Learning to Practice Proactive Lead Scoring

Learning to Practice Proactive Lead Scoring

I would like to address one of the eternal issues faced by go-to-market teams: lead scoring. Finding the perfect lead-scoring methodology is a balancing act between quality and quantity. 

Marketing will hit its goal of leads passed to sales, but the sales team could complain too many leads are low quality and a waste of time. So, you switch the focus to quality and qualify leads as thoroughly as possible. The balance shifts the wrong way, and the sales team complains they’re not getting enough leads and have to deal with inefficient outbound efforts to hit quota. 

So, what can you do? 

Marketing can ramp up spending and efforts, but you’ll likely see dwindling returns. Instead of relying on traditional lead scoring using only marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) based on brand interactions (email opens, link clicks, downloads), your team can switch to a proactive approach to lead scoring. By using account and intent data, the marketing and sales teams can focus their efforts to continually reach high-quality leads.

Why is Traditional Lead Scoring Outdated?

To clarify, traditional MQL lead scoring is still valuable. Knowing who engages with your marketing content is important as part of your lead-scoring process. But, it should not be the entire basis for lead scoring. 

With the old marketing activity-only model, you’re waiting for things to happen. It’s a passive mode of trying to get people to respond. You’re biding your time to gather the leads that appear from your marketing efforts. 

Traditional lead scoring is like gardening. You’re planting seeds, tilling the soil, and watering the plants, but you can’t make the plants grow yourself. You wait to see what sprouts and flowers.

Likewise, you have to wait until leads raise their hands that they’re interested. A prospect must attend the webinar, click links, or fill out your form. When they do, they are showing individual interest in your brand. Someone might be a VP and match your target persona, but their interest doesn’t tell you how well their company will fit as a customer. 

Marketing has to go as wide as possible with outreach to find as many interested people as possible. Then sales reps have the task of weeding through all the leads to discard the bad-fit accounts.

Traditional lead scoring is necessary for finding engaged leads, but it is fundamentally reactive and focused on individuals. Your marketing efforts can be wasted on the wrong audience by targeting too big an audience. Sales reps have to spend time talking with individual leads before knowing if a deal is possible. Even with the best intentions, time and energy end up wasted.

How Does Modern Lead Scoring Make a Difference?

To improve your focus and balance between quality and quantity, you must empower your traditional MQL approach with modern lead-scoring methods. Modern lead scoring uses your available data to proactively qualify and find leads for marketing and sales to target. You follow similar principles and methods as ABM (account-based marketing) but on a larger scale.

When selecting your targets for outreach, you filter based on firmographic, technographic, and intent data. Firmographic covers details like geography, vertical, and size. Technographic is the technology details around an account. Are they using Salesforce CRM or HubSpot? Intent data can come from a variety of sources to let you know how likely an account is already shopping for a new solution. 

By building your ICP (ideal client profile), you’ve already analyzed your current customers and know the firmographic and technographic definition you would put around a quality lead. You can use aspects of your ICP to create account lead scores. An account that’s the ideal size and vertical but not using the right technology is a strong fit, but it would have a lower score than an account that matches all three criteria. 

By combining your traditional MQL score with an account score and intent data, you gain a full picture of how qualified and interested an account is. Based on your data, you can be confident they are qualified and proactively target them.

You don’t need to wait and see who engages with your marketing content. If an account fits your ICP and shows buying intent, you can pass it to sales to aggressively pursue, even if there is no MQL activity.

Instead of marketing needing to cast a wide net and wait to see who shows up, they can focus their ad spend, email marketing, and other outreach on accounts that are already a good fit and in your ICP. Any amount of buying intent or traditional MQL interactions can then push the account to sales. 

Instead of reacting to who shows up, your teams are actively hunting for qualified clients. Everyone can be focused, and less time can be wasted on bad-fit accounts.

Continually Hunt and Harvest Your Demand

Here at SalesIntel, we currently have a $792 million ICP market. Based on intent signals, we know roughly 15% of those accounts (about $135 million) are actively in the market for new data solutions. 

Our GTM team is focused first and foremost on that 15% for everything from our paid ad targeting to outbound prospecting. We’re always looking to find and start a conversation with them before they show any MQL activity. Those within that 15% that also show MQL activity jump to the front of the sales queue.

No lead scoring system is perfect. Marketing still needs to spend time and energy on top-of-the-funnel activities to build your brand. Sales will still have conversations with accounts that aren’t ready to buy. But, an account not yet having demand is not the same as being unqualified. 

Someone might be on the phone with sales and not ready to buy, but they should still be a decision-maker at an ICP account. Sales can note when an ideal follow-up would be, such as when their current contract is up in six months, and set them aside. The conversation was not wasted.

Even when your proactive efforts to hunt leads don’t end with deals being closed, they are planting seeds with your ideal clients to harvest later. You’re going to see more long-term success and efficiency with where you put your spending and energy. That’s how you’re able to grow your business in a healthy manner.

Your Takeaways

What I want you to take away is that your best leads are not always the ones responding to your marketing the most. Someone can open every email you send and attend every webinar but still be at a bad-fit account. 

Your best leads are the ones you have proactively qualified and can pursue. Combine traditional lead scoring with account and intent data to find more and higher quality leads. 

Double-check that your GTM team has an ICP definition and is using it for targeting and prioritization. 

If your team is ready to take things to the next level, you can start to increasingly segment your target audience for personalized messaging and content and improved routing for ABM/ABX efforts. Marketing should connect the right message with the right audience. Sales should connect the best sales reps with the highest-value companies.

But, before you optimize your modern lead scoring model, you must build it first.