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Pardot Grading 101: How to Rate The Quality of Your Prospects

Pardot Grading 101: How to Rate The Quality of Your Prospects

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Pardot Grading is a great way to identify prospects who meet your ideal buyer persona, but I find a lot of Pardot users neglect to set up their Grading profiles and automations because they don’t know where to begin.

This article provides a step-by-step guide on setting up your initial grading, as well as some best practices and considerations for customizing grading to your unique needs. 

Understanding grades in Pardot

Pardot grades range from A+ to F. All prospects begin with a grade of D, however, the initial grade will not show up on the prospect record until the prospect has matched or unmatched at least one criterion.

Grades can be increased or decreased by ⅓, ⅔ or 3/3 of a letter grade. Automation rules should be used to look at the prospect’s data and automatically mark the prospect as a match or not a match for each criterion, or this can be manually done on each prospect’s record (but who has time for that!?). 

Best practice is to have your grading profile look at both prospect fields and company fields to identify ideal fit prospects at ideal fit companies.

No matter how much you love that prospect with the perfect title and the perfect budget, if they are in the wrong industry for your product, chances are they aren’t going to buy from you.

Also, remember Pardot grades should reflect how much you like the prospect, so it should look at implicit data (i.e. Job Level) rather than explicit data (i.e. product of interest) or prospect activity (i.e. last activity).

“Default” Grading in Pardot

Pardot accounts come with a default grading profile that looks at five criteria:

  • Company Size
  • Industry
  • Location
  • Job Title
  • Department.

Pardot’s default scoring works “out of the box,” so many people assume that grading does too. Not so — you do have to take some time to configure this to fit your definition of an ideal buyer.

Defining Your Grading Criteria in Pardot

The next step in setting up grading is deciding which characteristics make up your ideal buyer. This is a great time to bring in your Sales and Inside Sales teams as well as look at your current and past clients. Try answering these questions:

  1. What Job Titles do we target?
  2. Which Job Levels do we target (Managers, Directors, C-Level etc.)?
  3. Which departments do we sell to?
  4. How big or small are the companies we sell to?
  5. Which industries buy our products?
  6. Are you customers restricted to certain locations?

One pitfall to avoid at this step is the “We will sell to anyone” mindset.

Of course you will sell to anyone who has the budget and wants your product — but remember, we are looking for ideal prospects here. We’re looking for people you could essentially cold call and they would likely be interested in your offering (although they won’t be cold for long if you start nurturing them effectively in Pardot!)

Once you have an idea of your ideal buyer persona, look at the data you are collecting in Pardot. Fields with picklist or pre-determined values work best, but you can use free text fields in your grading criteria. If you’re using free text fields, make sure you take into account:

  • Common variations
  • Abbreviations
  • Frequent misspellings that may be entered as a value in this field

For example, if you want to target C-Level job titles, look for Chief, Cheif, CTO, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Tech Officer…etc.). You may need to do some data clean up and standardization here, or add in new fields to collect additional data.

Let’s walk through an example using the following 4 criteria:

  1. Job Level
  2. Department
  3. Account Size
  4. Account Type

Setting up Pardot grading profiles

When you first go to set up grading, all prospects will initially be assigned to the “default” profile, that I mentioned earlier. It is best to edit this default when setting up your own initial grading profile. 

To edit your grading profile:

1. Go to Marketing, Segmentation, Profiles

2. Select the Actions wheel next to the Default profile and click Edit

3. Enter the name of each criterion in the Criteria Name boxes, add or remove additional criteria as needed

You can leave all the criteria at equal weight (2/3 by default), or you can select higher or lower values depending on what is import to your company.

For this example, we are going to set Job Level at 1 (3/3 of a letter grade), Department at ⅓, and leave Account Size and Account Type at ⅔

4. Click Save profile.

Automate your grading

In the last steps, you told Pardot how important each criteria is when evaluating prospect fit. Next, we are going to automate prospect matching or not matching each criterion of the grading profile — in other words, telling Pardot ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when it grades each prospect against the criterion.

For each criterion, you’ll want to decide what is a match and what isn’t, but keep in mind that not all of the values available for that criterion need to do one or the other! Let’s take Job Level for example, my dropdown values are

  • President/Vice President
  • C-Level
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Other

Anyone who has the Job Level of “President/Vice President” or “C-Level” matches our ideal buyer persona. “Manager” and “Other” Job Levels don’t tend to buy, so we’ll make those as not matching the Job Level Criterion. “Director” is neutral ground, so we won’t have that effect the Job Level criterion. 

Don’t be afraid to mark certain values as does not match — it is not disqualifying prospects that have those values, it is simply saying they are not the absolute perfect prospect on all fronts.

Having criteria that does not match is crucial to a good grading profile. Without it, all your prospects can end up with high grades, making it difficult to differentiate between prospects that are great and ones that are just okay.

Using automation rules to set rules to “match” criteria:

To automate our first criterion, evaluating fit of Job Title:

1. Go To Marketing, Automation, Automation Rules

2. Select + Add Automation Rule

3. Name your automation rule

I recommend including “Grading” and “Matches” or “Does Not Match” in the automation rule name so it easy to locate and edit your rules later. My rule is named “Grading_Job Level_Matches”

4. Select Repeat Rule

Your prospect’s data may change, so it is good to have repeating Automation Rules to re-evaluate the prospect when they are updated. As a rule of thumb, I recommend setting the rule to be eligible to repeat every 30 days and allow unlimited matches.

5. Under Rules, select Match Any then + Add new rule

6. Select Prospect custom field, Job Level, is, President/Vice President

7. Select + Add new rule

8. Select Prospect custom field, Job Level, is, C-Level

9. Under Actions, select + Add new Action

10. Select Change profile criteria, Default, Job Level, Matches

11. Select Create Automation Rule and resume this rule

Using Automation Rules to set rules to “does not match” criterion:

1. Create another new automation rule

2. Name your automation rule

3. My second rule is named “Grading_Job Level_Does Not Match”

4. Select Repeat Rule

5. Under Rules, select Match Any then + Add new rule

6. Select Prospect custom field, Job Level, is, Manager

7. Select + Add new rule

8. Select Prospect custom field, Job Level, is, Other

9. Under Actions, select + Add new Action

10. Select Change profile criteria, Default, Job Level, Does not match

11. Select Create Automation Rule and resume this rule

Repeat the steps above for each criterion in your grading profile. You may want to also record this information in excel or a word document so it is easy to share with Sales and upper management later. Here is how my data looks:

Testing your Pardot grading

If you already have a wide variety of prospects in your Pardot instance, you may be able to let your automation rules run and then review a handful of prospects with differing grades to make sure the grades accurately reflect how close these prospects are to your ideal buyer.

However, if you are new to Pardot or if some of your grading criteria does not have data yet, I recommend adding some mock prospects for testing. 

You’ll want at least 4 prospects who fit your grading criteria in a variety of ways. 

  • Where the account fits, but not the prospect
  • Where the prospect fits, but not the account
  • Where they both fit
  • Where neither fit

I also like to record this in excel to it is easy to share.

With the 4 test prospects, we can see that prospect who only match at either the prospect level or the account level will be in the C range, ideal prospects will be in the A range, and prospect that don’t match on either level will be an F. 

Revisit your grading profiles

Your ideal prospect will likely change as your business and products change, so plan on reviewing your grading profile with the Sales team at least once a year. When reviewing your profile:

1. Review your grading automation rules and make sure they are regularly matching prospects. If they are not, the criterion may no longer be relevant or you may have issues with the data the automation rule is looking for.

2. Review your recent closed won deals. Do the grades of the prospects related to those deals reflect that they were a good match?

3. Review the recently added fields and new field values in Pardot. Can you add or adjust any criteria?

More on grading prospects in Pardot

Some additional handy resources on Grading to learn more:

What questions do you have about grading? What’s worked well for your organization? Any lessons learned?

Let’s hear it in the comments!

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  • Erin Duncan is the Account Engagement Product Director at Sercante. Erin is 8x Salesforce certified and has 12+ years of experience as a Salesforce and Account Engagement Admin. She is the leader of the Atlanta B2B Marketers User Group, the leader of the Pardashian Slack group, and a Salesforce Marketing Champion.

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