Lead scoring—the ranking of prospective clients (i.e., leads) according to the value each might bring to the firm—is one of the most valuable tools in business development (BD) and marketing. Unfortunately, most BD folks don’t know where to begin with lead scoring, let alone how to get the most out of it.

What is lead scoring?

BD and marketing teams use lead scoring to assess a lead’s interest based on the frequency and consistency of their engagement. There are two major goals for lead scoring:

  1. Identify and target leads by the actions they have as taken (such as downloading guides, responding to offers, or attending webinars).
  2. Prioritize and sort inbound leads according to their lead score.

By “bubbling up” these leads in your CRM, you can identify good prospects, better understand their behavior, and interests and strategically market to them.

Why is lead scoring important?

So what are the key benefits to lead scoring?

  1. Increase in revenue. In a study conducted by Aberdeen Research, top performing organizations using lead scoring demonstrated 192% higher average lead qualification rate and their conversion rate.
  2. Increased business development proficiency and success. You turn your attention to leads that the firm considers most valuable. While not entirely disqualifying leads automatically, lead scoring ensures leads with a higher value will get more attention. Note: lead scoring isn’t always accurate so evaluating leads using other methods for vetting is still suggested for uncertain leads.
  3. Stronger marketing and business development alignment. Lead scoring helps strengthen the bridge between marketing and business development by implementing a process by which marketing and business development leaders can work together to enhance quality and quantity of leads generated through marketing.
  4. Increased marketing efficiency. Lead scoring identifies highly engaged prospects that have not raised their hand yet, which helps marketing target its prospects better through inbound and outbound strategies and converts more highly qualified prospects to clients.

Where to start?

Step 1: Define what criteria classifies as a qualified lead. The reality is, there is no single, perfect formula for lead scoring, despite what people might be selling you. Lead scoring depends on so many different variables, and those variables change all the time. So, before you start with any scoring method, you must identify that criteria and data that matter to you.

Remember, you will want to capture both implicit and explicit data when looking to identify leads. Explicit data is information about your prospect (their name, company they work for, role, size of company, etc). Implicit data helps you measure the level of engagement of a prospect. You can capture explicit data using forms on your website. You can capture more implicit data by tracking certain actions and creating tags within your CRM to organize contacts based those actions.

These are just a few examples of different actions:

  • Email opens
  • Email click-throughs
  • Web page visit
  • Consultation requests
  • Form submission and downloads
  • Webinar registrant.

Step 2: Determine and customize point values

Having identified leads and created your tags, you can start to set and assign point values to actions that can later use to determine the overall value of your lead. These actions equal a predetermined value by your business development team. Once the scoring is implemented, leads scores are updated by either adding or subtracting points to a prospect’s contact record.

Using the sample actions above, you can begin to score each prospect.

Every CRM is different, so it’s important that you learn what kind of lead scoring service your CRM has to offer. Most common CRMs have a 5-level lead score ranking, with 1 being the lowest rank and 5 the highest. Each level is usually measured by a number of points.

For example, if 50 is the maximum number of points a person can receive then your lead scoring scale would look like this:

01­–10 points = 1 Tier

11–20 points = 2 Tier

21–30 points= 3 Tier

31–40 points= 4 Tier

41–50 points = 5 Tier

Remember, it’s up to you and your BD team to decide the number of points you will measure each action taken.

You would then score each action tagged in step 1. Different tags fall under different categories. To come up with a strategy for scoring leads, it might be helpful to categorize tags under certain actions and scoring them. You can also set rules for these scores that expire after a few months.

You can also give negative scores to prospects that unsubscribe or opt out of offers. Below is one example of a lead scoring strategy.

Using lead scoring in your BD process

Below are a few ways you can use lead scoring to enhance your BD process.

  • Prioritize. An inbound lead’s score determines priority of attention. For example, if your sales representative has 10 prospects to contact, she can prioritize the list leads based on lead score.
  • Strategize. Lead scoring can be used to strategize outbound marketing campaigns and help target prospects that have not “raised their hand.”
  • Connect. Set up your CRM to notify your sales team when a lead reaches a certain score. This will prompt you to reach out to prospects that are actively engaging with your company.

Lead scoring is not the be-all, end-all for your sales process. It is not always accurate and will need to be updated. Some prospects may rank higher based on engagement, but may not be a fully qualified lead based on other criteria.

Despite its imperfection, lead scoring has real benefits in the constantly connected marketplace of today. When used properly, lead scoring can increase sales and the overall success of your BD and marketing efforts.