“Sales-Ready” B2B Lead Scoring: All About Data and Context

Part 1 of this two-part series looks at the data side of lead scoring. Part 2 is all about context.

By Peter Larkin
Chief Revenue Officer, True Influence

B2B marketing and sales alignment has been a hot-button issue for decades, with lead scoring often a source of friction. And while we’ve certainly made headway, surveys show that sales teams still spend about half their time working low-quality leads that result from misaligned marketing and sales activities.

Peter Larkin

Here at True Influence, we often talk about how new technology such as purchase intent analysis, enables sales and marketing teams to build continuity as they define customer personas, prioritize accounts, and track the impact of every touch with a prospect. 

But even the most meticulously crafted sales and marketing alignment will fail if sales teams continue to accept dead-end leads that were never likely to result in booked revenue in the first place.

In this post, I look at how sales and marketing teams can use intent data, first-party behavioral data, and old-fashioned market intelligence to establish meaningful metrics for what constitutes a “sales qualified” lead. You’ll see that the process is highly collaborative and always evolving. But you need benchmarks, and these tips give you a good place to start.

Sales Qualification Starts with Data

Before I get started, let me say that, obviously, most B2B sellers have some system in place for sales qualification of leads.

Over the years, the prevailing wisdom on the best framework for scoring and qualifying leads has changed from the venerable (or outdated, depending on how you look at it) BANT model to the emerging MEDDPICCl. This primer at Crunchbase provides a great walkthrough on these and other lead qualification frameworks, if you want to get into the fine details.

A huge shift in lead scoring has been increased adoption of Account-based Marketing (ABM), with its expanded focus on how company-wide purchase interest impacts the likelihood that an individual contact is ready to talk. Add in intent data monitoring and other third-party data sources, and B2B sellers now have an enormous volume of information on which to base the lead qualification process.

Understanding the impact of those various data on the sales readiness of a lead is the real challenge.

Can You Trust the Data?

The degree to which your team has been able to verify contact and account information should also be considered when scoring a lead for sales acceptance. Obviously, if an email or phone number hasn’t been validated, there’s no way a contact should be passed to sales. But additional verification – is this the primary business email? – should also be a significant weighting factor.

Scanning social media accounts can verify job title and, more importantly, current job function and interests. And firmographic data can be confirmed and augmented though services such as D&B Hoovers. 

Rule of thumb: The more data, the better, but only if the data is verified.

The Importance of a Multi-Layered View

In this post, I discuss tips on sales lead qualification based on contact- and account-level buying behaviors. We’ll take for granted that the accounts marketing is working are on a named list or otherwise meet your vertical / firmographic requirements. We’ll also assume that targeted contacts match your ideal customer personas on basic criteria, such as job role.

Of course, in the real world, this is a pretty big assumption. The first step toward sales and marketing alignment is to agree on who makes the best prospects, and that’s not always easy. But for the purposes of this post on lead scoring and activity, I’m going to take that foundation as a given, and focus on activity, not demographics.

That said, a lead should not be passed onto sales until you have a multi-layered view of both the individual contact and the account. Weighting the contact’s behavior with various insights, both about their own behavior and their company’s overall purchase journey, is the key to successful sales lead qualification.

Now, on to the metrics.

Pick a Number and Stick to It

There’s always going to be a human element involved in qualifying leads, but sales and marketing must agree to a fixed lead score (or at least a range of scores) that constitutes a trigger for inside sales or other escalation. This score is the result of a multi-factor equation based on criteria we’ll discuss in a moment, and for each business the exact math will be different.

Sales teams simply don’t have time to debate acceptance of every lead. You have to allow some flexibility, but to operate at scale, you must establish triggers that initiate the various automated systems that support revenue ops. 

Here at True Influence, sales and marketing meet about every two months to review our processes and qualification threshold. You can tweak your number based on market factors or the success you’re having in closing business. You may find you have additional bandwidth to tackle leads in the gray area.

But, conversely, I don’t advise sales to simply agree to churn through sub-par leads in hopes of landing a random big deal. Focus your efforts on what you know works, and stick to your guns on that sales qualification threshold.

Tomorrow, read Part 2 of this series on lead qualification and acceptance. Need to know more sooner than that? We’re here.

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