Determining when leads should be passed to the sales department may seem like an art, but with the advent of inbound selling, there's a good deal of science to it, too. Combining lead intelligence with buyers' context can help you determine when (and who) to contact, making the sales process more effective and efficient.

Avoid the Lead Scoring Trap

As a general tool, lead scoring can be very effective. You can better understand engagement and buyer demographics as you determine which emails were opened or which offers were downloaded. If, however, you’re basing your decisions on just these scores, you might miss out on potential sales. What if a lead was ready before hitting your lead score benchmark? By waiting too long, you could lose the sale.

Design Your Sales Process Around Buyer Context

Lead scoring is not as useful without context. Strengthen the process with buyer context; depending on who the prospect is, they will be at a different stage of the buying process for that score.

Ask yourself these questions: Who is the buyer? At what stage are they in the buying process? You’ll find there are usually three basic buyer personas -- enterprise, mid-market, and small business. These buyers go through four stages in the buying process -- prospect, lead, opportunity, and customer – the trick is, they move at different speeds through this process. 

Determine When to Contact a Prospect 

If an enterprise prospect were to visit your site or download one of your offers, would you put him or her through the same process as a small-business owner? With the lead scoring process, you certainly would: it assigns the same value for actions a lead performs.

Buyer context tells you more – it provides context for each action a lead takes. That means that the same action taken at different stages -- prospect, lead, opportunity -- can determine when to reach out, depending on who that person is.


For example, an enterprise prospect that visited your website should be classified as  contacted at first touch due to the size of the account and spending power, whereas you should wait for a small-to-midsize business lead to perform several actions (such as visiting your website, downloading a whitepaper, and looking at a pricing page, for example) before reaching out. These prospects don’t have as much flexible budget and need more time to deliberate, so you’ll need to verify their interest before spending your time converting them.

Optimize the Sales Hand-off Through Science

Sales is going inbound. There are more sales tools increasing information available about a lead, making it possible to use science to determine when to contact them. By applying science to your lead generation, you increase your chances of converting leads to sales.

Consider a scenario where 700 leads were passed to sales and 3% of those were converted. By segmenting those conversions, you can gain a better understanding of where your clients come from. For instance, consider segmenting by how your clients found you: If 200 of your original leads came from organic search and converted at 6% while only 1% of your Pay-Per-Click leads converted, it’s easy to see which lead would be a better use of your time. Those organic search prospects should be passed to sales much sooner.

Beyond Simple Context 

Your segmentation can be applied in several different ways to give you a broader view of how and when to transfer your leads to the sales department. Consider segmenting by verticals, by your lead’s role in the company, and even by time of day those leads came in. Every data point you gather will help you make your sales processes more efficient.

While lead scoring is a great technique for general use or as a quick guide, buyer context adds an important layer to determining when to reach out to a lead. Knowing who your prospect is and what kind of buyer they are will help make the sales process smoother and shorter.

Mark Roberge is the SVP of Sales at HubSpot and regularly speaks on inbound selling. You can follow him at @markroberge

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Originally published Sep 23, 2013 9:00:00 AM, updated September 23 2013


Personalization in Sales