Lead Routing Best Practices


  • The goal of the lead transfer process is to get qualified sales leads to the right salespeople quickly and eliminate lead leakage.
  • Lead routing best practices define streamlined and automated processes that shift lead distribution from simply throwing leads over the fence, to managing and measuring lead conversion effectiveness.
  • Applying lead routing best practices will accelerate getting qualified prospects to the salesforce, delivering leads with more customer intelligence, improving the buyers' experience and increasing sales lead conversion rates by 87 to 107 percent (research shown below).
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Lead Routing Best Practices

The sales lead distribution process transfers leads from marketing to sales. That can create a blind spot and is the single greatest breakdown in the lead management process.

In fact, a research report from LeanData, titled The State of Lead Management, and based on a survey of 527 B2B sellers and marketers, found that 25.5 percent of marketing generated leads, on average, were inaccurately or improperly assigned, resulting in poor or no follow-up.

And to little surprise, the survey also found that sales and marketing leaders have very different opinions on sales lead follow-up effectiveness. 30 percent of marketing leaders believe that sales will always follow-up on marketing generated leads compared to 61 percent of sales leaders.

Mismanaging 1 in 4 leads squanders marketing demand generation investments and is a devastating blow to revenue results. And the damage is exacerbated because most marketing and sales leaders don't track lead follow-through or calculate their lead leakage.

As said by Ash Kakhandiki, VP of Marketing, as part of the lead research report, "Everyone thinks that their funnel is not leaking … But the truth is that leads are just disappearing. You don't know where they are going. You don't know what leads are leaking out. But it's happening. You just don’t realize it."

Fortunately, there are ways to do better. Our research has produced over a dozen lead routing best practices. Here's seven of them that can deliver big performance improvements.


Start by Defining a Holistic Lead Distribution Process

The lead distribution process must be properly designed and proactively managed or it will become the top cause of lead leakage. Design is also needed to apply CRM software automation and accumulate the data to deliver information reporting.

The diagram below is an example that shows how the lead transfer, lead monitoring and lead recycling functions should be integrated and measured together to ensure that no lead is left behind.

Lead Routing Process

Enable Fast-Track Lead Transfers

The lead transfer may begin as soon as the lead is acquired.

While most B2B sales leads will pursue steps such as a qualification process before being assigned to salespeople, some leads will bypass these steps and be immediately routed to sellers. These rapid response prospects should be assigned to a Fast-Track Routing process.

An accelerated salesperson assignment may apply to strategic accounts, ABM accounts or even some types of web leads.

When getting these types of sales leads to salespeople you are racing the clock. Lead response time research shows the probability of engaging and qualifying a new lead is 100 times higher if the lead is contacted with 5 minutes, compared to waiting 60 minutes.


Apply a Lead Transfer Method

Lead distribution strategies and supporting systems determine which salesperson should be assigned to work each sales lead.

But there are many types of lead routing models, and each delivers a different impact on assignment time, lead throughput, sales productivity and conversion rates.

Lead Routing Strategies

The best lead assignment system will be determined by your lead conversion goals, sales staffing model, sales process and the sophistication or complexity of what you are selling.

Within the sales context of the above, the best model is the one that reduces lead transfer time, gets the right leads to the right salespeople, accelerates lead response time, eliminates lead leakage, improves the buyer experience and increases sales lead conversion rates.


Manage Leads with a Service Level Agreement

Without clear responsibilities, prospects routed to salespeople risk slow or inattentive response.

A Service Level Agreement (SLA) defines the sales lead transfer process, including a threshold lead score, lead ownership, follow-through actions and maximum follow-up timeframes.

For example, the SLA will advise how leads are distributed from marketing to sales (i.e., via round robin lead distribution). That includes defining how salespeople will be notified of new lead assignments (i.e., via email alerts or CRM workflow notifications), the maximum time expectation for salespeople to engage the prospects (i.e., 48 hours) and what happens if the lead isn't contacted in that period (i.e., lead gets escalated to the sales manager).

Service Level Agreement Process

A well written SLA document memorializes the sales lead distribution and follow through expectations. It becomes a defined process that can be improved upon and increases the lead-to-opportunity conversions by double digits.


Don't Forget Post-Transfer Monitoring

You get what you inspect, not what you expect. That's why post-transfer lead monitoring is important.

When leads don't get contacted, they need to be escalated. When sale opportunities stall, they need some additional engagement. When engagement doesn't work, they need to be recycled or terminated.

For most companies, the metrics to monitor will be defined in the SLA. And to be candid, there's a lot of conditions that need to be monitored in order to maximize the volume of leads that make it through the sales funnel.

Fortunately, most or all of them can be visualized with dashboards and responded to automatically with CRM software workflow automation.

Marketing Lead Management Dashboard

Implement Lead Recycling

When salespeople hold on to stalled leads, they exacerbate lead leakage.

An IDC research report titled, Coordinating Marketing and Sales Across the Entire Revenue Cycle, advised that 60-70 percent of sales reps ignore marketing leads. No surprise. I think we all knew that. Sales lead scoring helps fix this problem but is not enough by itself.

Lead recycling is a needed process to reduce lead leakage and ensure that stalled leads don't die in the dark.

Sometimes hot leads get cold during the sales cycle. Executive turnover, budget changes or competing priorities may suddenly postpone a buyer's purchase process until a later day.

When leads transferred from marketing to sales stall, there must be a technology-enabled process to help sales or marketing people return them to marketing for continued nurturing. Stalled leads can be identified by lack of movement or advancement over a defined period.


Apply Technology

Software technology brings process automation and information reporting to all the prior lead routing best practices.

There are many lead management software technologies that can help, but your marketing automation system and CRM application are the go-to platform solutions.

The marketing software will capture, score, nurture and transfer the lead to CRM. The CRM system will assign the lead to a salesperson, orchestrate the follow through actions and provide most of the lead management reporting. Both applications will highlight leads in limbo and ensure that the SLA guidelines are followed.

Unless you are a small business, there is just no way to score, route and manage sales leads without these applications.

The Point is this

In a Forrester report titled, CMOs Need to Institute Marketing-Sales Collaboration, the analyst firm reported that companies with mature lead management processes see sales act on more leads, decrease their lead follow-up time, increase close rates for marketing generated leads and grow revenue 4 to 5 times more than companies with no marketing automation software or with software automation but without disciplined processes.

While the marketing to sales lead transfer process is an area of notorious lead leakage, it's also a big opportunity for revenue uplift.

Streamlined lead transfer processes accelerate and increase sales lead conversions through the funnel. Detecting and resolving stalled and unmanaged leads will deliver a significant and sustained improvement to lead conversions and top line revenues.

What makes these lead routing best practices even better is that most of them can be implemented without much investment.

The 7 sales lead routing best practices that decrease lead leakage, increase sales lead conversions and grow top line revenues.

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