How to fix a leaky lead funnel with proper scoring


by Kevin Miller

Marketers can successfully manage potential leads and improve lead scoring by coordinating with sales teams and optimizing integrated CRM and marketing automation technology.

As business marketers and sales professionals, the way we think about sales funnels has changed in the last five to seven years. It’s not so much a reinvention of the sales funnel. Rather, we’ve broadened the scope, definition, and visibility of the funnel to include – for lack of a better term – the “pre-funnel.” These are marketing suspects and leads that engage with us early on in their buying cycle.

Many of us know and accept the fact that buy cycles and overall buyer behavior have changed dramatically, with a significant portion of a prospect’s evaluation happening online and in a self-paced manner. This environment has many pitfalls and opportunities for the marketer, but knowing where the pitfalls exist and understanding the technological and process gaps can help remedy one of the most common problems companies face – a leaky funnel.

What do we mean by a leaky funnel?

A leaky funnel occurs when a certain percentage of warm leads or suspects fall out or go inactive due to no interaction. Therefore, they end up not becoming a marketing-qualified or sales-qualified lead. Leads may also select a competing product or service because of a lack of interaction.

Why do leaks occur?

The most prevalent reason leads will leak from your funnel is a poorly defined or managed lead scoring and routing program. Without lead scoring, which is typically built and managed in the marketing automation platform and integrated into the sales system of record (CRM), the process of moving leads from the point of first interaction in marketing to sales is a crapshoot.

You have to first think about the mentality of marketers versus the mentality of sales. From day one, marketers are trained to think in terms of reach. More specifically, marketers want to reach the most people with their message for the least amount of money. Time tested metrics that every marketer is trained to care about all point to this. Cost-per-thousand, click-through rates (CTR), and open rates are popular campaign-centric metrics that fool marketers into thinking that their efforts are successful.

If I run a white paper campaign on a landing page and I get 1000 form completions, I will pat myself on the back and revel in my 14 percent conversion rate on the landing page. But, without proper tools like lead scoring and routing, more often than not, marketing will push leads directly into the CRM systems to be followed up with by sales. Visibility into the leads is often lost at this point, and marketers may go to sales monthly to see if any of their leads converted into opportunities.

Contrary to the marketer’s view of reach, sales only cares about leads that have the capacity to purchase. Most sales people are trained based on the BANT model: budget, authority, needs, and timeline.

Conflict between marketing and sales exists because reach and BANT are in direct contradiction. As marketing sends lots of leads through to sales, sales will invariably cherry-pick the leads and leave a much smaller subset by using prior knowledge or gut instinct.

What is left is a large percentage of the original list of leads, which sits untouched or is nominally touched via voicemails or emails. Some of those leads may have been warm, but were just not ready for sales yet. However, they sit idle in the CRM, eventually “leaking out” and moving on to another vendor.

Marketing automation platforms that include lead scoring and lead management capabilities can eliminate this insidious form of lead leakage. They can throttle down the volume of leads going to sales using the routing rules programmed into the lead scoring model. Put simply, your lead scoring model is the traffic cop, allowing some to pass and some to wait.


When implementing lead scoring and routing, marketing should work very closely with sales to jointly define the model and under which circumstances – or lead score number – a lead should move to sales. Agree in advance that sales will accept and fully engage with leads that do make it through the scoring model. Let sales know that if a lead stalls, it should be passed back to marketing for further nurturing.

Just remember the age old adage from plumbers, “If you’re pipes are clogged, they will eventually leak.” It’s simply physics. Think of your lead pipe the same way. Don’t clog it, and it won’t leak.