How to Fix a Broken Lead Routing Process

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

Getting the right lead to the right rep is exceptionally important in boosting your conversion rate. For any sizable organization with a distributed sales team, accurate and timely lead routing is always a challenge. Poorly performing lead routing processes have these symptoms:

  1. Low accuracy – Routing the lead to the wrong person or queue
  2. Long lag time – It takes a long time to route a lead to the right person or queue
  3. The black hole – Lead disappears into a place where no one is looking

These symptoms can create serious business losses like:

  1. Low conversion rate – 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Low Lead Routing Success

Without an effective lead management routing process in place, you can trace lead routing issues to these root causes:

Poor Data Quality

This is the number one root cause of low lead routing accuracy. 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 all is moot. 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’re filtering for.

Manual List Loading

Loading a large list of leads can often take days, if not weeks. The loading is generally done manually by a small group of people who manually clean, normalize, and segment the data. While “Manual research” is often part of this process, much of the effort isn’t actually pent on real investigative work that adds value, but on repetitive tasks. Like 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. Tweaking territories, shuffling named accounts, 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. In larger companies, we’ve seen it take as long as one to three months to make those system changes.

Broken or Lack of 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 over three months? Do you know of one user in your CRM who owns 100x more leads than everybody else? These are examples of lead black holes created by broken or lack of process. Without effective lead management routing processes, most companies lack the monitoring mechanisms to detect these black hole situations. So reassigning leads from a salesperson no longer with the company never happens, and the leads simply languish.

How to Fix Lead Routing Problems

For most companies, it’s pretty easy 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 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 success 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

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

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

Use Data-Driven, Self-Service Technology

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

  • 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 when you use the right automation technology, it’s simple to monitor and remedy these situations:

  • 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 re-assignment—the “hot potato” problem

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

Final Thoughts: Why You Should Optimize Your Lead Routing Process

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


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