Lead Scoring has become an extremely popular component of the Lead Management process, particularly among business-to-business (B2B) marketers. Enabled by powerful tags and reporting tools built into today’s Contact Management Systems, lead scoring is promoted as a way to help Sales people prioritize their work based on the quality of the leads they’re assigned to pursue. And it also provides a means for Marketing professionals to compare the value of their various promotional programs.
In our experience, however, lead scoring is an expensive distraction. Not that lead scoring is wholly without merit, but the time, money and attention that many companies put into lead scoring tends to provide a negative return, and strategic misdirection. This is because the concept mis-applies a fundamental principal of B2B sales: that the main purpose of Marketing – at least insofar as its promotional and lead generation roles (as opposed to market research and planning roles) are concerned – is to make the Sales function more efficient.
That is, in an attempt to make Sales more efficient, most lead scoring systems go too far.
As practiced by many B2B companies, lead scoring starts with an agreement between Marketing and Sales regarding the definition of a qualified sales lead. To do this, companies typically identify a series of attributes by which to characterize different leads. The degree to which a given lead possesses these attributes drives a lower or higher lead score, which enables the sales team to prioritize what, how and when they go after the lead.
The first problem, however, is that this approach assumes that there is a lot more “gray area” between what is a good lead and a bad lead than is justified. More importantly, the concept ignores the fundamental principle that the Sales function is a relatively simple time management problem.
Given some standard level of sales skills on a team (an assumption that is validated through training and attrition), and all other things being equal, the activities of the typical field sales representative in B2B will be prioritized based on the sales representative’s perception of what will give him or her the greatest return (e.g. sales, commissions, etc.,) on his or her investment of time and effort.
This effect is heightened with more leverage in the compensation plan. But ultimately a sales professional who can’t manage his or her time well – with a focus on maximizing sales results – will not be long on the job. And therefore the critical question that every sales professional will ask about every sales lead that they’re given is: Is this lead worth my time?
At the risk of oversimplifying, note that this question is, by definition, a “yes or no” question. Sure, there may be times when a marginal lead may be worth chasing, such as when you’re in a hole, or when your funnel is empty. But, in general, whether a lead is worthwhile is, for most salespeople, if you ask them, pretty black or white.
To be clear, this is a question we ask salespeople all the time – literally hundreds of times a year. And we always get a very narrow band of answers. What salespeople tell us they want is “an appointment with a decision maker who has a need for the company’s products or services, and who wants to talk to the salesperson about how they can help.”
In other words, there aren’t 5, 10 or 20 factors that make a lead qualified. Yes, you may be able to characterize a lead with multiple attributes, but if it isn’t going to impact how the salesperson views it, and how they prioritize their work, why bother? For the hundreds of salespeople with whom we work each year, there is generally only one criterion: Is it an appointment with a decision maker who has a need, and who wants to talk?
So where does lead scoring fit in? Obviously, there can be some variation with regard to the intensity of the need. And the contact could be a decision influencer rather than a decision maker. And you might even qualify their ability to pay. But none of this calls for a complex lead scoring system. It’s really very black and white. It’s either worth the salesperson’s time, or it’s not. And even as a judgment call, it’s almost always very simple.
Lead scoring systems, in our view, are an example of a “can do” system. That is, because the technology enables you to score leads, then you should do it. But the real issue is that what constitutes a qualified sales lead has been obfuscated because so many of today’s marketing programs are incapable of producing them. And while that’s a story for another day, lead scoring systems just encourage the practice – to the detriment of all.
Jeff Josephson is the CEO of JV/M, Inc., in Moorestown, NJ. For more information on how you can improve the results from your marketing and sales programs visit www.LeadGen.com, or you can contact Jeff at 856-638-0399 x101 or by email at JLJ@LeadGen.com.
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