Lead scoring is a mercilessly logical way of evaluating leads. By assigning point values to activities and timelines, it allows marketing departments to evaluate the readiness of every lead in its system to buy automatically –cold-bloodedly, even. Every company uses a different point scale and values different events and behaviors differently, but lead scoring systems have one thing in common: they all seek to use technology and mathematics to automate the very human process of evaluating the needs and desires of customers.
And the technology and math works. According to Marketing Sherpa, on average, organizations that currently use lead scoring experience a 77 percent lift in lead-generation ROI over organizations that do not use lead scoring. In general, marketing organizations that employ effective lead scoring pass fewer leads to sales, but their sales organizations bring in higher revenues.
Hold on, you might say – they pass fewer leads? How can that be a good thing?
And I respond to you, my old-school sales friend, by mangling a quote from noted sales professional Josef Stalin: quality has a quantity all its own. If leads are properly scored and qualified, sales doesn’t need as many to reach its numbers. In fact, with fewer but better qualified leads, sales is more likely to meet and beat its numbers, since reps have more time to devote to leads that are far more likely to convert. Their efforts aren’t diluted trying to close deals that were never going to come to fruition anyway.
Sales reps often have a hard time with that concept. Their confidence naturally leads them to think they have a shot with every lead. The more leads, the more sales. That’s not realistic – and it often results in recriminations about marketing’s effectiveness.
If marketers want to overcome sales’ bias toward quantity, they have to get sales involved in scoring. In fact, if scoring is going to work, marketing and sales need to work together to develop criteria and to compare notes about what works, and what signals a customer who’s ready to buy.
Sales has a role to play in this that’s drop-dead easy, but no one ever employs. When sales closes a deal, it should have a way to ask the buyer one question: “what one thing did we provide you with that helped you choose our company?” That will help identify what should be the high-scoring items in your lead-scoring scheme. (You should also ask what content would have made the buying process easier that you did not provide – that will help you beef up your content marketing program and tailor it to what customers really need.)
But beyond that, sales needs to have input into the scoring scheme in general, if only as a reality check against marketing’s assumptions. Marketers “feel” what the signs of a ready-to-buy customer are and work to put in place opportunities for customers to signal their intentions. Sales reps, who actually talk to buyers, have a first-hand, anecdotal knowledge of what those signs are. If they can share that information with marketing, who can aggregate it and turn anecdotal evidence into trend data, then the scoring scheme can be adjusted and fine-tuned to deliver ever-better leads to sales over time. It could be that one activity in your scheme is over-valued and is resulting in leads being qualified that shouldn’t be; it could also be that an activity in your lead-scoring scheme is undervalued and is preventing great leads from escaping from your scoring system. Input from sales can help correct this problem.
Sales can also help identify characteristics of “false positives” generated by a scoring scheme. For example, a lead who downloads every piece of content a business has except for pricing data may be an interested buyer – or might also be a student or a journalist who’s doing research and has no intention of buying anything.
Collaborating on the fine-tuning of a scoring system means that the bumps can be smoothed out earlier and sales can work more productive leads sooner. It also means that, over time, sales should be more productive and drive its win rate up while ratcheting its work load down. That means happier sales people, higher revenues and a higher level of satisfaction with marketing. Who doesn’t want that?
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