6 key challenges when implementing lead scoring in a large B2B organisation

by Gabrielle Lukes-Mooney

The rise of the digitally-empowered buyer has dramatically shifted the traditional sales funnel. Much of the buying process is now online, resulting in marketing taking responsibility for a much larger share of the buyer’s journey. This blog examines why lead scoring is a popular choice for organisations in response to this new environment as well as the challenges behind its implementation.

To deliver the seamless, highly relevant, multi-channel experience today’s customers expect, marketing now needs to deliver a far greater number of subtle touches in order to progress the customer through the buyer’s journey. But how can you effectively measure this cumulative engagement, prioritise leads and ensure the best prospects are handed over to sales?

For many organisations, lead scoring is an increasingly popular solution, particularly as it features in many technology platforms used to scale marketing and sales interactions. When done right, it’s a significant opportunity to scale and automate the handover and recycling of leads, whilst simultaneously enhancing the operational integration of marketing and sales.

Like most projects that involve bringing marketing and sales closer together however, success doesn’t necessarily come easily and many of the best endeavours at implementing lead scoring fail. In particular, standing up lead scoring in a large enterprise with many moving parts is particularly hard. We regularly observe that the strategy and process elements – as well as the people, leadership and transformation management around the initiative – are just as essential to success as the technology and lead scoring mechanism itself.

Based on the marketing and sales transformation projects we’ve undertaken with large B2B organisations, here are some really key questions you need to ask to ensure the success of a lead scoring initiative:


  1. Have you defined what a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is?
    In large organisations with many different sales teams and commonly a complete separation of marketing and sales, there may be multiple interpretations of what constitutes a qualified lead. Therefore arriving at a clear, single definition of what a qualified lead is – one that both marketing and sales accept – is essential.

    The key to coming to a definition is to understand how a prospect behaves at each step in the buyer’s journey. Firstly, what are the trigger points and behaviours which demonstrate progression through the buyer’s journey and indicate sales readiness? Secondly, what is the appropriate accumulation of activity that should fast track a lead to sales? Your qualified lead score needs to represent the accumulation of enough interest and intent to warrant sales involvement.

    Sales teams can often provide valuable insights on buying cycles and triggers, and engaging them early on can also be a useful step in aligning marketing and sales teams under the same agenda.
  2. Have you defined your new digital sales process?
    In other words, have you defined the broader marketing and sales processes which will sit around your lead scoring model? Remember that lead scoring is only the prioritisation mechanism – it won’t achieve much in isolation. While you may be able to prioritise leads and have a defined process for sales follow-up in place, results often fall over at this point because the follow-up just doesn’t happen.

    To ensure sales commitment to follow up on leads, you need to ensure leaders from both marketing and sales get behind your follow-up process. For many marketing divisions that have historically focused on above-the-line brand building activities, there is often a credibility issue where sales assume that marketing-generated leads aren’t worth their time. To overcome this, you have to build momentum at the leadership level and get sales bought in to the new approach.

    In small-to-medium businesses, getting everyone in a room and building this traction and buy-in is often relatively straight-forward. For large organisations however, the embedding and hardwiring of new processes, strong cross-functional leadership and successful cultural change can make or break the new initiative.

    Key areas to consider include:

    •  Do you have clear processes defined for lead acceptance (or recycling back to marketing)?
    •  How will these processes be hardwired between marketing and sales? For example, will an       automated task be generated for a sales owner in the CRM once a lead score reaches MQL status?
    •  How will you monitor and measure the sales acceptance and follow-up of MQLs?
  3. Are your data and technology foundations in place?
    Inaccurate prospect or customer data can have serious implications for lead scoring. For example, if your lead scoring model uses job titles to drive lead scores, the model will quickly break down if job title data is inaccurate. Make it a priority to clean up your CRM data and ensure your ongoing hygiene disciplines are strong.

    Once you have your data in order, your next key decision is which platform you will use to run and bring scale to your lead scoring model. For example, you could run it through a marketing automation or mid to high-end CMS platform, which all generally feature lead scoring functionality. Or if your organisation has particularly sensitive data security implications to consider, you may need to build your own solution.

    Once you’ve decided on your new platform, it’s important to figure out how it will integrate with your existing technology stack. For example, if you choose a marketing automation solution, your CRM will need to be fairly flexible if you want to bring scale to the processes that fit your business. Close integration between the two will be required. While your automation platform will do the scoring, your CRM will actually hardwire the sales follow-up actions and provide the ability to measure them.
  4. Do you have a sufficient number of content assets?
    It’s easy to race ahead with lead scoring before coming to a stark realisation; in order to accumulate scores, prospects will need to be interacting with you – most likely on their own terms online, at the top of the funnel. As such, it’s critical that you have the adequate content and ideally nurture streams in place to accelerate prospects through the buyer’s journey. Creating this content is an enormous challenge. For many organisations, it’s the main hurdle preventing lead scoring and marketing lead generation programs from reaching their full potential.
  5. How will you monitor and evolve your model?
    Lead scoring is a highly iterative and tricky process – one that you will rarely get right upon its initial implementation. It will require a tight feedback loop between marketing and sales, as well as ongoing refinement to really get it humming. Establishing a regular set of forums that bring marketing and sales together to review, discuss and continually evolve the model and scoring levels is essential.
  6. How will lead scoring work if you have multiple products or business units?
    Lead scoring is often fairly simple for a small-to-medium business with a small and defined set of solutions. But for an enterprise with multiple business units, each with their own different set of products, it can get very complex very quickly. In many cases the customer will interact extensively online with many parts of the business. Working out how to prioritise the lead to the right sales team, to ensure it will be value creating for both the customer and the sales owner, can be quite tricky.

    A generic scoring model that doesn’t differentiate between products may result in an inaccurate reflection of a customer’s interest. For example, if a customer is interested in product A, but the generic scoring model also takes into account products B and C, this may obscure their high interest in product A. Therefore setting up distinct scoring models for each product can help ensure they accurately reflect the customer’s interests and therefore that sales will be notified.

Conclusion – There’s a lot more to lead scoring than meets the eye
Marketing leaders have a great challenge on their hands understanding an exploding array of technology. Given the convincing marketing efforts of leading software players, it’s very easy to assume that technology is the sole answer to many marketing problems. While technology is an essential part of the picture, the strategy, people and process elements that sit underneath and around solutions are just as important for success. When implementing lead scoring or any new technology, we recommend that you first carefully plan these broader organisational elements to ensure you don’t end up with a snakes and ladders digital transformation program.

Adapting to the Digitally Empowered B2B Buyer
Adapting to the Digitally Empowered B2B Buyer

Digital has changed fundamentally how B2B customers buy, bringing both opportunity and unprecedented complexity for marketing and sales organisations.