Categorizing Sales Prospects: Understanding Propensity & Engagement

12 Jun

As the sales process becomes digitally observable, smart sales and marketing organizations are developing sophisticated mechanisms to electronically score leads and prospects.

A typical business-to-business sales person manages 1,000 – 2,000 sales contacts. If they are lucky, they’ll also interact with hundreds of new leads each year. In sophisticated organizations, leads and prospects “travel” with electronic scores that help sales people prioritize outreach and focus on the highest value accounts. This scoring information is typically one dimensional: often a single score or categorization that captures demographics facts, project details, qualification information, and measures of engagement.

A much better approach is to evaluate and score prospects based on two discrete dimensions: propensity and engagement:

  • Propensity Scores: For any lead or prospect, a propensity score compares collected demographic information to that of other prospects to determine the probability of a purchase and potential opportunity value. If you sell hammers, a construction contracting company might be a high propensity target while a dry cleaner may not. By considering attributes such as industry, employee size, contact title, budget, revenue, headquarter country, company revenue, and company profitability, propensity scores qualify leads and prospects based on their fundamental attributes and statistical propensity to buy.
  • Engagement Scores: The problem with propensity scores is that they aren’t able to differentiate a cold lead that doesn’t know you exist from a prospect that has done their research and is ready to buy. Engagement scores, on the other hand, vary in real-time based on electronic measurement of prospect activity, increasing whenever a prospect takes an action that indicates interest in your products or services. A sophisticated engagement score might measure a prospect’s web visits to your site, calls to your office, participation in online communities, mentions of your company in social media, interaction with an electronic product demo, content downloads, online video consumption, and email communication. If they stop interacting, the score would automatically decline.

For most companies, propensity and engagement scores are discrete and mutually beneficial. A prospect that is high engagement / low propensity may be eager to talk but unlikely to buy. A prospect that is high propensity / low engagement will be hard to reach and unready to engage with sales. Propensity scores tend to be relatively static while engagement scores should be continually changing.

By separately measuring propensity and engagement, companies can clarify the lines between sales and marketing. In most organizations, sales should spend their time on prospects that are both high propensity / high engagement while marketing should focus on prospects that are high propensity / low engagement with the goal of increasing measurable engagement. Organizations can optimize resources by reducing focus on leads that are low propensity and low engagement.

Propensity and Engagement scores are also very useful to sales people as they plan a first call. By understanding relative propensity and engagement, sales people can plan call strategy  with a focus on improving engagement with some prospects vs. qualification or conversion with others. Once there is an active opportunity, engagement scores help sales people and sales managers to more effectively negotiate and more quickly respond to dips in prospect interest.

For these reasons, companies that systematically track both propensity and engagement and abandon one-size-fits-all lead scoring models will see noticeable improvements in sales and marketing performance and alignment.

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