If you’re planning to grow your sales team in 2022, or you’re looking to generate more performance from every rep, you should take a critical look at your lead distribution process.
Lead distribution – the process of assigning leads to sales reps so that they can be followed up with and moved into sales conversations – is often an afterthought for early stage companies. But as you grow and scale, it becomes both increasingly resource-intensive and increasingly criticall. An effective process will streamline and accelerate revenue for your business. A poor process can stop deals in their tracks while consuming countless hours of every month that could otherwise go toward more strategic and high-value activities.
Because of its business importance, your lead distribution process should be analyzed, codified, and documented as part of your overall revenue operations strategy, whether through a process flow diagram or other documentation. And it pays to also understand the technologies available for supporting your lead distribution efforts, helping you get more value out of your existing tech stack while minimizing manual effort. The following guide can help you get started.
When to evaluate your lead distribution approach
Effective lead distribution is a key component of the overall Inbound methodology for any company, serving as a bridge between marketing and sales touchpoints. While your Inbound marketing form strategy helps qualify your initial leads, a strategic lead distribution process will deliver that qualified “hand-raiser” to the most appropriate rep, effectively ensuring a clean and frictionless handoff between the self-guided prospect experience and the guided sales experience.
That said, most companies don’t need to focus on lead distribution specifically until their teams grow to more than 5 dedicated reps. If your organization is poised to hire more reps this year, or you are already investing multiple days each month trying to leverage out-of-the-box CRM tools to route leads, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy and process.
Designing your strategy: Common approaches for lead distribution
Whatever size your sales team may be, chances are you have deployed one of the following strategies for lead distribution. All have benefits and drawbacks, but having a basic understanding of these common approaches will help you make an informed decision on which makes the most sense for your next growth stage:
Territory or Segment-Based distribution With this approach, certain reps will only work with certain types of companies. Often, this will be territory-based, in which reps are assigned to different countries, regions, states, or cities, and leads from those locations are distributed to them. While territories are common, they are a subset of segment-based distribution, which can manifest in a myriad of different ways including company size, industry, or annual revenue.
Round Robin. Typical among early-stage organizations, “Round Robin” distribution simply divides leads equally across your rep base. It is the most common approach for teams with under 5 reps but often risks compromising the prospect experience as teams scale and grow to include varying expertise levels and competencies.
“Tiered” or weighted routing. In this approach, you’ll assign leads to reps based on defined criteria in order to ensure maximum overall team performance. For example, if you have a newly hired rep “ramping” into their role, you might want to assign them more leads that they can open up pipeline faster, fewer leads so they have more time to learn the nuances of your sales process or an overall “cap” to leads that they are receiving. By accounting for individual strengths and experience levels, this approach can offer the best potential for improving overall team performance and output but historically has required dedicated operational resources for ongoing implementation and optimization.
Operationalizing and optimizing your process
Once you’ve identified the best approach for your business, you’ll need to set up an operational process to implement it.
This step is where top-performing teams separate themselves. If your process is overly reliant on human resources, multiple systems, or cumbersome workflows, you will risk taxing your sales ops teams, losing leads, and compromising your overall sales experience.
Conversely, if you adopt a scalable approach, you stand to gain significantly more time which can be dedicated to other revops process optimizations, as well as improved sales team efficiency as your reps consistently receive the right leads, at the right time. In striving to meet this objective, most organizations use one of three operational processes:
- Manual lead distribution in which a sales ops manager assigns leads using a combination of CRMs and spreadsheets
- Automated lead distribution using standard “out of the box” workflow features within a CRM
- Automated lead distribution through an application that supplements existing CRM functionality with enhanced lead routing logic. Several of these apps exist for SalesForce and New Breed has recently launched one purpose built for HubSpot users.
Manual lead distribution, as the name implies, is driven entirely by a sales operations leader’s knowledge of their staff and business. This process becomes highly labor intensive, and often unsustainable as sales teams grow to encompass more than 5-10 dedicated sales reps. For example, sales reps may try to work with their manager to “cherry pick” the leads they want, creating friction and unfairness across the team, managers might mismanage a lead and offer it to a rep for whom it is not a good fit, or, worse yet, a simple spreadsheet or human error can lead to a lead being entirely overlooked.
Workflow-based lead distribution leveraging standard CRM features. With this approach, your sales operations leader will create rules or logic and implement this in the CRM directly. Significantly more scalable than manual distribution, this approach is the most common for scaling sales teams. HubSpot’s SalesHub contains a number of basic features to enable the process.
Unfortunately, workflow-based lead distribution also has downsides due to the technical and time burdens associated with managing the CRM. The mere process of changing complex workflows can also be time-consuming, and if the system is not configured perfectly, you risk routing leads to the wrong rep or inadvertently letting leads “slip through the cracks.” It is all-too-common, for example, to erroneously set up a rule that leaves leads hanging for multiple days, or sends them to the wrong territory. Indeed, for teams of over 10-15 reps or more, simply managing workflows can take up to hours each month.
Automated lead distribution through an application that supplements existing CRM functionality. The third and ultimately most scalable operational approach for lead distribution is by using a dedicated app that sits “on top of” the CRM to help automate the complexities of managing multiple workflow and complex distribution logic. New Breed has recently developed one of these applications specifically for HubSpot CRM users, and others exist for SalesForce users. With this solution, your sales operations manager will configure the app with your unique lead distribution rules and parameters. In effect, you will enhance existing CRM functionality, and in doing so eliminate the need for complex configurations that would need to be consistently troubleshot, retooled, and updated as your team grows. There will be a cost associated with the app, but if your sales team exceeds 5-10 reps and you have plans to grow it, whatever costs you incur from the app is likely to be offset manifold by the operational time it saves, as well as the sales efficiency you’ll drive by ensuring reps consistently get ideal-fit leads to work.
Putting it all together: best practices and recommendations for maximizing your performance
Having worked with scaling companies that have applied all of the techniques and approaches listed above - and having relied on each of these approaches ourselves - New Breed recommends an automated lead distribution approach coupled with a weighted distribution logic.
A good lead distribution app can automate even nuanced routing roles, and if you set up your weightings appropriately, you'll be able to get more output out of everybody on the sales team so they're putting their time and energy into the places they should be at any given time.
For example, in a “traditional” weighted lead routing approach, your operational teams might take hours each month creating custom workflows to ensure a new rep has a manageable volume or leads, or a senior rep has a “cap” on their total lead volume after they have generated a certain amount of pipeline so that they can focus on closing revenue. Historically, this additional overhead operational investment has prohibited scaling teams from adopting a weighted approach. Automation can provide them a competitive edge by experiencing the benefits of weighted lead distribution without the operational burden. In essence, you can automate how leads are assigned based on real-time team performance.
As your sales team grows to beyond 5 dedicated reps, lead distribution becomes increasingly more important. When done right, lead distribution represents a critical and high-value component of your overall Inbound sales and marketing strategy.
At minimum, your organization should have documented lead distribution approach and an intentionally-designed process. If your team is comprised of more than 5 reps, you will want to explore evolving beyond simple round robin distribution and consider an approach that takes your prospects’ needs and your team’s skills into account.
While traditional processes involve a heavy operational burden, new automation breakthroughs mitigate this, making it possible to accelerate deal velocity, ensure no leads “slip through the cracks,” and free up their sales ops management resources to focus on team and process optimization, rather than technical configuration or burdensome and error-prone administrative work.
To learn more about what lead distribution approach and process is right for your business. Contact us. We’d love to hear from you.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.