Differences Between Lead Scoring and Nurturing (And Why You Need Both for Sustainable Business Growth)

Lead scoring and nurturing are essential for a sustainable business growth strategy. Explore the difference between lead scoring and lead nurturing.
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Everyone takes their coffee differently. Some people like their coffee black, some like cream and sugar, or if you’re like Michael Scott, you purely take milk and sugar.

Most coffee drinkers like a little something in their drink to make it taste better and wake them up in the morning. The same can be said about lead scoring and nurturing. While you can practice one over the other, they work best when paired together. 

In this blog, we’ll cover the following topics:

What Is Lead Scoring?

Lead scoring is the process of ranking prospects in the sales pipeline based on their lead qualifications and readiness to make a purchase. Every B2B business has its own perception of what it means to be a “qualified lead,” including the type of industries they want to target, number of employees, square footage of their commercial space, and more. 

Once a sales development representative (SDR) uncovers a prospective business’s qualifications, they have the opportunity to learn more about the company and what they want out of a B2B product or service provider. Additionally, the SDR can determine where the potential buyer is in their purchasing and decision-making process. 

A lead scoring system can be done by the SDRs or automatically through a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. If you don’t use sales tools and technologies for your sales process, your SDRs may have to make a note of it or rely on their memory to connect with the lead again. However, with a CRM, the leads in the sales pipeline are automatically prioritized in the call and email list. This way, the SDR knows who they should contact first to increase the likelihood of converting them from a lead to a qualified B2B sales appointment.

Why Is Lead Scoring Important?

Lead scoring is essential to the sales process for many reasons, including that it:

  • Produces more effective marketing and sales campaigns: From call lead scoring to email lead scoring, it creates more effective marketing and sales campaigns because it allows SDRs to connect with the right leads. Without a lead scoring process, your SDRs risk setting sales appointments with unqualified leads. 
  • Aligns marketing and sales efforts: Lead scoring allows your sales and marketing teams to align their lead generation efforts. Lead scoring boosts the SDRs’ ability to send qualified leads the right sales enablement assets, guiding them closer to the end of the sales cycle.
  • Increases close rates: When SDRs score leads in the sales pipeline, they can set high-quality sales appointments with key decision-makers (KDMs) closer to the end of the buyer’s journey to increase close rates.

Different Types of Lead Scoring Models

Since there are various ways to score leads in the sales pipeline, it’s essential to understand the different lead scoring models SDRs follow. When it comes down to it, there are three main ways that SDRs can score leads:

  • Explicit lead scoring
  • Implicit lead scoring
  • Negative lead scoring


Explicit Lead Scoring

Explicit lead scoring is when an SDR or CRM platform ranks and assigns points to a lead based on their objective qualities and demographics. Examples of explicit lead scoring include:

  • KDM job title
  • Industry served
  • Company size
  • Company revenue
  • Number of employees
  • Geographic location


When it comes to lead qualification, explicit lead scoring is a clear-cut factor to determine if a lead is worth chasing or following up with for a sales appointment. There are many ways that sales reps can gather this information, such as talking with the individual directly, researching the company online, or using data enrichment tools like ZoomInfo or D&B Hoovers.

Implicit Lead Scoring

Implicit lead scoring is when an SDR or CRM platform awards points to a lead based on their activity and engagement with your content marketing materials. This includes the number of:

  • Company website visits
  • Social media interactions
  • Email opens and clicks
  • Newsletters received 
  • Form submissions filled
  • Content downloaded
  • Webinars attended


Each point awarded to a lead with implicit lead scoring depends on the type of content marketing material. For example, if a lead engages with top-of-the-funnel assets, then they would receive fewer points than a lead that interacts with bottom-of-the-funnel assets. This is because the lead that engages with bottom-of-the-funnel assets is more likely toward the end of the buyer’s journey and is ready to make a purchase.

Negative Lead Scoring

Unfortunately, not every interaction with a prospect encourages them to take the next step in the buyer’s journey—and your lead scoring methodology must acknowledge that. 

The previous lead scoring models recognize how potential buyers can gain points in the sales process, but there are ways that prospects can also reduce points, known as negative lead scoring. Here are some ways that leads can be scored negatively:

  • Unsubscribing from your email list
  • Having a job title that doesn’t align with your target market (like “student”)
  • They’re a competitor checking out the competition 


While a lead may have a healthy score based on their explicit and implicit lead scores, negative lead scoring helps weed out the leads that have no impact on your business growth. This allows your sales and marketing teams to prioritize leads that are better closing opportunities. 

What Is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is a stage in the appointment setting process where sales reps build relationships with leads in the sales pipeline until they’re toward the end of their buying cycle. Overall, the goal of the lead nurturing process is to present a potential buyer with value during each interaction to convince them to agree to a sales appointment with a member of your internal sales team

A lead nurturing campaign aims to position your company as a trusted and reliable business in the industry. During the lead nurturing process, your SDRs should share relevant sales enablement materials with KDMs to ensure that your company is the best fit for their needs.

Why Is Lead Nurturing Important?

Sometimes unqualified leads slip into the sales pipeline. Lead nurturing is an essential component of the appointment setting process. It helps your sales and marketing experts ensure that the lead they’re pitching meets your company’s ideal customer criteria. 

As your sales and marketing teams nurture leads in the sales pipeline, they can send each lead information that aligns with their qualifiers and interests. For instance, if your company wants to target nonprofits, the lead can be integrated into an email list specifically for nonprofits. Sending targeted information about how your company can benefit nonprofits helps the KDM feel more connected to your company.

Lead nurturing should be a multi-channel approach to get the most out of your business growth efforts. By using a variety of platforms to connect with leads, your SDRs have the ability to catch the right leads at the right time when it’s most convenient for them.

Ways To Nurture Leads in the Sales Pipeline

While there are many lead nurturing tactics sales and marketing teams can practice, here are a few of the most common ways to nurture leads in the sales pipeline:

Send Personalized Emails

As mentioned earlier, it’s essential that your sales and marketing teams send relevant content marketing materials to leads, including assets pertaining to the industry they serve and their product or service interests. To further personalize the email sent to leads, make sure they include the KDM’s name so they know the email is crafted just for them.

While this may sound like a tedious process, it doesn’t have to be. With marketing automation tools, your sales and marketing experts have the opportunity to distribute email blasts that are still personalized to each individual in the sales pipeline. Additionally, these marketing automation tools enable your marketing experts to gain crucial insight into how users engage with the emails and navigate through the content.

Make Warm Calls

Making warm phone calls enables your sales reps to connect with KDMs one-on-one and gain more information than from an email alone. If a hot lead isn’t responding to your emails and their buying cycle is coming to a close, a warm phone call may be the best way to reach them.

When SDRs make warm calls to nurture leads, they can talk with KDMs to uncover concerns and learn more about their buying and decision-making processes. Even if they’re not ready to set an appointment yet, they can be implemented into a lead nurturing email marketing campaign to receive marketing collateral that aligns with their stage in the buyer’s journey

Why a Lead Nurturing and Lead Scoring Strategy Is Essential for Business Growth

While both strategies can exist independently, they’re most effective when working together. Without integrating lead nurturing and lead scoring strategies, you risk having an unsustainable sales process. If SDRs nurture leads in the sales pipeline that aren’t qualified, they waste time chasing leads that will have little to no impact on your company’s business growth. On the other hand, if SDRs score leads without nurturing them, you risk missing out on significant business opportunities.

Key Takeaways

Think back about the coffee and cream scenario from earlier. If you take coffee black, while it may give you energy, it may not taste the best. On the other hand, if you’re like Michael Scott and only take it with milk and sugar, you’re not getting the energy you need to start the morning (but you will get a lot of cavities). Oof, what an expensive dentist bill. 

Anyways, while lead scoring and nurturing are great strategies for building a sales pipeline, they aren’t sustainable on their own. If you want to create and maintain a predictable sales pipeline, you must intertwine the two so you have a sales and marketing strategy that’s sustainable for the long haul.

At Sapper Consulting, our email marketing experts specialize in scoring and nurturing leads in the sales pipeline to schedule high-quality sales appointments for our clients. When you’re ready to get more sales appointments and boost close rates, contact the email marketing experts at Sapper Consulting!

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About The Author

About Sapper Consulting

Sapper's sales prospecting team becomes a natural extension of your existing sales efforts, helping you find new leads that are a great fit for your business.

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