Speed Up Your Sales Cycle With Lead Scoring: 4 Simple Steps

Whether you have too many leads or too few, prioritizing leads is a gamechanger. It’s your secret to finding the diamonds in the rough when you need more qualified leads, without increasing headcount.

SaaS companies, who often have complex sales cycles coupled with small but agile sales teams, can especially benefit from lead scoring, since it allows small teams to punch well above their weight class.

In this post I’ll explain how lead scoring can increase your number of qualified leads, boost your sales team’s productivity, and seal more deals. We’ll then look at four steps to start your own lead scoring system.

What Is Lead Scoring?

So first things first, what is lead scoring?

Lead scoring is a process in which — based on qualifying attributes and actions — a lead is ranked, measured, and prioritized for outreach via a numerical or categorical score that shows their potential value and intent to purchase.

Traditional practices for qualifying leads, like BANT (budget, authority, need, timing), requires reps to laboriously separate the wheat from the chaff. Data is inserted and interpreted manually, and reps rely on a shaky foundation of personal judgment and rushed research to qualify long lists of leads.

When qualifying multiple leads from multiple personas, this process is not just tedious, it’s difficult to do with any sort of accuracy or consistency.

Enter lead scoring.

An advanced scoring system will base scores on a detailed list of attributes and actions, and then score leads from 0–100.

A more basic lead scoring system uses a smaller list of attributes and actions and might grade leads with a label like warm, hot, or cold (instead of a numerical score).

Regardless of the complexity of the lead scoring system used, however, the end result is the same…

Lead scoring highlights high quality leads for immediate attention, focusing efforts on deals that are most likely to close. Scoring also flags lower-quality leads and guides how they should be nurtured.

Marketing and sales activities revolve around how sales-ready leads are, so it’s hard to overstate just how important having a good lead scoring system is.

Why Is Lead Scoring Important For SaaS Companies?

Imagine you have a site that gets 50,000 visitors/month.

Only 5% (2,500) of your visitors are ideal leads.

How do you filter past the 95% to reach high-quality leads?

How do you filter them in a manner that doesn’t grind your sales team’s time, resources, and productivity to an exhausted nub?

The answer, of course, is to score your leads to personalize and prioritize lead generation efforts.

As a SaaS company, you’ll have visitors that are sales-ready, some that are just curious, and an unavoidable share of tire-kickers.

Unfortunately, the number of leads that are actually sales-ready is fewer than we’d like to think. According to MarketingSherpa, 73% of leads are not sales-ready. This begs the question:

Do you have the resources to give leads at different stages of the sales funnel the same level of attention and service?

Probably not.

Even if you did, it would spike lead acquisition costs and strangle the productivity of your sales team.

That’s why nurturing the right leads at the right time is so important. Research shows that businesses that excel at lead nurturing gain 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% less cost.

To effectively nurture leads, you first need to understand the current — and potential — value of the leads in your SaaS funnel.

This is where lead scoring shines.

What Information Do You Need To Score SaaS Leads?

To create a SaaS lead scoring system that actually works, you need to filter through a decent amount of data. However, you can make your job much easier once you realize that that most of the information you need falls under one of three categories:

Let’s look into each of these in a little more depth.

Explicit data

Explicit data is collected when a lead is generated.

It includes:

  • A personal name
  • A company name
  • An email address

It’s often obtained from a demo request, trial registration, or email subscription.

Implicit data

This kind of data is also sometimes called “implied” data. It’s information your company infers about a lead from the explicit data the lead provides.

For example, using a person’s email address can reveal information like company size, industry, revenue, job title, social media accounts, or even location.

Tools that can help you find implicit data include:

Here’s an example of what a simple data sheet on a prospect may look like with the implicit data we were able to gather.

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Behavioral and engagement data

Behavioral and engagement data signals a lead’s level of interest based on the quality of their actions.

For example, which of the two leads below would you prefer to contact?

Lead A: Used your free trial every day of the week, viewed your premium pricing page five times, and has opened 60% of emails from your company in the last month.

Lead B: Used your trial once a week, viewed your regular pricing page, and opened just 10% of emails from your company in the last month.

Obviously the answer is Lead A. This isn’t just an opinion or an eye-test kind of thing, though. When lead scoring, you will assign points to various behaviors and use that to score the lead.

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Behavioral data allows you to dive deeper and score clients who would otherwise be very similar.

4 Simple Steps To Score Leads

Figuring out how to score your leads can be a daunting task, especially if you’re starting from scratch.

What information is important for scoring?

How do you prioritize attributes and actions against purchase intent?

How do you decide what actions should be taken for each score threshold?

The good news is we’ve figured that out for you. Follow these four practical steps, and you’ll soon have an A+ lead scoring system (without ripping your hair out).

1. Draw data from all departments (not just sales)

Where do you start with lead scoring?

Should you start by interviewing leads? Meeting with sales and marketing? Peeking at your site analytics?

To accurately create scores that reflect the value of leads, you need to draw data from all three of these sources.

This gives you a more three-dimensional picture of the data that combines real-world experience with key attributes and actions of both high and low-quality leads. If you only accept data from one source, you’re going to end up with a woefully incomplete picture of who your prospects are and how they should be scored.

Plus, considering input from all departments means sales and marketing align their efforts and speak the same language (hopefully).

2. Determine your ideal customer profile (ICP)

Once you’ve begun collecting data, you need to choose your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Look at your best/favorite customers, and list the attributes and actions that mark those prospects as a high- or low-quality lead.

  • Do they share a certain type of role?
  • Is their company hitting specific revenue numbers?
  • Do they reach a set amount of hours in your free trial before buying a paid plan?

Now you have a baseline to judge all other prospects by.

3. Agree on attribute scores

Once you know the attributes and actions you’re looking for in your prospects, you need to determine how much each of these indicators is worth in your overall lead score.

Ask yourself, “How much value is this action or attribute worth?” You then assign a score that reflects that value.

Here’s an example of what that may looks like:

  • +10 points for each page visit
  • +10 points when they match the industry of your ICP
  • +10 points for every hour spent using your free trial
  • +15 points for viewing landing and pricing pages
  • +10 points for matching the revenue of your ICP
  • +10 points for each resource downloaded
  • +5 points for each email open
  • -30 points for ignoring six consecutive emails.

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While lead score is typically a number ranging from 0–100, it doesn’t have to be. Keep it simple if you’re starting from scratch.

Feel free to use simple, low-medium-high priority grades (you can always add detailed, numbered scores later).

Heap, for example, opted for the simple approach to scoring SaaS leads.

Leads from SaaS or eCommerce companies with over ten employees were bumped up to a “high priority” grade. This then alerted the sales team. Those from companies with fewer than 10 employees, in less than ideal industries, were dropped to a lower grade.

4. Establish a threshold for sales-readiness and nurturing

Before launching your lead scoring system, establish a threshold for action when a lead hits a specific score. For example:

  • Score 81+: Triggers an instant notification that alerts the sales team to the leads.
  • Score 61–80: Marks leads for close observation to understand their intent.
  • Score 50–60: Launches a targeted nurture campaign to raise the lead score.
  • Score 50 and below: Marks these leads as low priority.

Your threshold won’t be perfect to start with. But the more you interact with leads and track results, the easier it will be to fine tune your scoring system. And with multiple iterations, it will become increasingly accurate.

Scoring Leads Will Improve Productivity Regardless of Industry

Lead scoring isn’t just for well-known SaaS companies with piles of leads on the table.

No matter what your industry or what stage of the journey you’re on, lead scoring can transform the way you do sales.

With a lead scoring system in place, you optimize your team’s time when struggling with too many leads or suffering from too few sales staff.

Even if having too many leads is an issue you’d welcome right now, lead scoring enriches your lead generation with deeper, data-driven knowledge of who your ideal leads are, and tells you how to approach them.

Final Takeaways on the Lead Scoring Process

I’ll leave you with three takeaways.

Lead scoring isn’t a passive process. Hit the ground first.

It’s better to have a messy scoring system in place than to hold off on implementing one because it’s not perfect.

You won’t get complete accuracy on your first round. Accept the idea that developing a lead scoring system is a process of multiple iterations, and you’ll see faster progress.

Bring everyone together to regularly review the process.

Continuing with the idea of constantly improving your lead scoring, you need to regularly review the process with every part of the revenue team.

Lead scoring is a company-wide endeavor; it shouldn’t only involve Sales and Marketing. Gather data from Customer Success, Sales Enablement, and even the C-Suite.

This is a must if you have a new product launch, or if you have rolled out new features to existing products.

Pay attention to high-scoring leads that don’t convert and to low-scoring leads that do.

Ask yourself how to prevent poor leads from being flagged as high-priority. Likewise, pay attention to low-priority leads that actually turn into sales.

This usually indicates a flaw in the scoring process. Each time you catch and correct a flaw, you drastically improve the accuracy of your scoring process.

That’s It!

You are now equipped with all the information you need to begin the process of developing the perfect lead scoring process for your organization.

There’s plenty more to learn and optimize when it comes to scoring, and it may be a while before you perfect it, but the good news is, even a rough scoring process will lead to massive benefits. So start scoring, and start transforming your sales process!

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