What constitutes a worthwhile lead? Ask 10 different people from your sales and marketing teams and you may get 10 different answers. For some, a person who downloads a piece of your company’s content or attends its events counts as a credible lead. For others, a lead is only worth pursuing once there is a foreseeable sales opportunity in the next six months. While there is an inherent subjectivity involved in qualifying a lead, however, consensus on what makes a strong lead is an absolute must for companies that want to maximise their sales revenue.
The discrepancy in how leads are defined across the business is a major reason behind the great divide that often separates marketing and sales. Marketers are passing more leads than ever over to sales teams, many of which may not worth pursuing by the latter’s standards, and as a result a bottleneck is forming that is keeping companies from going after their hottest leads in-time to make a sale. It is for this reason that lead scoring models are gaining popularity among marketers and sales teams alike.
A lead scoring model offers both teams a common language to use when defining leads. It makes it easy for them to agree on what qualifies a lead as strong, on which department is responsible for next steps throughout the handoff, and on what time frame they have to work with.
Lead scoring also helps sales teams close deals faster. It’s commonly said that ‘time kills all deals’ – I agree. The longer a lead sits inactive, the colder it gets. By that token, if your company considers every marketing response to be a worthwhile lead it becomes very difficult for sales to quickly spot which leads are hot and which are just individuals in the early stages of the sales cycle. Lead scoring allows businesses to standardise and speed-up this process, which means sales teams will always have the hottest leads in their hands.
How does lead scoring work? There are two steps involved in scoring a lead. The first thing to determine is whether or not a lead fits your ideal customer profile (Do they have the right job title? Do they work in the right industry?). The next step is to collect the prospect’s behavioural information, which you can gather from his or her digital body language.
Digital body language is essentially the online equivalent of the facial expressions revealed around a negotiating table and provides marketers with a deeper dive into customers’ tendencies and a better indication of whether they are ready to buy. It is gathered from the interactions prospects have when visiting your web site, downloading your content, reading your emails, and so on. With this insight into a lead’s personality and behaviour, marketers can ensure only the strongest leads get passed onto sales.
Modern marketing technologies allow businesses to assess peoples’ digital body language on a large scale rapidly, and to analyse leads in light of modern business intelligence considerations so they can hone in on those with the highest chance of success. For sales teams, a noted reduction in the number of cold leads they receive means they can focus their efforts on genuinely engaged customers and on increasing revenue for the business.
As an indication of how lead scoring strengthens the relationship between marketing and sales and improves the sales pipeline, consider how the technology has impacted global security software firm, McAfee. The company’s marketing team had become so effective at generating responses to multi-channel marketing activity that its sales funnel was overflowing and the sales team was overworked trying to sort out which leads were worth pursuing. McAfee realised they needed a way to automatically evaluate responses, both in terms of profile fit and engagement, so that only the best leads were passed on to sales. After implementing a lead scoring programme the company saw a 35% decrease in the number of qualified leads sent to sales. Tellingly, this led to a four-fold improvement in its lead-to-opportunity conversation rate. With fewer qualified leads passing through to sales McAfee was able to focus on those they were most likely to close.
Naturally, when introducing a modern lead scoring model marketers won’t necessarily get things right instantly. The process usually involves continuous testing and refinement with the sales team. Here are a few things to consider before getting started:
* Getting buy-in from sales and other key stakeholders. Without people on-board to improve the way leads are converted change won’t come easily.
* Making sure marketing and sales teams agree on what characteristics define different lead-classes and on how each of these types of opportunities will be handled. Otherwise, the handoff process will bottleneck and you won’t actually see the speed and efficiency benefits of automated lead scoring.
* Using software that can capture information on leads, facilitate the handoff to sales, and process feedback. While employees will shape and manage the lead scoring process, you need the technology to make that all possible.
Once you do get it right, lead scoring can help build a strong relationship between marketing and sales. The technology and expertise required are out there – the time has come to put them to work. Download the Lead Scoring Guide for Modern Marketing to get started.