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 – The lead is often routed 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 such as:

  1. Low conversion rate – Timely follow up after initial engagement is crucial to improve conversion rate. Studies have shown that conversion can improve by up to 700% if a lead is followed up 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 sale team.
  3. Low campaign ROI – Generating new leads cost money. Nurturing leads cost more money. Once a lead is deemed good enough to pass on to sales, a lot of money has already been invested into that lead. Any leakage in the lead routing process directly reduced marketing’s return on investment.

Root Causes of Low Lead Routing Success

The lead routing issues we mentioned can be traced to these following root causes:

Poor Data Quality

This is the number one root cause for why lead routing accuracy is low. You can have the most bulletproof lead routing logic and the most flexible lead routing technology, but if your lead is lacking data 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. The team usually manually cleans, normalizes, and segments the data. “Manual research” is often part of this process, but much of the effort isn’tt spent on real investigative work that adds value, but spent on repetitive tasks such as 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. Territory gets tweaked, named accounts get shuffled, exceptions are granted. These business changes can happen faster than your ability to update and test your routing technology, whether you are using a bunch of rules in Salesforce.com 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 that are no longer with your company? How about leads that have been sitting in the routing queue for over three months? Do you know of one user in your CRM that owns 100x more leads than everybody else? These are examples of lead black holes created by broken or lack of process. When something isn’t done properly, such as reassigning the leads from a salesperson that has departed, most companies lack the monitoring mechanism to detect these black hole situations and the leads simply lanquish.

How to Fix Lead Routing Problems

Most company’s lead routing process can be greatly improved by simply taking the following steps.

Clean Before 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 your lead routing accuracy 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:

  • Route the lead directly to the account owner, bypassing unnecessary human routing steps
  • Use the account data to fill in or replace data from the lead
  • Automatically convert lead to a contact in Salesforce.com, and attach the contact to the account and
  • Identify and merge lead that is a duplicate 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. There is great benefit in ensuring your data is cleaned and matched before it enters your sales automation or marketing automation platform, before the lead routing logic kicks in.

The following types of tasks can and should be fully automated as part of the list loading process:

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

Use Data-Driven, Self-Service Technology

If your lead routing technology requires IT to write code or build complicated workflows, then it’s likely it won’t be able to keep up with your business requirement changes. 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. Once the basic routing scheme is set up, most of the day-to-day changes should be simply driven by a dataset, like a linked spreadsheet, controlled by sales operations. For example, these type of changes should be completely data-driven, without changing system configuration or making 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 such as moving from country level to county level routing for the United Kingdom
  • Changing territory hierarchy
  • Changing mapping of territories to queues and CRM users

Automate Black Hole Recovery

There is a shortlist of common black hole situations that a lead can fall into. With the right automation technology, it’s also simple to monitor and remedy these situations:

  • Leads owned by non-active users and queues
  • Leads that exceeds the time allowed in each lead stage
  • Users and queues that own unusually large or small number of leads
  • Data inconsistencies like mismatches between address and assigned territory
  • Frequent lead re-assignment–the “hot potato” problem

Once a black hole situation is detected, reroute the leads through either the normal process or a special resurrection process.

Final Thoughts

Lead routing is a critical process for any sales and marketing organization. Poor lead routing performance can significantly affect the top line of any organization negatively. By implementing the right 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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