Lead Scoring Secrets: How to Identify Your Best Prospects In 8 Steps

Lead Scoring Secrets: How to Identify Your Best Prospects In 8 Steps

When it comes to modern-day, effective prospecting, the quality of leads far surpasses the quantity in terms of ROI and long-term profitability.

But how can a business predict which leads to target and which are most likely to convert? The answer is straightforward — lead scoring. 

The definition of lead scoring is the established process of determining lead quality in an organization, often based on demographics, behavior, and other data-driven factors.

It’s an integral part of modern sales and marketing alignment, empowering them to allocate their resources for inbound and outbound efforts in the best way possible.   

Businesses now have access to dedicated contact databases with millions of potential leads, so it’s become crucial to prioritize them by their purchase readiness and match their stage in the buyer journey.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what is lead scoring, why it’s important, and the best practices to help you create a functional and relevant lead scoring system.

Unlocking the power of lead scoring

First things first, is lead scoring all that important? After all, you can simply create mass-scale sales and marketing campaigns, and whoever shows interest — voila! Surprisingly, according to the study, 79% of B2B marketers haven’t established lead scoring yet, so obviously, they think this way.

In a nutshell, the use of lead scoring helps companies identify and target exclusively relevant prospects, allowing them to invest all their time and effort into those who show potential to make a purchase one day.  

Among other benefits of lead scoring are: 

  • Increased efficiency of resources (time and money) → by focusing on high-value prospects leads to improved ROI, one of the most important metrics in business.
  • Higher conversion rates (more progress in deals) → by sending the right message at the right time with personalization based on the prospect’s stage in the buyer journey and their purchase readiness.
  • Improved data-driven sales decisions (placing quality over quantity) → by keeping in mind the importance of staying competitive in today’s B2B landscape.
  • Facilitated sales and marketing collaboration (team power, yeah!) → by creating a constant flow of inbound/outbound lead data.
  • Optimized lead qualification process (scalability) → by analyzing leads that score high vs low to tailor sales and marketing efforts accordingly.

Is lead scoring enough to be sure?

Effective lead scoring is a powerful tool to elevate your sales efforts. It facilitates effective prospecting and resource allocation, but is it enough on its own to qualify and disqualify leads? 

Short answer is “no.” 

Lead scoring is not a fix-all solution but rather one part of a greater sales ecosystem. Even if you’re confident about your leads, you still need to reach out to them and nurture them with a dedicated sales engagement platform like Reply.

With a functional lead scoring system, businesses can qualify and prioritize leads based on patterns from previous customers and buyer journeys, but there are always exceptions to the rule. 

At times, the most promising lead may have zero interest in your product. In contrast, an unlikely lead could be secretly in need of your solution without even knowing, and the only way to truly know is by reaching out with your proposition (and a couple of follow-ups to be sure). 

8 proven strategies for effective lead scoring

Creating an effective lead-scoring engine is a step-by-step process that may take some time. The good news is that once created, it becomes a fixed element of your lead generation for a long time to come. 

Let’s take a look at the 8 proven strategies that together create an effective lead-scoring ecosystem. 

Define Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Your business’s ideal customer profile (ICP) is the absolute foundation of B2B lead scoring. 

Analyzing converted customers, their behaviors, and their buyer journeys empowers you to build accurate buyer personas, ensuring that your pool of leads is filled with exclusively relevant prospects at all times. 

Building your ICP involves identifying shared characteristics and patterns in the behaviors of your most valuable customers, supplemented with concrete feedback from existing customers in the form of surveys or reviews. 

Your ICP may include demographic, firmographic, and behavioral factors, though usually it’s a mix of all. It’s the absolute first step in effective lead scoring as it facilitates prioritizing your time and efforts rather than determining if your leads have the potential to make a purchase at all. 

With neat and accessible tools like HubSpot’s ‘Make-my-persona’, rest assured that you can seamlessly create your accurate ICP in minutes. Here’s how it would look like with an example of a SaaS VP of Sales: 

Though this looks quite basic at first glance, it’s definitely a great starting point for understanding the profile of your targeted B2B decision-makers. 

And remember, even the most simple buyer persona is times better than none at all. 

Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas Workbook (+ Templates)

If you’re looking to build or update your ICP and create spot-on buyer personas, grab a copy of this workbook packed with handy tips and ready-to-use templates.

Map your customer’s journey

A major part of creating a powerful lead scoring system is analyzing lead behavior, and the best way to do this is by clearly mapping out their customer journey. 

The traditional stages of a customer journey are:

  1. Awareness → when your customer first hears about your product or service, like spotting it in an ad or hearing about it from a friend.
  2. Consideration → they start to think about whether your product or service could solve their problem or meet their needs.
  3. Decision → this is when they’re getting close to making up their mind and deciding whether or not to buy.
  4. Purchase → they’ve made the decision, and they’re now officially your customer.
  5. Loyalty → after purchasing, they continue to choose your product or service over others.
  6. Retention → you keep them coming back for more by maintaining their loyalty through excellent service and experiences.

However, to map a detailed customer journey, you will need to go far beyond that. 

You can turn for assistance to dedicated visual dashboard tools like Miro when creating a customer journey map:

Source

Businesses will find it very handy to simplify the process of preparing a lead scoring system by taking a closer look at behaviors and patterns that lead a customer to make a purchase. 

Depending on which stage each lead is present, it should be taken into consideration when building a lead-scoring system because while a lead may show no interest in the awareness stage, they may very well start exerting buyer intent signals as they move further along. 

Yet, if you neglected them from the beginning because they weren’t actively showing interest, that’s a future customer lost to competitors. 

This is another reason why it’s become so important to keep everything under one roof, to ensure the synergy of data that keeps track of all prospects’ stages in their journey. 

For reference, with a sales automation platform like Reply, users can build targeted prospect lists with our B2B contact database and nurture them with personalized engagement sequences that match their stage in the customer journey. 

This ensures that no potential customer goes unnoticed with automated triggers and follow-ups once they take a step further.

Evaluate lead fit

After drawing up your ICP and mapping out your prospects’ customer journey, there comes a time to get down to the details: is there a lead-product fit? 

According to the study, only 56% of B2B organizations bother to check if their leads are legit before passing them on to Sales. And chances are, tons of leads match your ICP in theory, but it’s important to go beyond the surface — understanding their unique pain points, does your product truly provide solutions to their problems, do they have the budget, and so on. 

After all, if there is no fit, no matter how pitch-perfect your product and sales efforts are, the purchase will not happen.

Capture lead intent

Next, it’s time to evaluate whether they have shown any buyer intent signals. Look out for hiring intent, technographic intent, decision-maker job change, multiple pricing page visits, social media/content engagement, etc. You can catch these signals by using tools like website analytics, email tracking software, and ad campaign reports.

Once you’ve spotted these signals, use them to focus on the most interested accounts, tweak your messages, and involve the whole buying team. 

This underlines the importance of constantly tracking the behavior of non-purchase-ready leads to stay reactive the moment it changes.

Create a data-driven scoring model

Once you’ve cracked the code on your unique ICP, lead behavior across each stage of the customer journey, and how to correctly evaluate the fit and intent of each lead, you now have all the building blocks of a lead scoring system. Now, it’s time to put them all together. 

There is no one-for-all lead scoring model or methodology. It’s the responsibility of the business to take a step back, evaluate its audience and value proposition, and determine how to streamline the lead-scoring process by taking all those things into account. 

In other words, once you’ve understood ‘how’ to score the purchasing potential of your leads, the next step is to create a concrete model that will automatically (or manually, though time-consuming) add or subtract points from each lead. 

The criteria for adding or subtracting those points are entirely up to you, but they should definitely be based on hard, tangible data. 

Here’s a lead scoring template by HubSpot for reference. It provides a detailed way of measuring leads, like a scorecard…

…which then allows you to create a detailed lead scoring system, ranging from simple to very complex, depending on what best suits your needs…

Source

…but remember: when starting out, keep it simple with lead scoring—focus on the basics and refine as you go rather than getting bogged down in a lengthy framework from the get-go.

Automate lead scoring with software 

As briefly mentioned in the previous point, manually scoring each lead would actually provide pretty accurate results. Still, it would be so time-consuming that the pros would quickly outweigh the cons. 

With dedicated sales lead scoring software, businesses can automate the entire process, improving the accuracy of scoring, providing scalability, and, most importantly, saving precious time. 

Taking it a step further, with the new technology of predictive analytics and machine learning, sales teams can leverage the powers of AI to almost entirely remove the guesswork from the lead generation process based on evaluating and drawing connections from tons of data at our disposal. 

Picture this: before your sales reps create an engagement sequence for each unique lead, they will have a ready score dataset showcasing their purchase potential and readiness. 

Here are a few examples of the best lead-scoring software on the market: 

  • HubSpot lead scoring for comprehensive process tailored to your needs
  • Pipedrive for streamlined lead scoring integrated with your sales process
  • Salesforce lead scoring for robust features within its powerful CRM platform
  • ActiveCampaign for dynamic lead scoring coupled with advanced automation features
  • Mailchimp lead scoring offers intuitive features to enhance your email marketing efforts.

With numerous options on the market, the best lead-scoring software is the one that effectively integrates with your existing tech stack in order to facilitate a constant flow of data (you can easily connect all those lead-scoring tools with Reply). Also, make sure to check out the customer reviews from trusted platforms like G2 for due diligence. 

For a real-life model example, let’s take a look at how to set up AI lead scoring in HubSpot (though setting up lead scoring in SalesForce is virtually the same).

First, you customize the existing criteria filters for adding or subtracting lead scores, and then create your own custom score properties, in other words, your own cloud lead scoring algorithm. 

Source

Then, with HubSpot predictive lead scoring features, all these scores will be updated depending on all your leads’ positive or negative behaviors, including analyzing social media and email lead scoring behaviors.

P.S. Once you’re keen on using lead scoring in HubSpot with your contacts (and you’ll want to), give it a test run.

Users can then integrate a sales engagement platform like Reply with HubSpot, Pipedrive, and SalesForce lead scoring tools. This creates a streamlined prospecting machine, where the automated changes in lead scores automatically trigger the next step in the engagement sequence, staying on top of every potential customer. 

Alternatively, a CRM lead scoring integration will neatly organize and update all the scores in real time, empowering sales and marketing teams to make timely and informed decisions.

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Integrate sales and marketing efforts 

One of the mentioned benefits of effective lead scoring is the alignment of sales and marketing teams, fostering collaboration, and aligning mutual inbound and outbound efforts. 

But that alignment won’t magically happen on its own once lead scoring models are created. It requires cautious steps to ensure that all in-person and cloud marketing and sales efforts fall back to this scoring model from hereon. 

Once the lead scoring model has been established, marketing teams can adjust their marketing campaigns to attract high-score leads for sales teams to convert, and vice versa. Sales teams can provide feedback on which leads show low purchasing potential for marketing teams to take into account, creating a continuous loop and perfecting the lead scoring matrix. 

Fusing your sales and marketing automation lead scoring ensures that both teams are always working toward the same goal, merging their collective insights to evaluate and prioritize high-quality leads for conversion and aligning targeting, outreach, and nurturing efforts from both flanks. 

Refine and optimize

Speaking of this constant loop of sales and marketing feedback, it becomes clear that once a lead scoring model is created, it evolves over time with insights that go far beyond ‘theory’ and instead real-life experiences. 

What separates a merely functional lead scoring system from a great, effective one is a business’s ability to refine and optimize it over time. 

By enduring the test of time, businesses can monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their lead-scoring efforts by identifying anomalies in their scoring model. They can recognize patterns where low-score leads in fact show potential and the opposite, where high-score leads fall out of the customer journey before making a purchase. 

The refinement and optimization of an already carefully curated lead scoring system is the key to long-term lead generation success.

Communicate with leads 

The last stage of lead scoring (but certainly the main one) slowly transitions to lead nurturing, in other words, proactively establishing a connection to get a glimpse of their needs and purchase potential. 

This is where Reply.io comes into play with its AI-powered multichannel sequences that personalize your sales engagement efforts across every stage of prospects’ customer journey. 

Besides, once a lead is assigned a lead score, it is far from permanent because circumstances change in the complex business world. 

With Reply.io, changes in lead behavior will not go unnoticed. With automated triggers and follow-up messages, sales teams can ensure that once a lead’s score increases — they reach out with the perfect email template at the right time, increasing the likelihood of conversion. 

Reaching out to and nurturing qualified leads often provides more insights into their fit, intent, and potential to one day make a purchase, and these insights should definitely be taken into account when scoring your leads.

Transform your prospecting with lead scoring  

Matter-of-factly, the significance of lead scoring in identifying high-quality prospects is hard to understate. Now, it’s time to implement the above-mentioned strategies to enhance your lead-scoring effectiveness and drive meaningful business growth. 

In the rapidly evolving landscape of sales and marketing, as technology and AI become more advanced, the future of lead scoring looks promising. With data-driven predictive analytics, lead scoring will become more accurate and precise, analyzing lead behavior in more detail, informing which leads have the potential to become customers, and how to prioritize them. 

Until then, let’s perfect our not-so-perfect lead scoring systems to the best of our ability, empowering sales and marketing teams to remove a good chunk of the guesswork and better navigate their lead generation efforts. 

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