From The Editor | September 30, 2020

The Case Against Negative Lead Scoring

Abby Sorensen July 2017 Headshot

By Abby Sorensen, Chief Editor



We’ve learned a lot over the past four decades of being a B2B publisher. And one of those learnings is that it’s no longer acceptable for publishers to send over a spreadsheet of leads and wish marketers the best.

This applies to B2B marketers, too. Marketers can no longer send a bunch of leads to the sales team and cross their fingers that those leads will bring in revenue.

Whether you’re new to lead scoring or already have a system in place, we can help right-angle check the process by asking marketing and sales teams questions like:

  • How does marketing determine who to pass to sales?
  • How does sales then determine who to call?
  • What types of behavioral activity is scored?
  • What types of demographic activity is scored?

As an unbiased third party, we’re able to poke holes in a lead scoring system that might not be obvious to your team. For example, it’s a given that marketers should know which types of prospects are a fit for their products/services. So it might make sense to assign a negative score to a lead from the wrong company type. Here’s how that creates a problem: Giving a lead from a wrong-fit company a negative score could still result in passing that bad lead to sales.

Let’s say the wrong company type engages with your content. Maybe the contact is from a government agency, and your company doesn’t do any business in that sector. Assuming in this example that it takes 100 points for a lead to be passed to sales, the math might look like this.

  • -10 … Wrong company type
  • +25 … High-level title
  • +15 … Engagement by multiple stakeholders at the same company
  • +15 … Engages with competitor content
  • +35 … Downloads bottom-of-the-funnel/late-stage piece of content
  • +20 … Shares content
  • = 100

In this example, it’s possible for one contact to reach the 100-point threshold with just two or three content engagements. When that happens, the lead gets automatically passed to a sales rep. That sales rep realizes it isn’t a fit and then uses it to generalize how marketing isn’t giving them any good leads and content marketing is a waste of time. All because your lead scoring system wasn’t set up to properly filter prospects.

Focus On Quality, Not Quantity

Instead of negative scoring, just remove that lead from your database. Better yet, tell your lead gen partners not to pass those over to you in the first place. Or, if you insist on keeping that lead – maybe because there’s an outside chance that company type might be a target down the road – then at least add it to a separate nurturing channel.

We know it’s not easy to throw leads away. Marketing has historically focused on increasing volume. More clicks, more impressions, and more leads was always the target. But it’s the quality of leads, not the quantity, that matters most in today’s B2B purchasing environment.

Lead scoring is just one kind of marketing-sales interaction we want to help improve as an active partner for your commercial team. The team behind Follow Your Buyer and our sister publications don’t sell marketing automation or lead scoring software. And we aren’t an agency or a consulting firm trying to tout our services. Things like lending a fresh set of eyes to a lead scoring system, or providing an unbiased audit of your content library, are just things we do to help you take advantage of the reader engagement data our programs provide.

Our roots are in B2B publishing, where we’ve worked with companies from a variety of industries that struggle to make sense of the vast amounts of data generated by content marketing. We’re not here to tell you which tool or platform to use for lead scoring. Instead, we’re here to help apply our industry expertise to your lead scoring efforts. Because when your lead scoring works, it benefits both your sales team and our readers who are seeking more information on the products/services suppliers like you provide.

For more lead scoring best practices, check out "Give Your Lead Scoring A Soul."