Did you know that according to new data, 57% of B2B companies identify converting qualified leads into paying customers as a top priority? It’s true: Lead conversion is top-of-mind for more than half of all B2B companies.

The problem, however, is there’s often a breakdown in communication between marketing and sales about the quality of a lead. Between these two departments, there’s often confusion around where leads are within the overall sales funnel. Are they just learning about the brand and its offerings, or are they at the bottom of the funnel and ready to buy?

Enter lead scoring. With a sound strategy that helps categorize and prioritize leads, companies can close more deals and convert more would-be customers into long-term buyers.

The next question, then, is: How do you approach lead scoring the right way?

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We reached out to 17 expert marketers to get their number one tip into lead scoring so you can get right to the heart of an effective lead scoring program. Here’s what they had to say.

Matt Gratt: Wikibuy | @Mattgratt

Many marketers (and marketing tools) add behavioral and demographic scores together to form a lead score. This is nonsensical, because a poor fit prospect that reads everything on your website isn’t worth sending to your sales team. Consider behavioral and demographic scores separately, and send over the best leads you can.

Kevin Walsh: Hubspot | LinkedIn

I think it’s important to have an understanding of the problem that you’re trying to solve with lead scoring. We have customers who use scoring as a way to route leads to sales; to rank leads for individual reps; and to understand the quality of leads attracted via different campaigns or channels. Creating scoring rules for routing are often different than creating rules to rank leads for reps.

For example, you may care more about firmographic properties like industry or size of a company if making a routing decision; if trying to prioritize all leads for individual sales reps, a marketer may want to emphasize contact properties like job title or the analytics history of that lead. They’re similar but distinct problems, so it can be helpful to consider why your business needs lead scoring before you being.

Shayla Price: B2B Marketer | @Shaylaprice

The goal of lead scoring is to help your marketing team engage with your users. To do so accurately, it’s important that you identify the right user attributes and behaviors to represent the appropriate brand action. This initial approach involves doing the research to understand your target audience. From historical trends to session replays to one-on-one interviews, you can develop a powerful lead scoring system.

Zach Stone: Foster Web Marketing | @1zstone

Familiarity scoring must be leveraged. Leads who have received our newsletters and emails for more than a year have a much higher conversion rate than those who contact us based on a high-level vanity search term, targeted ad, or finding us on a client’s site footer, for example.

Nathan Ellering: CoSchedule | @njellering

Look at website data. Identify the web pages that, upon visit, indicate the person viewing the content is highly likely to be searching for the best product to solve their pain. Obviously, score those pages higher than any others on your site. Upon visiting a couple/few of those, eject them from any other campaigns and send them super targeted content that helps them understand your product is the only one that solves a specific pain you define for them.

Asia Matos: DemandMaven | @asiamatos

The most powerful lead grading & scoring model I ever built was 100% predictive and proactive. So if you have the resources available and the market you’re targeting warrants it, make it as smart as possible.

For SaaS companies with free trials, I’d say to not underestimate the product qualified lead. You can lead score and grade still based on fit + intent, but you’re looking at product activity and the steps they must take to get to the ‘aha!’ moment to identify the best qualified free trial users. (And eventually converting them to paid!

Myrna Megnal: Artessa Marketing | @myrnabegnal

Lead scoring is an interesting challenge. In my experience, I hear a lot of back and forth about the quality of leads – sales says leads aren’t qualified and marketing says the sales process is ineffective (i.e. lack of follow-up, off brand messaging, can’t close, etc.). A good tip is to be sure you’re not using only one scoring model. Instead, you should create separate scoring models for each of the products or services you offer. By doing so, you will better understand why one product might be more appealing to one customer yet holds no interest to another customer.

Harmony Hickman: Thankx | @harmonyhickman

The purpose of lead scoring is to qualify the leads before sending them to your sales organization. Therefore the most important part of lead scoring is determining the significance of each activity or behavior you are scoring. For instance, it’s better to give higher scores to form fills or lower funnel content views (customer testimonials), than it is for homepage visits or emails opens. And don’t forget, you can always give negative scores to bad behavior as well!

Michelle Urban: Marketing 261 | @michelleurban

Lead scoring is never a set it and forget initiative. Every day you’re gathering new insights about your target buyer – use that info, along with the feedback from sales, to continually make scoring adjustments. When you’re creating your criteria, build your scoring so you can make updates and changes as easy as possible. It shouldn’t be overly complicated. Most importantly, don’t forget to document it all down and share with your team and key stakeholders.

Zach Rogers: BigCommerce | LinkedIn

The single most important component to Lead Scoring is the analysis beforehand. Look at all your best Customers who converted in the last 12 months. Where did they come from? What are some of the common denominators in their buyer’s journey? Did they hit the pricing page? Did they request a demo?

After you find the high-value touchpoints, content, and channels along the way, now you need to understand HOW to score them — which is dependent on the length of your buying cycle. A long buying cycle should have smaller point values to hit an MQL threshold, since leads need more time to consume and engage before they are sales-ready. Faster buying cycles should be scored and weighted more heavily so they flow through the funnel faster. Get that stuff right in the beginning and you’ll thank yourself a million times over.

Amy Ahrens: B2B Marketer | @midwestrealness

If you aren’t using marketing automation to keep track of how many times a prospect engages with your site, salespeople, events and company, you are doing sales a disservice by not gathering that information and automatically rating that prospect so that when sales does reach out, they are loaded up with information. This information can help salespeople understand the prospect’s product interest, influence and authority, readiness to buy and much more.

Sue Duris: M4 Communications | @sueduris

Score leads by a prospect’s experience with the brand. This includes scoring where they are in the buyer journey, the content they are engaging with and feedback they provide. This is a win-win on so many levels, but this especially helps with your attribution, onboarding and advocacy efforts as these leads convert to customers.

Jason Quey: Growth Ramp | @jdquey

Keep it simple, especially when starting out. Here are two things I’d recommend focusing on: 1) Classification – What one thing can a lead do to classify themselves as a buyer? You will want to segment these personas with different scores because some buyers might have different qualifications for being the best buyers. 2) Qualification – What are the essential qualities they must have to work with you? Focus on what they need to have, then on what you’d like them to have in the prioritization section.

Anuj Adhiya: GrowthHackers | @anujadhiya

Increasing signup friction can weed out a lot of “just curious/looking” folks. Test having more than just the name/email fields. Add in fields that give you more information about how primed they are for your offering (e.g. read our CEOs book? Are you past product-market fit? Was your most recent funding round series A or higher? etc). For the ones that actually go through the process, it should be relatively simple to identify that if a person has answered affirmatively (and/or within a specific range) for most/all of the qualifying questions then they’re your golden geese.

Tyler Haire: Inbound Marketer | @tylerhaire

Don’t start lead scoring too early. The purpose of lead scoring is to be able to manage a large number of leads and to be able to prioritize who to reach out to first or identify their lifecycle stage (where they are in the buying funnel). Working at HubSpot, I saw a lot of clients that would have one or two content offers that would want to implement lead scoring when they were maybe getting 10 leads a month. That’s too early.

Agnes Jówiak: ClickMeeting | @agnes_w

Marketers should score leads taking into account timing factors around webinar attendance. Most webinar products give you reports showing attendee statistics. These offer a great deal of analytic power if you are willing to take the time to sort through them.

Look at the entry time. People you’re looking for are those who logged in more than 10-12 minutes before the webinar. It very often indicates interest in your topic, so make sure you give them a high score and have a dedicated follow-up campaign ready.

As with entry times, we expect the majority of the audience to leave near the end of the presentation. Even if it’s up to 10 minutes early, don’t add or subtract points for this. It’s very common that people leave during Q&A session or may have another meeting they need to go to.

Logging out between the 15 and 40 minutes, though, indicates a low scoring. There may be several factors that made them leave earlier, but whatever reason, they haven’t heard your full presentation or saw your CTA. Before you’ll mark them as a sales lead, they certainly need more nurturing that the contacts above.

Nichole Demere: Zest.is | @nikkilizdemere

Essentially, my “lead scoring” comes down to success potential and fit. Success potential, fit and ideal customer criteria all describe the same thing – the ideal customer is the customer who stands to benefit substantially from using your product, and who is willing to pay fairly for those benefits. We can check to see whether someone is an ‘ideal customer’ by cross-checking what we know of them against our best fit criteria:

  • Technical fit – do they have the right technology to be able to use your product successfully?
  • Functional fit – does your product offer the features and functions this customer needs to make their ideal outcome happen?
  • Resource fit – can they pay? Do they have the time and manpower to learn to use your product?
  • Competence fit – can they learn to be successful with your product?
  • Cultural fit – can you provide the appropriate experience (ie. customer success, customer service, ‘hand-holding’ etc.) that they need?
  • Mission fit – do they buy in to your mission and have the same values?
  • Analytical fit – do they agree on the same key performance indicators you use to evaluate success?
  • Authority fit – does the person you’re talking to have the authority to make the decision?

Notice that these “fit” criteria are as much about what you offer as what the lead needs. If a lead checks off each one of these boxes, they have a high chance of being successful with your product, paving the way for retention, referrals, and skyrocketing lifetime value.

Use These Insights for Better Lead Scoring Efforts

With these marketer insights on lead scoring, you can start to think about your own strategy and what steps you’ll take to get a better grasp on your leads. Ask yourself:

  • Are there new tactics I can deploy to improve these efforts?
  • Are there ways to foster better communication between sales and marketing?
  • Do I need to rethink our whole approach to lead qualification?

These questions are a great starting point for a larger conversation about sales conversions–so start a brainstorming lesson today.