Qualifying Leads: why lead scoring is inadequate


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Here are some numbers I’ve recently read: through marketing automation we are closing between 2-8% of leads (as per Jeff Lenskold), 70% of leads buy something (as per Steve Gershik) but not necessarily during the time we are scoring and nurturing them, and 90% of leads ’fall out the bottom‘.

Here is what these fascinating numbers tell me: 1. we are closing approximately the same number of sales through automation as we closed without it (and spending gazillions to do it); 2. the automation process ignores the bulk of the behind-the-scenes buying decision issues that happen before, during, and after any digital behavior.


When someone visits a site, listens to a webinar, or dowloads a white paper, we are merely hoping s/he  is a prospect. I’m reminded of the days when I just did conventional sales and had a shoe box filled with business cards of folks who hadn’t bought anything from me: I was saving them to use the names/numbers at SOME point to sell SOMETHING. Have Name Will Sell….. Something. And dammit, I was going to close them! I kept that box for decades.

When buyers show up, marketers have no way of really knowing who is a relevant lead (and, in IMHO, sellers don’t either or they’d close a lot more).

Currently, using the sorting categories for Explicit and Implicit buying criteria, there is no way to

  1. understand  who else is on the Buying Decision Team, the weight of the site visitor on the Buying Decision Team, and where they are in their internal environment re making a change to do something different;
  2. enter the buyer’s buying decision journey early enough to influence anything more than the final solution or provider;
  3. help manage the behind-the-scenes decisions about when, or if, or how, or politics, or inclusion, or or or that actually determines how and when or if they buy.


Through current technology, we are merely guessing as to why a visitor attends a webinar or copies a white paper; we have no control of earlier, private, and idiosyncratic decisions that affect a decision to purchase.

By adding simple decision facilitation technology to the front end of current marketing automation technology, and using the ‘explicit’ and ‘implicit’ sorting criteria now being used, let’s see what’s possible  in re lead scoring:

Explicit: likely buyers (as determined by an industry or product’s historic purchasers) can actually be lead through their off-line, non-need-related decision issues, and self-select into viable/unlikely buyers;

Implicit: by focusing on the Buying Decision Team, it’s possible to influence the buying decision steps earlier, and offer a highly viable lead to a seller or a nurturing program.

I think we could be doing more than we are. Currently, we are actually following people who may not be prospects, who show up before they’ve chosen their full Buying Decision Team, or discovered the full set of internal, non-needs-based issues (such as change management problems, company politics, etc.) they’d need to address before they could buy. The current process is merely addressing the tip of the same iceburg that sale addresses — with the same sorts of horrid closing results (7%).

I understand that there has been a whole marketplace of people, technology, conferences, blogs, on the subject of lead scoring, and converting the leads to closed sales. But it’s not working anywhere near as well as it can work once we focus on developing technology to actually help the buyers take the necessary internal, off-line steps toward making a purchase.

They must take these steps and manage these issues with us or without us. Now we are losing most of our closable sales, wasting our seller’s time, and net/net, not giving our prospects all of the support they deserve. 

Stop thinking about placing your solution. Start thinking about the change issues buyers must address before they can buy. Right now we are focusing on the wrong end of the decision journey last. I don’t want you to take that part away. I just want you to use a front end first. Then you can score the real factors and use the right marketing solutions and close a lot more sales.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Sharon-Drew Morgen
I'm an original thinker. I wrote the NYT Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 8 other books bridging systemic brain change models with business, for sales, leadership, communications, coaching. I invented Buying Facilitation(R) (Buy Side support), How of Change(tm) (creates neural pathways for habit change), and listening without bias. I coach, train, speak, and consult companies and teams who seek Servant Leader models.


  1. Hi Sharon, That is a very interesting comment that you started you blog article with – that companies are closing about the same number of leads with automation as without. That’s definitely worth further investigation (although most CRM companies wouldn’t be happy about if the study didn’t go their way).

    In a company I use used to work for, we used a technique called Logisitic Regression to calculate a probability that a prospect would make a purchase. It actually was pretty accurate. The technique does depend on having a lot of data on all previous prospects and being able to obtain the same data on the current prospect in question. Hope that helps.


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