content
- It provides a mechanism to segment leads and develop strategies for each of your buyer personas
- It provides structure to give you control over your future marketing efforts
Do you have a sales development team? Many organizations do not have a sales development team and rely on marketing for lead nurturing. If you don’t have a dedicated sales development team, see how we can help you here.
Tip 1: Create strong buyer personas
A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal buyer. Why is this important? Because you have to know exactly who you are trying to market to. The more detailed your buyer personas are, the better you will engage with them.
Today’s customers are aware of the options on the market, and they know how to do the research. So you have to make sure that you understand their unique business challenges, so you can present your company as a solution.
Buyer personas comprise demographic data, as well as qualitative information from interviews and surveys.
- Company size
- Company spending ability
- Job title
- Decision-making ability
Once you put this information together, you can analyze it to determine trends that give you insight into your most valuable customers and customer segments. Identify what attributes paint the best portrait of your ideal buyer that has an obvious need for your solutions.
Interviews and Surveys
Engage customers, as well as your own employees, for the best insights into your ideal buyers. After all, who can provide better information about the people you are trying to target than the leads that have become a buyer and the employees that engage with them every day.
Customers interviews and surveys
Your existing customers are likely the best representation of your ideal buyer. Your sales development team should engage them through surveys, or phone interviews, to find out why they chose your solution, and what led them to that decision. Engage with a wide range of customers, not just customers spending the most money, or customers that are the happiest with your service. This way, you can build a more detailed picture of your ideal buyer derived from an array of unique experiences.
Surveys and interviews have the added benefit of providing customers with a platform to voice their experiences. It is always good for an organization to seek feedback, and customers welcome the invitation to help shape the future of the service.
To help improve your response rates, you can offer incentives for customers such as discounts, trials, or gift cards.
Here are some questions you can ask existing buyers to help build your buyer personas:
- How is success measured in your role?
- What are you responsible for?
- Have you had experience with this kind of product before?
- What are your biggest challenges and pain points?
- How do you use our product to help solve those pain points?
- Will your challenges be the same one year from now?
- What were you hoping to achieve through the product and are you seeing results?
- What spurred you on to make a purchasing decision?
- Did you have any major concerns before making a purchasing decision?
- Did you have to get stakeholder buy-in to purchase the product?
- How do your peers feel about the effectiveness of the product?
Remember, the goal of these questions is to understand your customers on a deeper level. Chiefly, their goals, challenges and what motivates them.
Employee interviews and surveys
Besides your customers, speak with your sales development and sales teams. They are in contact with leads and customers daily, and are best placed to mine their experiences and share unique details about customer profiles.
This is especially true for team members that have been in the job for a long time, and will no doubt have recognised common threads that high-value leads and customers share.
Here are some questions you can ask your employees:
- What job titles are you eager to see in your pipeline?
- What are the most common challenge areas you uncover?
- What fears do leads have about using our solution?
- What competitors are leads considering?
- Have they had prior experience with similar products?
- What decision-making capability do specific leads have?
- Do our products and services meet their expectations?
- What are the high-value touchpoints that leads enjoy?
- What interactions are the most valuable?
Segment your buyer personas
After you have compiled your research, it is time to create buyer personas. The goal here is to paint a colorful picture and narrative of who you want to target. Creativity is key, and the more personalized the profile is, the better your marketing, sales development and sales teams will internalize it.
A buyer persona should have:
- A personalized description and name (i.e. Technology Savvy Sam)
- Job title
- Role and responsibilities
- Who they report to
- Their biggest fear
- What they need to do their job successfully
- Preferred method of communication
Once you have created a few buyer personas and have a clear idea of what makes them tick, and what keeps them up at night, you can create messaging, lead nurturing and sales strategies around these behaviors. Not only will this ensure all of your teams agree with whom you are trying to target, you will also be able to engage with customers on a deeper and more meaningful level.
Tip 2: Assign positive and negative attributes for customer actions
Once you have your buyer personas ready, and your marketing team has generated the leads, it is up to your sales development team to nurture them. This process involves scoring the lead positively or negatively, depending on how they interact with various touchpoints.
It’s tricky to decide on what scoring system you use to rank your leads. As a benchmark, find out your sales conversion rate. This is the proportion of qualified leads that resulted in a sale, divided by the number of qualified leads.
From this benchmark, you can use the data you got from your surveys, interviews and buyer personas to determine which attributes are more common for leads that convert.
From these attributes, you can assign a positive score or a negative score.
The lead receives a positive score when their behavior shows they are moving towards a purchase. For example:
- Opening an email
- Visiting a pricing page
- Requesting a demo
- Attending a webinar
- Requested a sales call
- Engaged on social media
- Downloaded a report
As you might expect, the weighting of the points you assign will be different for every touchpoint based on your prior research. For example, if you found that there is no clear correlation between a lead who downloads a specific report and a lead who becomes a buyer, downloading the report will attribute a low score.
Conversely, if you find that leads who attend a webinar have an increased likelihood of becoming a buyer, it will demand a higher score.
It’s tricky to get a mathematically sound scoring system right on the first go, and it may feel arbitrary. To improve the logic of your scoring system, you can calculate the percentage of close rates of individual attributes, compared to the percentage of your overall close rates. For example, if your baseline conversion rate is 1% and leads that ask about pricing information have a close rate of 15%, you could award this attribute 15 points.
It is also important to factor negative scores into your system. This will help your sales development team recognize when leads are failing to engage and if they aren’t ready to progress down the sales funnel. Assign negative scores for actions, such as:
- Email unsubscribes
- Email bounce backs
- Limited or no response to phone calls and emails
- Wrong job title or industry
- Not a decision maker
- Declined invitations to calls and events
Tip 3: Automate your lead nurturing strategy
Once you have your leads mapped and your scoring system in place, you can introduce automation into your lead nurturing strategy.
Ultimately, automation will ensure that each lead is automatically nurtured on autopilot according to rules you set.
The core benefit is removing manual and repetitive tasks, and letting automation do the job for you. Through automation, you can send as many personalized lead nurturing emails and set up as many workflows as your company requires – all without resource constraints.
Personalisation is key here. Depending on what stage of the funnel the lead is in, different lead nurturing strategies will be required. You will gain full control of your engagement strategies, including the ability to automate scheduling, determine the number of engagements pushed out, and set triggers based on the actions of the lead.
Here are some common automated lead nurturing workflows you can try:
Online event workflow
Online and physical events are key to engaging your target audience and are one of the most effective methods of generating leads. Whether you host or take part in events, creating a lead nurturing workflow that prompts your leads for registrations is vital.
As this workflow is all about times and dates, you need to set up email triggers before the event (ideally one month), another email trigger just before the event begins, and finally one afterward to wrap up the event.
Key lead workflow
Your key lead workflow is based on your ideal buyer personal. When leads reach a high enough lead qualification score, you can trigger a chain of emails to boost the chance of your sales team converting them.
Set up triggers to send them content that spotlights free trials, demos and walkthroughs. The more personalized you make the email, the better – show that you understand what their challenges are by outlining them in the email, while offering an array of solutions.
New service or product launch workflow
This workflow will help generate buzz around your new service or product. Similar to the event email workflow, you can trigger a series of emails to send to your segments before, on the day of, and a week after the launch.
Instead of sending a single email to market your new product, you can highlight a unique feature within a series of emails. Going one step further, it is also a good idea to send different emails depending on the lead segment and what their challenges are – by highlighting distinct elements of the product and how it will help resolve those challenges.
Tip 5: Factor point decay into your lead scoring
Point decay occurs when the lead doesn’t become a buyer and stops engaging with your marketing and lead nurturing. At this stage, it can be very hard for leads to proceed through your funnel.
This can cause issues. An abundance of point decaying leads will clog up your sales funnel and misdirect the time and resources of marketing and sales development teams – time and resources that can be better spent on leads that show interest in your solutions.
What can you do about it? Determine the point at which you reduce contact with a lead that shows point decay.
We would recommend setting out X days and X reduced points for 3 different types. For example:
- If no interaction after 10 days, reduce 10 points
- In no interaction after 30 days, reduce 30 points
- If no interactions after 60 days, reduce 50 points
This will help you gain greater perspective over the genuine interest a lead is showing in your organization, and ensure leads are categorized by recent positive activity, not positive history.
For example, a lead that registers for an event but then doesn’t engage with any touchpoints for two months will have a lower lead score than a fresh lead that signed up to the same event. Point decay will clearly illustrate that the latter lead is a higher value.
Tip 6: Lead nurturing technologies
Lead nurturing is multifaceted and requires technology to do the heavy lifting. A lot of organizations focus on CRMs to manage leads, but these often have the best lead scoring capabilities.
There are many tools with dedicated lead nurturing and lead scoring solutions on the market. Here are some of the best solutions available to help you automate the lead scoring process.
ActiveCampaign is a marketing tool with an array of built-in CRM functions, such as email marketing, nurturing tools, and awareness and intent tools. Through AI-powered insights, ActiveCampaign will help you identify leads that are ready for nurturing and show strong compatibility with your organization.
Some of its lead scoring features include the ability to auto-start nurturing campaigns when leads reach a score threshold, alert team members when a lead’s score changes based on your parameters, and also score leads based on the value of the sale.
HubSpot Marketing Hub
An all-in-on marketing automation platform, HubSpot features an array of lead scoring tools besides its automation and advanced marketing features. One of the main attractions of HubSpot’s offering is its predictive lead scoring capabilities, which removes the manual elements of lead scoring. You can take advantage of bots which will pass through thousands of data points to find the right leads for your organization.
Freshsales is an automation solution aimed towards sales teams. Through AI-powered insights, it can help foster relationships with leads, and organize customer information and help create personalized email campaigns. In terms of its lead scoring capabilities, Freshsales utilizes predictive scoring, as well as scoring leads based on historical data. It is a great tool for identifying which leads need attention, as well as giving you a heads up on what a lead will do next.
Working with Foundry Sales Development Services
Lead scoring is key to empowering your sales development team to convert leads. However, it requires a lot of dedicated time and resources to implement effectively.
Depending on the size of your company and how granular you want your campaigns, you might need an entire team dedicated to sales development that sits in between marketing and sales.
It is important to remember that lead scoring and lead nurturing isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy, which is why having experts look at your organization with fresh eyes is hugely beneficial.
If you outsource sales development, you don’t have to worry about:
- Setting up lead nurturing workflows
- Qualifying and segmenting leads
- Technology and licensing
- Office Space
Foundry SDS are lead nurturing experts. We will create a bespoke lead nurturing program to deliver high-quality leads that fit the buyer persona of your business development strategy.
Outsourcing lead nurturing and sales development will take care of all the lead nurturing challenges and costs with a single package. And you gain the expertise and speed of the company that specializes in sales development. Learn more about our services here. What’s next? Surviving and thriving: The sales development landscape for technology firms into 2022