Sales / Sales Process

How Data Driven Lead Scoring Can Help You Win More Sales

Justin Handley

Updated: Jun 01, 2020 · 13 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

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Data driven lead scoring is the act of assigning a score and assessing a leads quality based on measurable interactions they have had with your company. And, while it is fun to look at (hey look, we have 10 leads with 5 stars!) the real value of lead scoring is that it can help you close more sales.

The obvious way that this happens is that you can contact the people who are most ready to buy from you. The less obvious way is that it allows you to not contact people who aren’t quite ready for that contact. This leaves them in an educational sequence that allows them to become warmer leads before you spend your time picking up the phone and talking to them—and again making it more likely for you to reach out at just the right time.

But, before you can close your hottest leads, you have to know who they are, so let’s start there.

Here are two common scenarios that lead scores are useful for:

  • You have a sales team that does outbound calling. You have your list of leads, and you have your sales team start by calling the leads with the highest score first.
  • You have an action you want to take only if someone is already very familiar with you and are actively engaging. Example: You send out a newsletter that brings people to your blog. You could track clicks to your blog, and only once someone has clicked through to five different articles would you then trigger to send them a webinar invitation.

Step 1: Know your customer paths

To know who your hot leads are, you need to know your custom path. Lead scores really come into their own when your customer paths can be varied and complex. A [customer relationship management tool like Keap]( can help make this process easier. If you have a single, straightforward customer path, you may not need a lead score.  

For example, let’s say you sell an e-book, and it is your only product, and your path goes:

facebook ads.png

In this scenario, you are very unlikely to need a lead score, as everyone will be following that same path. Each step triggers the next step. But let’s suppose that you have been in business for a while, you have put out different levels of lead magnets, publish a newsletter, and attract traffic from a variety of sources. In this case, you can use lead scoring to determine how strong a lead is.

For this scenario, let’s say that you sell a piece of scheduling software. You have two lead magnets. “Is Scheduling Software Right for My Business” is a magnet you use to convert cold traffic, but it doesn’t attract the most focused crowd. But you have another lead magnet “How to Implement Scheduling Software in Your Business in Just 3 Days” that is usually downloaded by people pretty serious about getting started. You also have a webinar that trains, and again is usually attended by pretty serious leads.

You also have a blog, and you send out a newsletter to people who have downloaded one of your lead magnets with links to different articles about scheduling in general and your software.

After people have expressed enough interest you want to call them. It looks like this:

lead magnet funnel.png

If someone attends your webinar, you want to call them right away. They have made a serious commitment of time and energy into your product. But if someone gets the “Implement Scheduling” download, you want them to also read at least one article to show continued interest before you call. And if someone gets the “Is Scheduling Software Right” you want them to read at least four articles to show they are sticking around and serious.  

Now, if you can’t draw something like this for your business, you need to be able to in order to continue. I recommend writing down a list on a piece of paper of every way a client can engage with your company (they call you, they sign up for something, they get an email from you, you call them, they walk into your office, etc).  

You might have someone who signs up for your newsletter online, and you have no idea how qualified they are until they take further actions and someone else who walks into your office who is qualified by your staff immediately. If someone walks into your office, you aren’t going to say “Oh, I’ll sign you up for our email newsletter, have a good day.” No, you are going to try and close a sale. So, this is not one of your paths:

walks into office.png

On the flip side, if someone signs up for your email newsletter, sticks around for four weeks and keeps reading it, and then you call them and invite them to set an appointment, they may end up walking into your office.

newsletter sign up.png

That could very well be a path that your customers take. And there may be many, many variations. So your job is to figure out what all of those variations are, pick the ones that most of your customers take, and then start calculating your score values.

Determining your numbers

Now you need to figure out your lead scoring value. Let’s work on a scale of 1 to 100. There are only five flames in the lead score, so in this case, each flame is worth 25 points. This is a bit counter intuitive as 100 divided by 5 is 20, but see the chart below for how it works. This gives you lots of wiggle room to have tons of high value and very low-value actions together. Let’s say you only call “5-flame” leads—that would be anyone with more than 100 points.

lead score flames.png

Continuing with our example, let’s run the numbers. Let’s call the Webinar 100 points—it just projects them right to the top, automatic lead score of five. Let’s call each click on a link in a newsletter 10 points—that is leading people to your blog posts and shows engagement. So, if you want the person who reads your higher qualification lead magnet to also read one blog post, that would be a 90, putting the person at level four to start with, and then one blog post would push them up to level five.

And for the lower engagement lead magnet, you’d use 60, which would start them at three flames and would take four additional clicks from an email to get up to five flames.

Now, you simply make sure that you apply tags at each stage (for each download, webinar attendance, etc) and then go in and configure your lead score. Don’t forget negative scoring (i.e. an email unsubscribe or a rejection on a phone call should remove points to keep your system accurate). Once you’ve done this on paper the actual configuration can be very quick.

Understanding when a customer is ready to buy

Now that we’ve covered the technical implementation of calculating a lead score, we need to look a bit closer at the psychology of calculating the appropriate scores. While it is all well and good to give scores to actions, you need to figure out which actions your customers take that actually imply that they are ready to buy.

In our example, the customer who is reading about how to implement scheduling software is more ready to buy than the client who is reading about whether or not it is right for their business. This is an obvious example, and it is easy to see why one is more relevant.

Depending on your exact customer path, your specific scenarios may or may not be as easy to determine the value of. So how can you get this data?

  • Business owners intuition: If you are brand new to marketing automation and don’t have any existing data, you are just going to have to go with your gut. As the business owner, you probably know your customers better than anyone. Based on what you know of your customers, what interactions with your company signify they are about ready to buy?  
  • Anecdotal data: If you have a customer support team or a sales team that regularly interacts with your customers—you may want to involve them in this conversation as well. Ask your sales team if they know what customers did right before the conversations that closed the sale. Chances are you’ll be able to get a pretty clear idea.
  • Hard data: If you have the data, use it. If you have Keap setup correctly, you should be tagging your leads every step of the way. So, go ahead and pull a report of your most recent sales, and take a look at what they actually did right before the sale.  This is going to be by far the most accurate technique but does mean you have to have been collecting data for some time.  Otherwise, you one of the other techniques, and revisit in six months when you do have data.

You can also use post-sale tools like customer onboarding surveys to find out more about what led a client to purchase—and you might be surprised if you only rely on your own data. For example, maybe you have a fantastic review on a 3rd party site that you can’t track because you don’t own it (or even know it exists). It is possible that review is driving people to you completely ready to buy.

If you learn that, there are ways of figuring out which people on your site are coming from that review and tagging them so you can apply a lead score, but that requires a little bit of API/programming work and is out of the scope of what we can cover here.

Finally, you have to understand that when a person expresses interest, there is a window of time that their interest is viable. When you assign lead scores, you can give each one a decay rate—or a length of time before the score is removed. I would use two to three months as the outside limit for this, and in many cases, you may want to go shorter for small actions.

If someone expresses direct interest—let’s say they request a quote—that lead is realistically probably only hot for 15 days.  For lead scoring, you can’t always be that direct, though, especially if you are using long term targeting (i.e. you want to give credit for each newsletter read over a long period of time) you may need to use long decay times to achieve the effect you want.

Special tip: You can apply two tags for a prospect for a single action that has different lead scores. Let’s say, someone requests a quote for your services. This shows that they are very interested now. It also shows that they are, in general, a very good fit for your services.  

Example: You have a “Good Fit” tag that gives them 50 points that never decay and a “Requested a Quote” tag that gives them another 50 that decay over 30 days. This way, they are a hot prospect for 30 days and then drop down to a three star if they don’t move forward with the current quote. Then, if you give 10 points for reading a newsletter with a decay of six months, they just have to open five out of six newsletters in a six month period to get back up to a hot lead.

How to close more sales using a lead score

Once you have your leads all sitting there with a pretty little flame icon that shows how hot they are, how do you actually use that to close more sales? Let’s take a look.

Call hot leads: This is by far the best, fastest, and easiest way to make more sales.  When your leads hit a lead score of four or five, pick up the phone and call them. Get to know them. Get the opportunity to learn about their needs and concerns directly. The personal touch will go a long way towards closing your hottest leads.

1. Create a “Hot Leads” campaign: In the campaign builder, you can trigger a campaign based on a lead score. When your lead hits a four or five, trigger a custom campaign that pulls out all the stops. Send them a card (automatically, of course). Create a time limited incentive—now that you know they are ready for what you have, put the pressure on a little and give them a reason to take action now.

2. Don’t let leads go cold: In your Hot Leads campaign, trigger another campaign based on a declining lead score. If you used a lead score of five to trigger your hot leads campaign, have a second trigger for when the lead drops down to a four again (that can only be triggered from inside the campaign, so not all leads that hit four get it, just ones that degrade from five to four). Then pull out all of your stops to get the leads attention and try to re-engage them before they go cold.

3. Leave everyone else alone: This may seem counter intuitive, but to close more sales, if you don’t have any hot leads, don’t start calling your warm leads. This makes a big assumption, so let me be clear—I’m assuming that you are utilizing Keap. I’m assuming you have indoctrination campaigns that introduce new prospects to your business. I’m assuming you have educational campaigns that engage prospects and get them ready to purchase your product or services. And then, based on those actions, you are generating a lead score to determine when people are ready to buy.  

If that is the case, then let your sequences do the work for you. If you don’t have any five flame leads, don’t call your three flame leads. Instead, look at the results of your current sequences, and try to improve them so that they convert more people into hot leads. If you do a hard sale on a person too early in your relationship, you will alienate them and may drive them away. So let the people who are lukewarm get educated in a passive, safe manner, and only do your real sales push when you know that the person is ready to buy and is just going to take that final touch to become a customer.

If you use the lead scoring effectively, you should be able to gain an immediate boost in sales simply by allowing yourself to focus on your most qualified customers, and also by knowing when you need to do more work ahead of the close to make customers more qualified.

One last word from the wise—every good marketer is constantly testing and tweaking their marketing to achieve continual improvement. Lead scoring is no different—once it is set up, make sure you give it a quarterly review to ensure that it is still in line with your customer paths and that any new learnings you have achieved are reflected in your scoring algorithm.


Justin Handley is the visionary behind Pirate & Fox, a digital marketing consultancy that aims to help any business find its next actionable growth step and take it, as quickly as possible, no matter what it is. When he isn't working on growing businesses, Justin surfs, hangs with his family, and takes care of the small fruit farm in Puerto Rico that he calls home.

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