5 ways that lead scoring can close the gap between sales and marketing

Posted On by Brian Coles

“When hell freezes over.” That is what Eagles drummer and co-vocalist Don Henley had to say on the chances of the country-rock band ever getting together again after their 1980 split. That is also the feeling many people have on sales and marketing professionals becoming friends. We believe that working together on a marketing campaign can make this happen, especially if you use lead scoring, and more specifically, category scoring.

For years, marketing and sales were silos inside organisations. Sales leads formed a bone of contention. Marketing complained that sales were not following up on the leads marketing provided, while sales showed themselves less than pleased with the quality and quantity of leads. At least they both agreed that leads were important. From our experience in implementing marketing automation, we see that the gap between sales and marketing is closing. And about time! Marketing automation tools are doing a great job in helping close that gap, as sales and marketing need to align closely to get the results that sales and marketing teams are compensated on.

We found that lead scoring can bring sales and marketing closer. Improving lead scoring and introducing category scoring will make the sales process more efficient and will shorten the sales cycle. Here are 5 ways that lead scoring can make sales and marketing teams bond.

1. Decide on your fit/engagement matrix
When is a lead ‘hot’ enough for sales reps to follow up? When is a sales lead specific enough to merit a rep mail or phone call? That is something that marketing and sales can decide on together, by setting up a fit/engagement matrix. In this matrix you will rank prospects on two axes: one for fit, one for engagement. In the ‘fit’ part of the equation you will look at parameters such as the role of the prospect in the organisation, geography, size of the company, etc. On the engagement side, you take into account what activities a prospect performed: attending a webinar, downloading a white paper, clicking an email link, etc. Pardot lead scoring combines prospect demographic and behavioural data to prioritise leads. By plotting these parameters on a quadrant, you immediately see what prospect merits what course of action. High fit/high engagement represents low-hanging fruit for a sales rep.

Fit:engagement graph

2. Design a customer journey the nurtures the leads until they are ready for sales
Prospects in the high fit high engagement quadrant warrant immediate action. The other quadrants merit attention too, and sales and marketing should decide together on the course of action to take to push these into the top right-hand corner. The customer journey for each segment will be different. High fit low engagement are an interesting segment to apply account based marketing to, or invite top management to executive events. Low fit low engagement can be nurtured further in a more effortless way by inviting them to webinars, proposing downloads, etc.

3. Put lead scoring on steroids by using category scoring
Category scoring is one of the strongest features in Pardot. While a lead score will already tell you that a prospect is hot for you, you may not know exactly what they are hot for. Category scoring is lead scoring on steroids. A category score will tell you what a lead score actually represents in terms of products, complexity drivers, customer pains, etc. These are categories that sales and marketing can decide on together to refine the leads and provide sales with as much detail as possible on what the lead score really means. As an example: if you are a food distributor, you will want to know whether retailer prospects are interested in dairy products, meat, seafood or any other product category. A sales rep who possesses this detailed level of information will be able to get to the point faster. And shorten the sales cycle. Additionally, category scores will allow you to kick off trigger based relevant messaging when a score reaches a watermark.

4. Put a cap on the lead score and take timing into account
When attributing scores to a lead, a high number may seem very attractive, but it may be interesting to evaluate over what period of time that score has been accumulated. A lead score of 500 looks very promising, but if took two years to get there, the prospect may not really be hot anymore. So it might be a good conversation opener for sales and marketing to chat about putting the counters back to zero from time to time, or subtract points for inactive periods, say minus 50 points per month of inactivity. This is not an easy choice, and you need to take the length of your average sales cycle into account. If your business has a long sales cycle, you should not put the counters back to zero every quarter. This really merits a good discussion between marketing and sales.

5. Adapt your lead scoring system based on feedback from sales
Will you get lead scoring right from the first time? Some do, but its rare. Setting the lead scoring system and the points right from day one does not happen often. This is another area which facilitates a good conversation between sales and marketing, and you can tweak the scoring system as you go along. Ask sales how the process went and if the scores really mapped the interest of the prospect. If sales complain they are getting too many leads, adapting the scoring system can be adjusted. A lead scoring system has to change just like human behaviour changes.

Producing actionable leads
Keep one thing in mind though a lead score is not a vanity metric. While it is a nice number to project during a sales and marketing meeting, know that a lead score serves a purpose: providing sales with hot leads that are actionable and will make sales successful. Implementing category scoring makes leads even more actionable. Category scoring is where the rubber really hits the road, and where marketing can make sales shine. And as we all know, happy sales make happy marketing.