Sales Lead Scoring Is a Winning Formula

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Back when customers actually shopped at brick-and-mortar stores, it was easy to observe them and determine from their behavior which ones were likely to buy and which ones were just browsing. Today, with more companies migrating to online commerce, it is important to find a digital equivalent that can assess consumer behavior and identify who is most likely to buy. The answer for many could be automated sales lead scoring and qualification.

Sales lead scoring systems are not new. The technology dates back to the 1990s, and more systems were developed in the early 2000s, but their uses were rather limited.

“The main use case was for businesses to qualify the sales leads they were getting by answering questions such as ‘Are these prospects the best fits for our product?’ or ‘Are they showing real interest in buying?’” says Sean Zinsmeister, vice president of product marketing at Infer, a predictive sales and marketing platform provider. “This was the digital equivalent to the non-digital world—where you could watch people and their behaviors in your store and size them up for sales potential. In the digital world, you can’t observe people on a physical level, so you have to devise other systems.”

Zinsmeister notes that almost every marketing leader he meets has trouble finding effective ways to measure their sales lead generation and qualification processes.

“There are several reasons why companies haven’t adopted lead scoring systems more aggressively,” he says. “Many early lead scoring systems lacked the capacity to process large volumes of leads that technologies like the IoT are now making possible. Also, many of the lead scoring systems were tedious and difficult to use. They didn’t always align well with companies’ marketing and sales workflows. Consequently, the systems were abandoned.”

Another important consideration was the volume of sales leads generated.

“If you don’t have a mass lead volume, you will likely process your leads manually,” says Chris Rothstein, a former Google sales executive who cofounded San Francisco–based Groove Labs, which provides a sales engagement platform. “However, once your lead volume grows, you will need to find a scoring methodology that can help you navigate through leads and prioritize them in terms of the greatest likelihood of a sale.”

Because lead scoring systems can assess the likelihood of prospects being serious about and actually buying products, they can make salespeople more effective. The time to market that the automation provides, compared to tedious manual lead qualification processes, is also consequential, since the sooner you reach a prospect who has expressed an interest, the greater the likelihood of a sale.

“This can have a major impact on your ability to shorten sales cycles and get sales sooner,” Rothstein says. “Companies that use lead scoring effectively can also improve their revenue per capita in their sales forces.”

As an example, Rothstein points to a very large parking services company with more than 10,000 employees.

“The company had a common sales coordination problem: Its marketing and its sales departments didn’t collaborate in a consistently effective way, and one of the trouble areas was developing quality leads and passing them on,” he says. “By instituting an automated lead scoring system to process all incoming leads, the company was able to improve the quality of its leads and improve the number of conversions to sales.”

Automated sales lead scoring also facilitated better marketing and sales information exchanges and collaboration, he adds.

Rothstein also looks back to his own experiences with Google.

“We received high volumes of sales leads and spent a great deal of time trying to qualify these leads,” he recalls. “When we introduced sales lead scoring automation, it made a huge difference in our ability to convert sales leads to sales.

“I encourage anyone who is dealing with a high volume of sales leads to look at an automated lead scoring system so you can reduce your time to market and improve the likelihood of converting your leads to sales,” he says.

An even bigger challenge for companies considering lead scoring systems is defining and measuring metrics for effective sales lead development.

That was one of the problems at Shoretel, a large telecommunications provider.

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