6 best practices for automated lead routing
Automated lead routing is a mission-critical process in successful organizations. It improves conversions, sales team performance, and sales team job satisfaction. But poorly automated lead routing using technology that’s hard to diagnose, unable to scale, difficult to manage, and slow to update creates a bad engagement experience for prospects. It sucks time and resources from your IT and sales ops teams and creates frustration for both sales teams and the folks who manage the process.
We all know it’s true: routing leads quickly and accurately has never been an easy task. Even before it got complicated by a plethora of data providers, point solutions, and custom, fragmented data, lead routing was a complex, slow process.
We’ve described lead routing as the tip of an iceberg before. It’s all the things below the tip of the iceberg that can sink your sale-ing ship. (Sorry, not sorry.)
The answer, of course, is to rethink how you route leads. Doing it well requires an almost fanatical adherence to the steps and enhancement with robust automation. That’s the only way to get around that iceberg and avoid disaster.
These six lead routing automation best practices will help you correct your course.
Start with clean data. And keep it clean, folks!
You can have the most bulletproof lead routing logic and the most flexible lead routing technology, but if your lead is missing the data needed to drive the routing logic, then the process is broken. Before you can do anything significant with automated lead routing, it’s imperative that your data is cleansed, normalized, deduplicated, and unified. We’ve seen companies waste so much time and money and cause incredible frustration and stress because they thought this step was unimportant. The truth is that data is stagnant, but people aren’t. People change jobs, companies, and email addresses all the time, leaving an enormous paper trail behind them—all of which ends up in your database.
Salespeople trust leads when they arrive with the correct name, phone number, email address, physical address, and interest. That’s why you need to ensure that your data contains accurate information before it gets to a sales rep. They’ll appreciate the saved time (and embarrassment!) that comes with calling a contact who’s already in the system, or worse, talking to someone else in the company.
Part of data hygiene is normalization. There are a lot of ways data enters a system, and because of that, it’s next to impossible to ensure that the formatting is identical across all the fields. For example:
- Some records may show states by their two-letter abbreviation, while others spell out the entire word.
- A company like IBM may appear by its three-letter acronym in a record, and other databases may call the same company “IBM Inc.”, “IBM Corporation,” or even “International Business Machines.”
- Even phone numbers show up in different formats—some with parentheses around area codes, some with dashes.
These data hygiene practices equal clean and better data, but like human hygiene, keeping data clean is an ongoing process. As new records come in, RevOps teams must keep cleansing them, preventing contamination and replicating bad data across other records. It’s where all good automated lead routing begins.
Enrichment: you can always make good data better
Data enrichment is an important step before automated lead routing. When you automate the enrichment process, it improves the accuracy of the data and gives you more options for lead routing criteria. RevOps professionals are often caught at a crossroad between the need for more detailed information and the fact that prospects simply won’t provide it. That means contact forms need to be shorter to get anyone to fill it out at all. Prospects online or at live events don’t want to fill out long contact forms, and companies have heard them—so they’ve improved the experience but cut themselves off from necessary information in the process.
Lead routing rules can be very simple, like round-robin, or more complex, involving multiple fields like county, segment, industry, or job function. If even one of these fields is missing, there’s a good chance your routing won’t be accurate. Companies often purchase data to help them fill in the missing data they need. This enables them to accurately find missing regions, addresses, phone numbers, job titles, and email addresses so salespeople can contact these leads quickly while maintaining their trust level in the data and saving cumulative hours each day.
Choose an agile solution. Flexibility gives you more options.
The intrepid crew of HMS Titanic could have navigated away from danger if they had the flexibility to adapt quickly to changing weather and had a little more foresight. It’s not so different in RevOps.
There’s one thing you can predict: things constantly change in companies. Why behave like it’s a surprise when it happens? Be ready.
- Prepare for quick turnarounds. Have plans that give you multiple ways to change the rules on the fly. At Openprise, we keep our rules on a Google Sheet so we’re ready to change them at a moment’s notice. No code and no downtime, so we don’t have to rely on IT’s timelines.
- Allow for experimentation. We always keep an active sandbox to test those rules before we take them live, so we can move quickly without touching our system of record—we’re ready.
- One size does NOT fit all. Different territories have different needs, so it doesn’t always make the best sense to force them into cookie-cutter processes. Give various territories the freedom to set up routing methods that work for them. Your flexibility will pay off on the flip side when the territories can respond to changes quickly, too.
Speed is of the essence
The rules of engagement for sales have some common threads, regardless of the product you’re selling. And one of those hard and fast rules is the need for speed. In a B2C world, experience has repeatedly shown that the time a salesperson can reach a lead shortens in relation to how inexpensive the product is. B2B is a different but consistent story: closing deals depends upon your knowledge of the customer—their engagement level, determining the customer’s intent, and understanding buying group dynamics. Either way, the enemy of all sales is stagnation. The longer a lead sits, the lower the chance of turning a lead into a customer.
You’ve probably heard about a Harvard Business Review story that showed that a sales team is seven times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a prospect when it contacts a prospect within an hour of receiving the lead. It’s more than 60 times as likely to have that conversation if they reach the prospect in the first hour compared with waiting 24 hours or longer.
You can probably see the problem here.
Without automation, cleansing and enriching incoming leads and routing them takes days. Sales teams need leads in minutes. Budgets are tight, so enrichment strategies must be affordable, comprehensive, and efficient—and that means automation.
Make sure your automated lead routing technology can scale with you
One thing you can count on in RevOps—whatever you’ve set up, you’ll have to change it. The sales team is continually shuffling named accounts, making tweaks to territories, granting rule exceptions, and most of all, growing. And that means you have to be ready to scale at a moment’s notice. Being ready for these changes is a best practice in all of RevOps, but it’s especially true with automated lead routing.
You might not be able to keep up with the changes, whether you’re using rules in Salesforce.com, or more advanced workflow-based technologies, without data-driven automation technology. But once you’ve set up a basic routing scheme, you’ll be able to keep up easily with just a dataset owned by the sales operations team. With something as simple as a spreadsheet-like interface, it’s possible to make changes on the fly—taking minutes instead of days.
Managing lead routing this way gives you the power to scale in just about any circumstances, without any need to change system configurations or write code:
- Map ZIP codes, area codes, or counties to territories
- Map domains, name accounts, and industries to sales teams and queues
- Changing territory hierarchy
- Changing territory mapping to queues and CRM users
Realize higher ROI with efficient solutions that make sense
You’ve probably purchased several point solutions, each designed to solve a single problem. But you know what happened, right? All those point solutions ended up creating even more problems.
- You have multiple solutions that all charge per seat—which adds up
- The various products can’t communicate with each other and create silos
- Every time you get a new point solution, you need to invest in training employees
- Trying to solve all those issues brought about even more complexity—slowing down all of RevOps
- You needed administrators to keep track of all those accounts, seats, and solutions
…and ultimately, you never solved anything.
Speed, cost, avoiding redundancy, and banishing bad data is already on your radar, but being cost-efficient as well is the icing on the cake. As we’ve already pointed out in other lead routing best practices, efficiency is a hallmark of routing leads well. Look for a single solution that can automate all your RevOps processes across the entire funnel, and become the engine that drives sales operations to be faster, more cost-effective, and most of all, foster high-quality, trustworthy data.
Bonus: Conquering the automated lead routing iceberg
Every good sailor knows that it takes a good strategy to navigate the dreaded iceberg and that the tip of it isn’t the thing to be wary of. It’s everything underneath, out of sight. But when it comes to the iceberg of automated lead routing, you can prepare your strategy by making intentional choices to evolve your tech stack to automate all your RevOps processes. Be prepared to turn the ship quickly to avoid a crash—in other words, be ready to move with agility when faced with inevitable changes. Understand that throwing point solutions at a problem will only make it worse. Strategic thinking will help you conquer the iceberg of automated lead routing, and you’ll be ready when you see the iceberg straight ahead.
From our automated lead routing customers
Netskope improved their lead routing accuracy and speed using the Openprise RevOps Data Automation Platform. They initiated a system of data quality management that works as records come in, automatically clearing dupes and inserting missing information from other records to complete the data. Since all of this work happens automatically, sales reps can be sure that their data is trustworthy—and it arrives before the lead gets cold. The Netskope team also built a waterfall-based decision-making routing table to define how to route leads based on the account owner. As a result, Netskope now routes more leads faster and more accurately, taking advantage of Openprise lead-to-account matching to route contacts and leads.
Great Place to Work took a fresh look at their flexibility, and found new, innovative ways to route leads. By creating a second sales team—a subset of the first—they could route leads by product interest levels determined by job roles. Because they could respond to some leads more quickly, they saw a 10% increase in close rates and 38% more win rates. How did they do it? They used Openprise to infer job roles from job titles and split the quicker closes to a different team who could serve them faster than the traditional team.