Having a shared language between marketing and sales is essential to serving today’s digitally connected buyer. In a market where customers drive their own purchasing journey, marketing and sales teams need to collaborate to be successful. Marketing needs to know what a good lead looks like from Sales, and Sales needs to know which prospects are showing the right amount of interest. As sales leader Jill Rowley points out, “Marketing needs to know more about sales, sales needs to know more about marketing, and we all need to know more about our customers.”

Lead scoring – long underestimated by marketers – is a tool companies can use to bridge the gap between marketing and sales in a meaningful and tangible way. Lead Scoring is one of the best catalysts for Sales-Marketing collaboration: when Sales consistently uses and responds to scored leads, Marketing has access to a myriad of insights like lead quality, conversions, and audience characteristics.

Let’s take a closer look at what lead scoring is and how it can be used to align teams and impact revenue generation.

What is Lead Scoring? 

Lead scoring is the activity of assigning values to a prospect based on their profile and actions they take in the buyer journey. These scores appear in the Sales CRM so Sales teams can target the right prospect at the right moment. 

Two types of scores are typically assigned to a lead or customer:

Profile score: indicates how closely aligned a prospect is to your target audience. For example, if you are targeting Marketing leadership, the profile score might be high for VP of Marketing, medium for a Director, and very low for someone in a different department.

Engagement Score: quantifies the digital body language of a prospect (email opens, website visits, and so on). 

While it may sound simple, lead scoring is not a ‘plug-and-play’ method to show Sales who will and won’t buy. This is a good thing: digital buyer journeys are complicated, and lead scores force Sales and Marketing teams to ask important questions about what content, engagement patterns, and profiles actually matter for revenue generation.

Lead Scores aren’t a cheat code to remove nuances from buyer behavior – nothing really can. But they do make the complicated, multi-faceted process of Marketing  comprehensible and actionable for Sales.

Why is Lead Scoring a Great Tool for Marketing and Sales Alignment? 

There are many benefits to having a sophisticated marketing and sales technology stack, but the added complexity can come at a cost: when Sales and Marketing use different tools, these already siloed departments may struggle to understand one another. CRM and MarTech users speak different languages, define success with different metrics, and often lack alignment with the other’s role in revenue generation.

The result is often acrimonious: Marketing sends leads that are ‘junk’ to Sales; Sales ignores Marketing leads, missing potentially valuable opportunities for revenue. Without a shared language to facilitate feedback, the relationship between both teams inevitably breaks down. 

Lead scoring can bridge the communication gap between Marketing and Sales.  Sales can easily provide insight into important issues like lead quality, digital indicators, and audience characteristics by identifying whether or not they are accurate. The result is an extremely useful feedback loop – Sales explains inconsistencies between Lead Scores and reality, Marketers respond by adjusting the scoring algorithm, repeat.

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How to Maximize Lead Score Alignment in your Organization 

To realize the full potential of Lead Scoring, Marketing must build a regular dialogue with Sales intent on codifying an ideal lead profile. Let’s look at some tips for establishing a joint language between Marketing and Sales teams.

  1. Sales-Marketing alignment comes from the continual improvement of lead scoring, not from an overly involved launch.
  2. To set up Lead Scoring, Marketing must set rules within its MarTech platform that clarify which engagement and profile signals are most valued in a lead. Sales needs to be involved in the initial setup even if they are reluctant to allocate time to the task: lead scoring cannot be configured in a vacuum, and Marketing must make the most of the input Sales provides.

    Once lead scoring is set up, Marketing and Sales can start a cycle of feedback and continuous improvement. It’s a tradeoff: Marketing will send better leads when Sales provides disposition on every lead they receive.

  3. Low Profile and Engagement scores do not mean the lead is low-quality.
  4. When companies oversimplify their approach to Lead Scores, major opportunities can be missed. While lead quality is the primary objective, Marketers should be equally focused on lead readiness.

    If the Score is low (and the lead score rules & weighting are accurate), that often means Marketing has more work to do: the prospect could need more education, a different approach, or a referral promotion that will encourage them to bring in a decision-maker. Communicate these options with Sales so they can send leads that require more nurturing back to Marketing.

  5. Use feedback from Sales to improve Lead Score accuracy and enhance your funnel.
  6. Optimize your funnel by simplifying the feedback loop: set up the system so the feedback is automatically applied on each lead by the sales person looking at it. When Sales shares information about score accuracy, Marketing should consider every way in which this feedback can be applied– one seemingly small insight can point to critical improvements across your funnel. Maybe the consumption of a particular piece of content is a stronger indicator of readiness than you thought. Maybe there are opportunities to reroute leads that show up with low scores into other programs or verticals. Maybe certain Profile types can indicate a cross-selling opportunity. Any information Sales provides can have multiple applications – Lead Scoring is only the beginning.

Could Lead Scoring be the Gateway to Marketing Transformation?

Long sync-up meetings and attempts to “train” reps on Marketing’s language and impact are almost always futile. With Lead Scoring, organizations can trade those efforts for quick check-ins using a shared language. Lead Score alignment can not only improve short-term performance, but can have a long-term impact on how Sales and Marketing departments interact. 

Lead Scoring conversations can help Sales and Marketing establish a communication pattern with shared language, touchpoints, and goals. The result is a more aligned organization – one in which Sales’ active feedback brings about ongoing improvements.

Bottom line: If you’ve overlooked Lead Scoring in the past, or put it back on the shelf because it didn’t deliver a “quick fix” for Sales, consider dusting it off – it could just be your best Marketing Transformation tool yet.