The Top 3 Lead Routing Methods


  • The sales lead distribution process transfers inbound leads to salespeople or nurtured leads from marketing to sales. Research shows that the lead transfer process creates a blind spot that results in the single greatest contribution to lead leakage. That is leads that are lost because they were not followed up timely or followed though.
  • Lead routing methods and models apply streamlined and automated lead transfer processes that shift lead distribution from simply throwing leads over the fence, to managing and measuring lead conversion effectiveness.
  • The best lead routing models reduce transfer time, get the right prospects to the right salespeople, accelerate response time, eliminate lead leakage, improve the buyer experience and increase sales lead conversion rates by high double digits.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Lead Routing Methods to Increase Conversions

Lead routing strategies accelerate sales cycle velocity and maximize lead conversions by getting the right sales prospects to the right salespeople right away.

But that's easier said than done. Lead management research published in the Marketing Transformation Report shared that only 14 percent of marketers automate end to end lead management processes.

It also revealed that among all lead management processes, the lead transfer from marketing to sales is the single biggest culprit of lost leads and lead leakage.

Research shows that the lead transfer from marketing to sales is the single biggest culprit of lost leads and lead leakage.

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Fortunately, lead distribution strategies can plug this leak and increase the volume of leads that make it through the sales funnel.

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

But there are many types of lead distribution models, and each delivers a different impact on assignment time, lead throughput, sales productivity and conversion rates. and Dr. James Oldroyd, a Faculty Fellow at MIT, were at the forefront of research that showed how lead response time impacts lead conversion rates and how different lead assignment systems impact lead conversion and close rates.

As shown in the chart below, distributing leads based on salesperson availability and skills delivered statistically higher conversion rates than routing leads based on company size or industry.

Lead Routing Methods

That research is helpful. But to be clear, the best lead assignment system will be determined by your sales staffing model, sales process and the sophistication or complexity of what it is you are selling.

The following guidance will show how different sales lead assignment models can be paired with different sales models for the best results.

The Most Effective Lead Routing Strategies

The table below highlights the advantages and disadvantages of the three most popular strategies.

Lead Routing Strategies

Round Robin Lead Distribution

The round robin lead assignment model distributes sales leads to salespeople based on a sequential rotation. Once all sales reps on a list have received leads, the rotation starts over.

In addition to basic round robin lead distribution there are extended forms or variations such as Weighted Load Balancing which allocates a larger percentage of leads to sales reps with more capability or capacity.

There can be other factors such as a sudden influx of leads or limited staff capacity that create a more dynamic round robin lead assignment. These factors may interrupt the sequential order and bypass the next successive lead assignment.

The advantages of round robin distribution are its speed and equitable lead allocation among salespeople. If you incur sales reps arguing over new inbound leads, round robin can fix that. It's also helpful in preventing the cherry picking of leads.

This disadvantage is that it's crude. It doesn't consider salesperson skills such as product knowledge or industry expertise. It doesn't result in matching the best salesperson for each prospect.

You may need to balance the need for equity with performance-based models (discussed below) that favor more experienced sellers. A combination of both may be the best alternative.

The best fit for this lead assignment model is with companies that sell with inside sales reps or route leads to contact centers, or companies that sell simple or unsophisticated products with short sales cycles.

Simple Variable Routing

The next category of sales lead distribution models makes assignments based on one or possibly a few variables. Sometimes these are called performance-based routing methods. Some of the most common examples include the following:

  • Lead transfer by geography. Routing sales leads by region, state, zip code, telephone area code or other territory-based delineation is the most common distribution method among B2B sellers. This method can make a lot of sense for sales reps who are charged to develop a territory or for sellers who travel to customer sites. However, as digital selling increases, proximity no longer matters as much and this method makes less sense.
  • Lead transfer by sale value. Many companies want their biggest sale opportunities managed by their most experienced sellers. This model not only assigns leads to salespeople based on sale value but may also assign low value buyers to ecommerce or self-service procurement channels.
  • Lead transfer by staff availability. This model is typically used with high volume, low dollar sales transactions. All sales leads are sent to a queue and distributed when a resource becomes available. Sometimes resources are grouped by skills into teams and leads are matched to the right team and distributed to the first available person in the team.
  • Lead transfer by resource continuity. Routing prospects to resources that worked with them before can save time, develop rapport, build the relationship and increase the close rate.
  • Lead transfer with dedicated resources. Some companies improve the customer experience and customer relationships with dedicated account managers. That generally means any sales inquiries from a named company are distributed to that resource. This model also applies to Account-based Marketing (ABM) programs where target accounts are assigned to designated salespeople.
  • Lead transfer by sales skills. Matching prospects to salespeople based on sales skills will increase sales credibility and sales cycle execution. For example, industry expertise facilitates better buyer conversations, uncovers buyer goals more quickly and aids repetitive tasks such as seller discovery sessions, sales strategies and sales win plans. The same benefits may apply when specializing by market segments such as small businesses, growth firms or enterprise companies. Sales specialization accelerates buyer rapport and confidence.

The main advantage for simple variable distribution is illustrated in the name. It is simple. These lead routing models are easy to define and execute.

The disadvantages are that they are not very flexible and not always good at matching prospects to sales resources timely. The variable that defines the transfer parameter creates a much smaller pool of available resources to receive leads. If those resources are busy or unavailable, the leads may incur delays. And that's dangerous as hot leads get cold quickly.

Intelligent and Dynamic Lead Distribution

This type of model builds upon the prior models.

It assesses leads by identifying key attributes and multiple variables, and then applies dynamic rules to optimize assignments.

Sometimes these models apply weighting to lead variables, sometimes they apply load balancing to distribute leads more evenly and sometimes they apply caps or quotas to sales resources.

Their intent is three-fold: to match each buyer to the most qualified salesperson, to improve sales productivity and to maximize sales conversion rates.

Their main advantage is that they drive performance optimization. Each variable and the combination of variables are continuously measured, refined and improved upon.

Their challenge is their complexity. Maintenance can also be a factor. When dynamic rules are hard-coded, they can be difficult to update. Both challenges can be mitigated with lead automation technologies.

For salesforces willing to pursue continuous process improvement to maximize sales lead conversions, intelligent and dynamic lead distribution models will make the most sense.

Once you have adopted a transfer strategy it's important to measure, iterate and improve over time. The most influential metrics to measure are average transfer time, average lead response time, lead conversion rates and lead leakage.

Because most companies acquire high volumes of leads, making even small improvements to anyone of these metrics will deliver a disproportionately higher impact to revenue results.