6. Salespeople are expensive resources… Improve Prioritization of prospects for follow-up

Step 6: Prioritize Human Follow-up

This deep dive into the sixth step of the Marketing Optimized Framework posted previously.



This is where Marketing and Sales overlap the most. It is also an opportunity to have the teams work closer together. Both teams should work together on an agreed-upon Scoring methodology, how to prioritize the scored prospects, what needs to be verified before a sales team member will work the prospect, what logic is need to assign the prospect, and finally how to send feedback about the prospects through out the process and what that will change in the prioritization process.


From Step 5, we have captured and data processed marketing responses. Now we are ready to bring them in our CRM for prioritization and assignment. In all of these processes, the Marketing Ops team needs to work closely with sales management and Sales Ops.

Score Propensity to Buy
First, we need a way to evaluate these prospects… this is our scoring model. In the simplest case, you may only have one scoring model. But if you have multiple product groups you will likely want multiple scoring models to tell you who are best fit and most interested in which product groups… especially if have separate sales teams for the product groups. As stated in Step 1, ideally you should use machine learning for these models as they are the most accurate in representing what is happening in the data vs arbitrary rules (which is like wearing beer goggles, which reflect your hopes and aspirations more than cold fact).

Rating helps tier follow-up
Next, we need to decide on a threshold of what is sent for follow-up and what is held back. This is why often you will see systems that have a Score and also a Rating. Think of the Rating as a business interpretation of the level of quality. Having these separate lets you make adjustments in scores without having to change the scores and underlying business processes. There should be weekly meetings between marketing and sales after adjustments are made. Two scenarios will drive the need for adjustment of the Ratings:

Using letter or numbers make no real difference, there is an informal convention among many marketers to use Letters for profile ratings and numbers for activity base ratings. The number of tiers should be governed by:

There is some debate if salespeople should see the tiers. (Share your thoughts below)

If you break up the Score/Ratings you can answer some basic questions that lead to different follow-up actions. Here’s an example, what makes sense for your business may differ. (Share your approach in the Comments)

If your company has multiple product groups with separate sales teams you will have a set of score and rating for each product group. The ones that meet the Score threshold are prioritized and ready for Verifying.

Override Rules for Special Cases

There is one additional concept I’d like to introduce, Override Rules. There are times we need to accommodate a business rule that overrides Rating.

For instance, you might have a new product (very high contract value) added to a product group, and it has a very very very narrow audience, and you don’t have enough data for the scoring model to update for this… so you include a business rule that overrides the Rating and allows all leads that have consumed this special piece of content or has this very special title to enter Verification and Assignment processes.

These should only ever be few and far between and need to be monitored and re-evaluated often (i.e. monthly) as they can inject doubt in the systems. It is best to have a new Prospect Stage classification for these so the sales team knows these are not the usual Marketing Qualified Leads but are Overrides agreed upon by both sales and marketing management.

Verify Key Data
Verifying can be done earlier but this can be expensive and/or the data changes frequently through the prospects lifecycle… so we leave it to the last moment. In this process, we check to ensure this record has all the data needed for assignment or follow-up process:

(Tells us in the Comments what data you verify)

Assign Owner(s) to Prospects
Once data is complete and verified we can start the Assignment process. How you set this up is highly dependent on your business and how your sales teams are organized to sell. Here are some scenarios from simplest to more complex:

With logic to send prospects into the waiting hands of the sales team, we should talk about the processes needed while the prospect is being worked. (Share in the Comments why you use the assignment rules you use)

Stage Tracking
We want to track the Prospect Stage… Sirius Decisions Demand Waterfall is widely adopted check out the link for definitions. Typically these stages are updated by the sales owner of the prospect as part of the process of “working” the prospect. Some sales tool will automate the update of the disposition stage based on actions the salesperson takes. (Share in the comments indispensable tools that help update stages).

You might use the Prospect Stage in marketing targeting logic for filtering out these contacts from certain (or all) marketing based on the stage. This will depend greatly on the frequency of you marketing the types of assets used and how those might affect the sales process. Some sales teams want complete communication control during a live deal.

Sales Feedback (Rejection Reasons)
Throughout this process, we want to collect feedback from the sales team so we can know when there are quality or other problems that need to be addressed or automatically dealt with. When a Prospect is close, we’ll want to have a Rejection Reason logged. Some examples of reasons and actions to take. (Share insightful Reject Reasons your business uses in the Comments)

Prospects must have an End
The lifecycle of the prospects sent to sales for follow-up need to be finite, that is they must have a beginning and an end… we cannot have zombie prospects that are being worked forever as trying to learn from what happened becomes impossible.

Let’s look at a simple admittedly ridiculous fictitious example; we have what looks like interest from a really big company that would be a great logo to showcase. They have lots of intent activity and the right people have consumed a bunch of our content. Their score gives them high ratings across all categories and the prospects are assigned. Because of some recent press we got… we see a couple of these whales get assigned to the sales team. Because these are big companies the sales team tells us these won’t close this quarter but they had some great meetings. Next quarter rolls by and after some discussions the deals look pretty big there is a small chance it’ll close but not likely. One closes but the others are still being “worked”. Through some conversations, you hear that a point competitor is now in the mix at the other big deals and they are killing us on price though their solution is smaller in scope. The sales team thinks says we will continue the platform discussion. In actuality, the sales team is spending most of their time on other deals to meet quota and these big whales are on the keep warm back burner as the owner doesn’t want to risk these being reassigned at some point. There are a couple of problems in this scenario:

To address this, we use the concept of Prospect Disposition Expiration. Like the other processes, this is a negotiation between marketing and sales teams. We want to develop a simple set of rules that make business sense to determine when a prospect is no longer being actively worked. This often needs to go hand in hand with the dictate from Sales Management… “If it’s not logged in the CRM, it didn’t happen.” This not only helps our marketing processes but helps sales management track the health of deals and reassign deals when necessary.

Implications of Buyer Group based funnels

What changes if your funnel is Buyer Group based vs Lead-based? I purposely used prospect repeated vs lead or Buying group (Demand Unit). Largely because I suspect 95–99% of marketing organizations are still using Lead-based funnels. I wanted this to be applicable to the “many”. But if you are using/building a Buying Group based funnel… for the most part you can interchange prospect with Buying Group, except in the cases where I am referring to an individual contact (i.e. Reject Reasons about contact info).
(If you have clarification questions put them in the comments below).


See chart of tools at the bottom of the original blog post

Originally published at https://marketingoptimized.wixsite.com on February 5, 2021.

Seasoned marketing operations professional with a love for marketing automation and data science. http://b.link/MarketingOptimized

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