How to Fix a Broken Lead Routing Process

Why your lead routing process may be broken and how to fix it

The lead routing process – getting the right lead to the right rep – is exceptionally important in boosting your conversion rate. This is critical, especially as we enter a recession and face uncertainty in the market. However, accurate and timely lead routing is always a challenge, especially for sizable organizations with distributed sales teams. Organizations with poor lead routing processes often suffer from:

  • Low accuracy due to routing the lead to the wrong person or queue
  • Long lag time in routing a lead to the right person or queue
  • Leads disappearing into places where no one is looking

These problems lead to even worse outcomes:

  • Low conversion rates Timely follow up after initial engagement is crucial to improve conversion rate. Studies have shown that conversion improves by up to 700% by following up a lead within 30 minutes of engagement.
  • Poor customer experience Incorrectly routed leads can cause multiple salespeople to call on the same account (or nobody to follow up), creating a poor experience for the customers, not to mention disputes within the sales team.
  • Low campaign ROI Generating new leads costs money. Nurturing leads costs more money. Once a lead is deemed good enough to pass on to sales, you’ve already invested a lot of money into that lead. Any leakage in the lead routing process directly reduced marketing’s return on investment.

Root causes of a poor lead routing process

You can trace lead routing issues to these root causes:

Poor data quality

Poor data quality is the number one root cause of lead routing inaccuracy. It doesn’t matter if you have the most bulletproof lead routing logic and the most flexible lead routing technology if your lead is missing the data needed to drive the routing logic. For example:

  • Commercial accounts in California are routed by ZIP code. The lead has city and state, but no ZIP code.
  • Federal accounts are routed by a set of domains. The lead’s email has a fat-finger typo: jdoe@mitre.orc.
  • K-12, state, and local government leads are routed by industry. The lead’s industry data is not an exact match to the 153 variations you filter through.

Manual list loading

Loading a large list of leads often takes days, if not weeks. The loading is generally done manually by a small group of people who clean, normalize, and segment the data. While “manual research” is often part of this process, much of the effort is spent on repetitive tasks instead of on real investigative work that adds value. Some examples include looking up and filling in the missing phone country code for Malaysia or looking up the County information for the 27,000+ towns in the United Kingdom.

Unmanageable lead routing technology

If your lead routing process requires investment in technology, then chances are your sales team is also sizable enough to go through constant changes like tweaking territories, shuffling named accounts, and granting exceptions. These business changes can happen faster than your ability to update and test your routing technology, whether you’re using a bunch of rules in or more advanced workflow-based technologies. We’ve seen it take as long as one to three months to make those system changes in larger companies.

Broken or missing lead routing process

Do you know how many leads in your CRM are owned by users no longer with your company? How about leads left sitting in the routing queue for more than three months? Do you know of one user in your CRM who owns hundreds more leads than everybody else? These are examples of lead black holes created by broken or missing processes. Most companies without effective lead management routing processes lack the monitoring mechanisms to detect these black hole situations. The result? Leads indefinitely stay with a salesperson who is no longer with the company, and the leads simply languish.


How to fix lead routing process problems in Q3 2022 and beyond

It’s pretty easy for most companies to dramatically improve the lead routing process by taking the following steps.

Clean before you route

Lead routing is a data-driven process. Like any data-driven process, if you put garbage in, then you get garbage out. By simply taking care of these data hygiene fundamentals, you can easily improve the accuracy of your lead routing process by 50%.

  • Clean up bad data like invalid email address (jdoe@acme.con) and common typos (e.g., Massachusettes)
  • Resolve inconsistent data like “California, Canada”
  • Fill in missing data, like if City = “Redwood City” and State = “California”, then ZIP code can be inferred as “94065”
  • Standardize data like the United States, United States of America, USA, US, U.S.A., and U.S.

Match leads to accounts

Matching a lead to an existing account in your CRM can improve your lead routing process in these ways:

  • Routing the lead directly to the account owner, bypassing unnecessary human routing steps
  • Using the account data to fill in or replace data from the lead
  • Automatically converting a  lead to a contact in, and attaching the contact to the account
  • Identifying and merging any duplicate lead to a contact (in Salesforce terminology)

Automate list processing

You should automate the list loading process if you load more than a few hundred leads a week. You’ll see a great benefit in cleaning and matching data before it enters your sales automation or marketing automation platform and before the lead routing process logic kicks in.

You should fully automate these tasks as part of the list loading process:

  • Cleansing and normalization
  • Enrichment
  • Segmentation
  • Validation
  • Lead-to-account matching
  • Deduplication, both within the list, and also against your CRM databases
  • Loading and updating

Use data-driven, self-service technology

The technology you use to manage your lead routing process likely won’t be able to keep up with business requirement changes if it requires IT to write code or build complicated workflows. Likewise, if you have to create a help desk ticket to make a change to your routing logic, then your technology won’t keep up with your sales team. Instead, use a data-driven automation technology that enables you to drive most of the day-to-day changes by a dataset, like a linked spreadsheet, controlled by sales operations. There’s no longer any need to change system configuration or make code changes once these types of changes are completely data-driven:

  • Mapping of ZIP codes, counties, or area codes to territories
  • Mapping of industries, name accounts, and domains to teams and queues
  • Change routing granularity, like moving from country level to county level routing for the United Kingdom
  • Changing territory hierarchy
  • Changing territory mapping to queues and CRM users

Automate black hole recovery

There’s a shortlist of common black hole situations that a lead can fall into, but it’s simple to monitor and remedy these situations when you use the right automation technology:

  • Leads owned by non-active users and queues
  • Leads that exceed the time allowed in each lead stage
  • Users and queues that own an unusually large or small number of leads
  • Data inconsistencies like mismatches between address and assigned territory
  • Frequent lead reassignment

Once you’ve detected a black hole situation, you can reroute the leads through either the normal process or a special resurrection process.

Why you should optimize your lead routing process for Q3 2023

The lead routing is critical for any sales and marketing organization. But poor lead routing performance can significantly and negatively affect your organization’s top line. Any sales and marketing operations team can correct its lead routing ills without spending an elaborate amount of time and budget by implementing the right lead routing process and self-service automation technology. 


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