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Sales - 7 min READ

The Beginner's Guide to Lead Scoring

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Author photo: Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart


Your leads shouldn’t look like question marks when they come through your pipeline.

Given the data we can collect from our leads these days, companies need to spot the difference between hungry buyers and tire-kickers.

But without some sort of ranking system, separating the two can be a challenge.

Enter the world of lead scoring.

Through effective lead scoring, businesses can take the guesswork out of what their leads are worth and what needs to be done to close them.

In this guide, we’ll break down the basics of lead scoring and what your business needs to get started.

What is lead scoring, anyway?

Lead scoring is a system for assigning point values to the leads in your pipeline. This “score” is determined by behaviors that signal how likely your lead is to become a customer.

Consider how much time any given lead has spent interacting with your business online. Have they downloaded a lead magnet or filled out a form? Do they follow you on social media? These sorts of behaviors contribute to a lead’s point value and clue you in on their likelihood to convert in the future.

Leads are typically scored on a 0 to 100 scale. The higher a lead’s score, the more likely they are to buy.

For example, someone with a lead score of 75 has clear intent to make a purchase, right on the edge of becoming a full-fledged customer. On the flip side, a lead score of 15 might signal someone who’s stuck in the “just browsing” phase.

Although every business and their scoring strategy is different, the end goal of lead scoring for every company is the same: understand who your most valuable leads are and how to close them faster.

What are the benefits of lead scoring?

Today’s teams are empowered to improve their sales performance through data. That said, why is lead score a metric worth tracking?

Below are some key benefits to lead scoring and why having a methodology matters.

It helps you prioritize your pipeline to close more deals.

Let’s say two leads come through your pipeline: a 10 and a 99.

Rather than second-guess who deserves your immediate attention, the higher score instantly gives you the answer.

That’s the beauty of lead scoring. Reps are able to prioritize people who need just a slight push to convert versus someone who might need some serious nurturing. Both types of leads are valuable but the fine details of how you approach them are distinctly different.

It aligns your lead generation and sales strategy.

Breaking down the behaviors behind your lead score is a brilliant way to align your sales and marketing goals.

In coming up with your scoring methodology, you can better understand which lead generation tactics result in the most (and highest quality) customers.

Maybe it’s your latest lead magnet. Perhaps it’s a particular email series.

Either way, your sales and marketing teams should be on the same page. This lead magnet from Sleeknote is a great example of how marketing teams can funnel and qualify leads for sales reps.

Once you determine what’s working (and what isn’t), you can fine-tune your sales funnel to emphasize those most important behaviors.

It increases your lead conversion rate.

Lead scoring makes it easier to differentiate between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL).

In turn, sales reps have a better idea of what they need to do to close somebody. If someone is spending a ton of time researching a particular product, you can personalize your pitches to reflect their pain points or questions.

This ultimately translates to a higher conversion rate as you speak to their specific interests of your leads.

What determines someone’s lead score?

Now that you understand why lead scoring matters, it’s time to learn how to score your leads.

As noted, scores are determined by specific actions on behalf of your leads. Below we’ve outlined some lead scoring behaviors you can glean from your marketing and sales analytics.

Lead demographics

Let’s say that your business only serves customers in a particular city or state. It wouldn’t be practical to pursue international leads or opt-ins in this case. The same rules apply for how a business targeting a millennial or Gen Z audience might treat their boomer leads. These types of leads would represent a negative lead score for being outside of your target demographics.

However, local leads and those in your target demographic would signal a positive score. Demographic data such as location or age can help you immediately weed out leads that look nothing like your actual customer base.

On-site engagement

How your leads behave on-site is perhaps the best indicator of whether or not they’re legitimately interested in what you’re selling. Some data points to track include:

  • Filling out an opt-in form for a lead magnet such as an ebook or checklist
  • Signing up for a product demo or webinar
  • Repeatedly visiting your website
  • Commenting on (or sharing) pieces of content
  • Spending long periods of time on a product or transactional page
  • Asking questions on live chat

Of course, not all of these actions are weighed equally. There’s a significant difference between someone who visited your site three times within the span of a few months versus someone who’s been visiting and engaging with content for weeks on end. Each of these touchpoints is valuable, but that value ultimately varies from business to business.

Off-site engagement

Note that your lead’s engagement off-site can also teach you about their buying intent.

For example, which of your leads currently follow your social media accounts? Are they engaging with your content there? Marketing analytics such as email opens, click-throughs and replies are also indicators of someone who’s open to a call from a rep.

These touchpoints are crucial supplements to your lead scoring strategy. Anyone who’s taking the time to consistently engage off-site is clearly interested in what you have to say (and sell).

Company profile

Especially if you’re in the B2B space, the company information of your leads is definitely worth nothing. In addition to your leads’ roles at their companies, data points such as company revenue and their number of employees can help you understand if your leads’ parent company matches your target audience.

How to calculate a lead score:

Once you have your scoring factors in mind, it’s time to actually calculate your lead scores by assigning these actions with point values.

Start by calculating your conversion rate as a baseline.

Based on this baseline, you can then look at how each of the previous factors above impacts your overall conversion rate.

For example, maybe you find that visitors who download a demo or visit your site five times within a month are exponentially more likely to convert. If so, these should be significant point values for your lead score.

There is no “right” number of these factors to track.

Monitoring more metrics translates to a more accurate lead score but can get a bit complicated. Fewer metrics are easier to manage but will result in a less nuanced lead score.

Similarly, the weights of your lead’s actions will vary depending on your business. What’s a “+10” to you might be a “+15” to a competitor. This sort of variation can be frustrating but allows you to create a lead scoring methodology that makes sense for your particular sales strategy.

Finalize and improve your lead scoring strategy.

Beyond tracking your leads’ activity, you’re going to need to put their actions into context. For the sake of figuring out which data points matter the most, the following steps can help you finalize your lead scoring strategy.

Look at your customer personas.

Well-defined customer personas are useful tools for coming up with your lead scoring parameters. Generally, your leads should look like your target audience in terms of their demographics and desires.

Whatever ticks the boxes of your “perfect” lead score should resemble your ideal buyer. Resources like this persona template from Xtensio can help flesh out those details in full.

Let your sales reps have a say in your lead scoring.

Who better to help score your leads than the folks working with them day in, day out?

Your sales reps should be able to identify firsthand the common threads between customers that convert (or don’t). This includes lead sources (think: email versus social media) as well as individual pieces of content.

Prioritize the feedback of your top-performing sales reps who have a strong pulse on what your leads actually want. Here’s a snapshot of a performance report in Copper to help determine who you should reach out to for insight.

Dig into your sales data.

Lastly, your lead scoring methodology needs to be rooted in data.

Your CRM data can point you to the crucial moments in every stage of your pipeline that eventually convert customers. From your most important sales activities to what qualifies your leads, a sales CRM helps track every moment from Point A to Point B.

If you want to make sure that your lead scoring strategy makes sense, look no further than your numbers.

Ready to get started with lead scoring?

Effective lead scoring allows businesses to better understand their pipelines at a glance.

This translates into less wasted time among reps as you know exactly what to prioritize among your hottest leads.

And if nothing else, setting up a lead scoring strategy serves as a smart audit of your overall sales funnel. (More on how to manage a sales funnel here.)

The legwork involved might seem daunting. However, with the help of a CRM and the tips above, you can get started with lead scoring in no time.

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