Why Lead Scoring and Lead Grading Are Important

Lead scoring and lead grading are vital if you want to boost the productivity of your sales teams.


Because when you push lead scores and grades from Pardot or Marketo into Salesforce, you deliver a superb way for salespeople to prioritize early-stage prospects.

That means they can focus on the most viable prospects.

Unfortunately, though, many people think this topic is a black art.

That’s not the case.

Nevertheless, using there are some critical elements to understand and get right if you want to use these metrics successfully.

In this article, I’ll explain step-by-step the exact differences between Lead Scoring and Lead Grading and why they are important. Whatsmore, I give you ten best practice tips for getting both of these essential metrics right.

Let’s start.

Why Lead Scoring and Grading Is Important

If you only have time to phone one person, who should it be? The prospect with 100 points and an A+ grade? Or the candidate with 10 points and a B- grade?

Prioritize your prospect calling with both Lead Scoring and Grading

It’s a no brainer.

You phone the person with the highest lead score and best grade.

That highlights the crucial benefits of lead scoring and grading. Most salespeople (including SDRs and BDRs) have more potential people they could phone than they can manage in a day or a week.

So how do they prioritize?

Lead scoring and grading enable sales teams to prioritize business development activity. They do this by ranking prospects so that salespeople can focus their time and effort on the most viable candidates.

Usually, a marketing automation tool determines the lead scores and grades. This data passes to the CRM system so that salespeople can use the information to decide the best people to contact.

The Difference Between Lead Scoring And Lead Grading

It’s behavior by customers and prospects that drives lead scores.

This behavior includes web page views, form completions, attending webinars, and downloading eBooks. In other words, the person must DO something to increase their lead score.

Track prospect activity in Pardot to increase Lead Score

On the other hand, lead grading needs no input from the customer or prospect. Instead, the personal and company data you already hold determines each grade. This data can include location, industry, job title, and other information that helps you qualify and rank prospects.

Consequently, lead scores build up over a relatively long period. This means you might also want to track lead score velocity. In contrast, the lead grade is an immediate measure, although it can also change over time as you gather extra data.

However, which should you pay more attention to? Lead scoring or lead grading?

Both Are Equally Valuable

Remember, not all high-grade prospects will have a high score.

Not all high Grade prospects will have a high Lead Score

The lead grade tells you how closely the prospect fits your ideal customer profile. However, it says nothing about whether the person engages with your marketing activities.

In contrast, the lead score measures a person’s behavior and activity. For example, whether she clicks on the links in your emails; how often she visits your website.

However, can you see how these two methods of prioritizing prospects work hand in hand? Both play an essential role in identifying the best people for sales teams to contact.

Either one is valuable. However, use lead scoring and lead grading together, and you get synergistic benefits that will increase your lead conversion performance.

Let’s talk about how marketing automation tools like Pardot and Marketo calculate lead scores and grades.

How Lead Scores Are Calculated

When scoring your prospects, you first decide on the score values for each type of action a potential customer can do.

However, how do you decide on those scores?

Here’s the critical thing:

Worry less about the score value, and more about how the scores compare with each other. In other words, it’s essential to work through how the scores relate to each other.

Let’s say a prospect clicks a link in an email to visit a blog post you’ve written. Let’s also assume that on this blog post, there’s a Call-To-Action to download an eBook.

It doesn’t matter whether you allocate 3 points for clicking the link in the email or 30, provided scores for all other activities are relative.

For example, if you allocate 3 points for clicking the link in the email, you might decide to increase the lead score by another 10 points for an eBook download. That’s assuming, of course, you believe the downloading action is ‘worth’ three times more than clicking the link in the email.

Pardot Lead Scoring Example

If you’re feeling daunted, don’t be.

Most marketing tools (including Pardot and Marketo) have predefined values for everyday prospect actions. I find in many companies they fit the bill pretty well.

Here’s an example of how these standard rules work in Pardot.

Pardot has predefined Lead Score values for most Prospect actions

How Lead Grades Are Calculated

Lead grades automatically adjust based on the data you hold about a prospect.

This data can be about the person, for example, job title. However, the data can also be about the company – industry, the number of employees, and location are frequently used criteria in lead grading.

In contract to lead scores (which are numeric), grades are text (A+, A, A- etc.).

Pardot Lead Grade Example

Let’s understand this in more detail by using an example of how the lead grading works in Pardot.

When a lead grade value changes in Pardot, it does this in one of three ways:

1. by a whole letter (D > C)

2. by 2/3 of a letter (D > C-)

3. by 1/3 or a letter (D > D+)

It’s important to note that the initial grade for a prospect in Pardot is always D.

The starting point for setting this up is to edit your Prospect profile. Make sure you addany criteria into your Profile that you’re planning to grade your prospects on.

In the example below, we’ve set up the profile to allow prospects to be graded on the country field.

Notice we have three categories of country (Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary).

By creating three different criteria categories, we can increase the grade of our prospects in different increments based on the value of the country field.

Add different criteria to your Profile to adjust Pardot Grade in different increments
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Let’s say you want to increase the grade by a whole letter (D > C) if the prospect Country = USA.

In the screenshot below, we are checking the field for a specific value, i.e., USA.

We might also want to create rules for the United States, America, etc.

Check prospect fields for matching criteria to increase Pardot Grade

If the prospect Country matches this value, we automatically set the ‘Primary Country’ criteria to match, which sets the grade to increase by a whole letter.

When the prospect criteria matches, the profile matches and increases the Pardot Grade

Like this, we can create fine-tune rules for identifying prospects and potential customers that meet our ideal target profile.


Lead Scoring And Grading Best Practice Tips

Lead Scoring And Grading Best Practice Tips

  1. Keep things simple. Simplicity is particularly vital at the outset. It’s a lot easier to add sophistication later than remove complexity. Salespeople need to understand quickly why a prospect has reached a particular score or been given a specific grade. That’s difficult if you have a jumble of lead scoring rules.

  2. Define your target audience. Doing this is essential for accurate grading. Often, I find companies have a blurry or incomplete picture of their ideal prospects. That’s setting yourself up for failure when it comes to lead grading.

  3. Only use the data you collect. There’s no point using Job Title as a grading factor if you don’t receive that data anywhere.

  4. Improve your data over time. Because you don’t currently have a data item, it doesn’t mean you can’t acquire it. For example, use progressive profiling on forms to fill in the blanks about your customers and prospects.

  5. Treat lead scores as a long-term project. How quickly lead scores notch up depends on how much marketing content you share; and how often your prospects engage with it. However, it’s always going to take time for lead scores to grow to a point where the candidate is ready to pass from marketing to sales. Grading, on the other hand, is a quick-win opportunity.

  6. Customize to your company. For example, many companies have specific web pages that indicate positive buying intent (the pricing page, for instance). If you are using the standard Pardot or Marketo lead scores, define the pages that matter most and give visitors more points than other web pages.

  7. Make it easy for salespeople to find high scoring, high-grade prospects. In other words, pass lead scores and grades to Salesforce. Create reports and List Views in Salesforce that help salespeople prioritize calls and other activities.

  8. Display score and grade fields in Salesforce. Both Pardot and Marketo have out-of-the-box features for this. These make it easy to display the scores and grades on Leads, Contacts, and Accounts.

  9. Create threshold email notifications. These emails, for example, alert salespeople when prospects they own reach a score threshold or achieve a particular grade.

  10. Reduce scores over time. This best practice applies to scores rather than grades (unless your target customer profile changes). If prospects don’t consistently engage with your contact, start to reduce their lead score (there are tools in Pardot and Marketo to do this). Cutting the points avoids having prospects at the top of a priority list but who have no recent relevant activity.

Marketo even has a great feature that helps salespeople understand how recently a prospect took meaningful action.

It’s called ‘Last Interesting Moment.’ Examples are visited more than five web pages in a day, visited the pricing page, clicked a link in an email, downloaded an eBook. You can also create custom Interesting Moments if need be.

Marketo Last Interesting Moments allow salespeople to identify recent meaningful prospect activity

If you’ve installed the Marketo Sales Insight App for your integrated CRM system, you’ll be able to see these Interesting Moments directly on the Lead or Contact.

Use this feature to help salespeople fine-tune their sales activities.

Sales And Marketing Alignment

In many companies, there’s only limited sales and marketing alignment.

The result?

The number of sales-ready opportunities passed from marketing to sales is lower than it should be. Consequently, the pipeline is smaller, and revenue is less than might otherwise be achieved.

Why not talk to us about how to get more benefit from Pardot or Marketo in your business? Ask for a free consultation in which we’ll talk-through the key issues facing your company.

Here’s how to get in touch.

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