Lead Distribution: How to Automate + Optimize Your Process

Your goal is to deliver high-quality leads to your team. After all, optimizing that top-of-funnel work means improving your lead conversions and sales process all around. But as new leads enter your sales pipeline, where do they go?

An effective lead distribution process is key to running a successful sales organization.

If you’re struggling to define how new leads are being assigned to your reps, you have a problem.

The solution—set up a lead distribution system for your team.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. After all, with so many options for lead assignment and routing, how can you set up something simple, transparent, and fair to each of your reps?

We sat down with Nick Persico, Director of Sales at Close, to help us understand exactly what lead distribution is, how it works, and how sales managers can simplify the process to help their reps close more deals.

What is Lead Distribution?

Lead distribution is the process of assigning new leads to your sales reps. You can do this manually or use automation software to route leads to the right reps. An effective lead distribution process should assign leads relatively to your reps and be simple enough to explain transparently to the whole team.

Lead distribution is part of the early stages of your lead management process. First, you generate new leads. Next, you send them through preliminary qualification and lead scoring.

Once this is done, you can distribute the right leads to the right reps on your team. Then, each rep can see which leads they’re supposed to follow up with and focus on closing those leads.

Lead distribution in the sales process

So, what methods can sales leaders use to assign leads?

Popular Sales Lead Distribution Methods

Lead distribution can either be done manually or automatically. If you're manually assigning leads, there are basically two ways of going about it:

  • Picking from the lead pool: In this scenario, incoming leads are dumped into the CRM, and reps cherry-pick the leads they want. This means either the fastest rep wins the best leads, or a blind pull system can be set up where reps only see lead details after accepting the lead.
  • Manual assignment: Directors of small sales teams may choose to assign each new lead as it enters the system manually.

If you’re a startup founder or sales manager, and you're dealing with a low number of leads, you’ve probably been assigning leads manually (or simply handling them yourself).

However, scaling your sales efforts and team size will quickly become disorganized and difficult.

“I often tell founders building sales teams that you’re probably better off doing it manually to start,” says Nick Persico, Director of Sales at Close. “But once you’ve hit a scale where manually assigning leads becomes an outsized part of your day, let’s say 15-20 percent of your time, then it’s time to automate.”

Here are three lead distribution methods for automated routing:

  • Round-robin lead assignment: The simple automation for lead routing, this method simply assigns a new lead to the next person in line. Depending on what software you’re using, you can normally make adjustments for when reps are on vacation or not available for new leads
  • Group-based lead distribution: This method is popular with large sales teams divided into specialized groups. When you group your reps by the type of leads they handle, you can use automated qualifications to assign quality leads to the right group. Then, the sales group can either pull leads from a pool or you can use a round-robin system to assign the leads to individual reps within the group
  • Specific lead assignment rules: If each rep on your team has a specific skill set or territory that is assigned to them, you can route incoming leads according to their location, size, or other characteristics that apply (e.g., company size, geographic location, or where they are in the sales funnel)

Ready to set up your own lead distribution process?

6 Steps to Set up Your First Automated Lead Distribution Process

If you’re managing more than two sales reps or find that manual lead distribution takes more than 20 percent of your time weekly, it’s time to automate.

Of course, creating an automated, simple, and effective lead distribution process can be harder than you think.

Here are the six steps you should follow, according to the experts:

1. Automate from the Moment a New Inbound Lead is Captured

An automated lead distribution process starts with automating how qualified leads enter your team’s radar.

Setting up this early-stage automation will make it easier to pass these leads on to the right team members later.

So, think about how new inbound leads are coming to your team. These lead sources might include:

  • Web forms
  • New trial signups
  • Inbound emails or calls to your sales or support teams
  • Direct messages on social media channels, like LinkedIn

When you’ve identified your key inbound lead capture points and the tools you’re using to track them, you’re in the right place to start building automation that will bring leads in real-time in front of the right reps.

With Close's Workflows feature, you can optimize this process further by streamlining lead management and automating communication steps. Think about the route that leads take from when they’re captured to when a sales rep contacts them. How are these leads currently being delivered to the team? Is there anything you can do to eliminate manual work in between?


Once your lead capture is optimized, you can move to the next step.

Need more clients? LinkedIn's lead generation capabilities can make it happen.

2. Set Up a Simple Qualification Process Before Leads Get Routed

Part of your workflow while manually assigning leads involves simple qualification. After all, you don’t want to assign leads to your reps if they’re just a waste of time. You probably spend a few minutes looking at each lead before you send them out, deciding whether they need to talk to a salesperson.

So, how do you turn lead qualification into an automated process?

Here are two ways:

First, you could run your new inbound leads through a data enrichment service. Plenty of B2B data providers will tell you details about a company and the people who work there. Connect your lead generation tools to a B2B data enrichment tool to see key data points that affect how qualified a new lead is for your product or service.

Second, you could add a simple qualification step within the lead generation process. For example, if you’re generating new leads using a form on your website, add one simple question that helps you see if this new lead is qualified.

Here’s how we do this at Close:

Example of qualification for lead distribution

‎When new inbound leads are qualified, it’s time to figure out how to send them to your team.

3. Choose the Lead Distribution Method that’s Right for Your Sales Team

Know your team first—then you can decide which lead distribution method works best for them.

For example, are you managing a large, multi-disciplinary sales team? Separate them into core groups and route leads accordingly.

Are you managing a small startup sales team? Then, start with a round-robin lead assignment. This is the most accessible place to start with automation, and you can always design a more refined process as your team grows.

Talk to your team right from the start. Get their ideas and feedback on how they’d like to see leads assigned to them. This will help you build a transparent lead routing system from the start.

4. Complete and Connect Your Tool Stack

Ultimately, new leads should end up inside your CRM software. It’s the route they take to get there that’s interesting.

Of course, every tool stack for lead capture and assignment is different. While there are dedicated lead distribution software options you can choose from, there are also options to assign and distribute leads more simply through tools you already have in your stack.

A simple lead distribution tool stack might include the following:

  • A lead capture tool, like ConvertFlow, Unbounce, or Drift
  • A sales scheduling tool, like SavvyCal
  • Your preferred customer relationship management tool, like Close, Salesforce, or HubSpot
  • An automation tool, like Zapier

This simple stack gives you several options for lead distribution.

For example, in Close, you can set up automated lead assignment through our Workflows functionality. When a new lead fits the right criteria, you can assign it to a specific user or randomly assign it to a group of users.

Close Automation Header

You can also let your scheduling tool, like SavvyCal, assign leads round-robin to your sales team. (Plus, with SavvyCal's native integration to Close, you'll see Contacts automatically synced and updated when a new meeting is booked, with all the lead information your reps need to jump right in.)

If you need to be more exact with your lead assignment rules, you can add these to the above stack:

  • A B2B data provider, like Clearbit, ZoomInfo, or ReachHub
  • A dedicated lead routing system, like Chili Piper or LeadAssign

Lead distribution tool stack examples

Pro Tip: If you’re building your first automated process for lead distribution, start simple. Simple routing rules can be applied with just your lead generation tools, Zapier, and a CRM. If you start simple and master lead distribution, you can always improve your process down the road while still keeping it transparent for your team.

Stop right there! You're in for a treat–an enlightening article on B2B CRMs that you won't want to miss.

5. Build and Test New Lead Assignment Rules

Whether you’re setting up a round-robin lead routing system or trying out more complex ways of assigning leads to your team, it’s a good idea to test the routing rules to ensure everything is working properly.

Do this alongside your team. Be open to their opinions and ask for specific feedback on how new leads are assigned to them. Keep testing until you’re sure things run smoothly, and you can trust the automation to do its job.

6. Track and Measure Results

Setting up your first lead distribution process doesn’t stop when leads start getting piped into your team.

Like other areas of your sales pipeline and process, you need to track and measure the results to ensure that they continue to work over time.

Of course, no single sales metric will tell you that your lead distribution system isn’t working. However, when you track early-stage activity metrics consistently, these can give you early warning signs that something is wrong. That might include:

  • Response time
  • First call reach rate
  • Call duration
  • Conversion rate to the next pipeline stage
  • Close rate

Measure each of these across the team and individually. If someone’s metrics are dropping, determine if your lead distribution system is failing them.

You can also set up a specific KPI to watch these early-stage interactions. Here’s how Nick Persico describes this:

“At a high level, you need to look at what’s coming in compared to what’s coming out—won opportunities. Consider the availability of the individual salesperson during that specific period compared to the rest of the team, then check a custom metric like lead assigned to close ratio.

“From the leads assigned to each rep, how many meetings do they book? From there, how many opportunities are created? If the salesperson can’t get a meeting with half of their assigned leads, you need to look at their performance. But to be fair, you must also look at lead quality.”

When you consistently (and transparently) track the performance of each individual on your sales team, it’ll help you see where your lead distribution strategy may need adjustment.

Ready to maximize your lead potential? Don't miss our comprehensive MQL vs. SQL guide.

Lead Distribution Best Practices for B2B Sales Leaders

Now that you’ve set up your lead distribution process, how can you keep it running smoothly and use it to motivate your sales team?

Document Your Lead Distribution Process

The key to improvement is documentation. It’s far too easy to iterate on the process over time and reach a point where you can no longer explain exactly how leads are distributed to your team.

So, start by documenting each step of your new lead distribution process. This will allow you to scrutinize the process alongside your team and continually look for ways to improve it without losing control over it.

“If you have your process documented and transparent, and you have great salespeople,” says Nick, “they’re going to tell you when something is unfair and needs to be tweaked.”

Keep it Simple

Complexity is easy. Keeping it simple is hard. That’s why it requires conscious effort to maintain a simple lead distribution process.

After chatting with Nick about the lead distribution process at Close, he added, “I can describe our lead assignment process in two or three sentences. If you can’t describe your process quickly, you’ll have a problem when recruiting to your sales team. Keep it simple at first and build onto that over time.”

If you've got an excellent lead response time, follow up with quality leads, and enable your reps to close deals without worrying about how the lead assignment works and whether it's fair, things are probably in a good state.

Attract and Retain Top Sales Talent with Transparent Lead Distribution

According to Nick, a transparent lead distribution process is also a critical step in retaining top sales talent:

“One of the big reasons why many salespeople leave bigger organizations is that their lead distribution process is opaque,” he says.

“Either because it's opaque by design because that's just how the organization is built–which I strongly disagree with–or it’s become so out of their control that they can’t describe how it works.”

“So be rigorous about updating the documentation and use that as a feature to acquire and retain great salespeople because they will appreciate that. They feel like they're getting a fair shake. They're going to do everything you expect them to do and ultimately be happy in the role in the company they work for.”

Use Weighted Distribution to Reward High Performers

Many sales leaders use metrics with a monetary value, such as revenue generated, to reward their sales reps.

However, rewarding reps based on the money they brought in can be unfair to other reps.

Here’s what Nick says about it:

“I’ve found it’s often not the best predictor of a salesperson’s effectiveness. For example, if one in a hundred leads is over $1M, and one salesperson happens to land two of them in a quarter, of course, their numbers will be at the top because they got the best lead.”

“While you do want to reward people for closing big deals, you can’t make money a black-and-white descriptor of their effort.”

Instead, Nick recommends using a weighted system to reward reps for their output with the leads they are assigned.

“If you get a hundred leads,” explains Nick, “what is your output on those hundred leads? That number can determine who is number one on the leaderboard, and you can reward them by giving them more leads next quarter.”

This kind of weighted distribution based on each rep’s output with the leads they’re given ensures that everyone has the opportunity to make it to the top of the sales leaderboard, and they’re incentivized to improve their efforts and get more leads in their pipeline.

Don’t Automate Simply for the Sake of Automating

Automation only makes sense if it saves your team time and effort while generating enough ROI to cover costs.

“Automate when you have a clear set of repetitive tasks coming in every day,” advises Nick. “Let’s say you have 20 leads coming in every day; you look at the lead and assign it to the next person. When this becomes mindless, and you notice your eyes glazing over while doing this, it’s time to translate that into an automated system.”

Create Your Ultimate Lead Distribution Process and Retain Top Sales Talent

If your startup is growing, it’s even more vital that you get lead distribution right from the get-go. After all, this is a crucial aspect of attracting and retaining the type of salespeople that can make a difference in your business.

So, automate when it’s necessary. Start simple and regularly measure the results. Optimize transparently alongside your team. You’ll build a happier sales team that feels they’re getting a fair share of your business’ top leads.

Want more about how Close can help you distribute leads to your team? Check out our 10-minute on-demand demo (no sign-up required):

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