Chapter 7

7 minutes

Lead routing basics

Your lead scoring system passes the baton to lead routing. Routing is the process of assigning leads to sales reps at your company, ensuring the right "next step" in their journey.

Good routing will divvy up leads in a way that's fair, fast, and organized, and match leads to the best type of rep to handle them. Like the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter, routing considers the lead score — qualities and potential of a lead—in order to place them within a team that will draw out the best outcome.

Ideally, lead routing does three core things:

  1. It triggers on lead qualification, respecting lead scoring.
  2. It routes a lead to a rep, according to assignment rules.
  3. It also provides context about the lead and its journey, so that the next steps are clear and any subsequent outreach can be personalized well.

Routing is never a one-and-done setup. It's a continuous practice of adjusting rules as your business evolves, because it opens and closes the tap for how many leads to send to different sales reps. Good routing considers the availability of sales resources, as well as the experience, training, and seniority level of reps.

Lead routing may sound like a simple process, but it's both an art and a science, and as a business scales, it becomes even more complex yet important to get right.

Routing scenarios

The next steps of how you handle a lead will look different depending on their fit score, the way they've engaged with you so far, and your sales team's capacity.

Once you graduate from the most basic stage, lead routing should accommodate a number of different lead journeys — one example being inbound versus outbound. Another example is a great lead requesting a demo getting fast-tracked to the right sales rep, versus one that gets put into a marketing nurture campaign for a few months before going sales.

Leads can come in many shapes and sizes, including:

Inbound leads (actively engaging with you)

  • hand-raisers
  • Leads who explicitly engage with marketing (e.g., signed up for a free trial, downloaded an eBook)

In-between (engaged but you don't have the full picture on individuals engaging)

  • Leads who implicitly engage with marketing (e.g., visited the website)
  • "Hot" accounts (e.g., prospects from a target account are visiting the website, or an account that visited the website 10x more frequently in the last three days)

Outbound leads (have not yet engaged with you)

  • ABM target leads or accounts who are still cold
  • Other leads of various fit levels, for prospecting

And there are a variety of actions and spectrum of next steps you can take with those leads, such as:

  • Fast-tracking an ICP hand-raiser to a meeting with an AE, versus assigning them to an SDR for followup
  • Sales outreach (of various speed, type, quality)
  • Marketing nurture (of various speed, type, quality)

Routing sorts leads based on who they are (high- or low-fit) and their intent level (urgent/hot or not), all while taking into account sales team capacity. For example, here's a breakdown of potential routing paths based on different levels of fit and engagement level:

Routing paths, by lead fit & intent
High-intent score Low-intent score
High-fit score Fast-track high-intent ICP leads to the best salesperson for them. Divide high-fit leads among sales reps to reach out and develop purchase intent.
Low- to medium-fit scoreAssign SDRs to further investigate fit and have qualification conversations.Send leads to self-serve and nurture journeys.

When routing is done well, reps can go about their work knowing they've got the right leads, and the leads get a better experience too. But when it goes wrong, things get messy quickly.

The risk of bad lead routing plumbing

Allow us to jettison the magic of the Routing Hat and go into the nitty-gritty details. Maybe routing is like plumbing: you don't really think about it until it breaks.

Poor routing can quickly become a bottleneck and a source of confusion:

  • Sales teams have disputes over who owns which leads.
  • Reps waste valuable time speaking to the wrong leads
  • Sales gets annoyed at marketing or operations for sending too many wrong leads
  • Leads experience more handoffs than necessary, bouncing from rep to rep.
  • Leads don't get re-assigned to a new rep when their old point of contact leaves
  • Reps need to spend time figuring out how a lead previously interacted with the company or go into conversations without context
  • A backlog of leads starts to build; reps spend time cleaning up the past instead of staying ahead on priorities in the present.

This adds up to slower speed to lead, fumbled and missed opportunities, and lost deals. You end up putting a strain on reps, on marketing, and on the relationship between them. The lead's experience sucks, too.

Messy routing happens when a company doesn't have the right rules in place or resources to implement them—including lead routing tools and owners of relevant processes. Often companies run into these problems as they scale. They run into difficulties handling the influx and variety of leads, which they need to match to a growing and varied crew of sales reps.

If you're sufficiently spooked, check out Right-size your routing to get benchmarks for your company growth stage, and check out Lead routing in practice for help with automation and tools.

Routing should deliver context about a lead

Ready for our third metaphor? Routing is also a bit like a mailroom, where you're sorting, addressing, and sending packages to the right reps. Because it's not just about getting the address right. It's also about keeping the contents of the parcel intact.

Ideally, the process of routing a lead to a rep includes a little bundle of information about the lead's account and recent behavior which sales can use in outreach.

1. Account-level context and lead-to-account matching

When a new lead comes in, you need to know what company they're associated with. This is called lead-to-account matching. Routing platforms can do this for you, or else you'll need to do it manually — more about this in Lead routing in practice.

If a lead works at Acme, it's important to know if Acme is already active in the sales cycle, and how far along they are so you don't start your sales approach from scratch. It's also important to know if Acme is already a customer. You don't want to talk to the lead as if they're brand new to your universe, and you might want to pass along the intel about what the lead is interested in.

That broader account-level context is really important, and will help you send the lead to the rep handling that opportunity or customer account, as well as have more relevant communication.

2. Behavioral context and attribution

An inbound lead can come in from a variety of marketing channels and interact with your marketing materials in different ways. This is valuable information to pass along in routing workflows for any follow-up communication.

If a lead downloaded your eBook on Product A, you can email them another helpful guide about Product A. Instead of a generic message, or instead of a guide about Product B. If a lead attended your recent webinar, a sales rep can reference it in their follow-up email.

Getting the context right helps you create a more personalized experience for the lead. Getting the context wrong can feel quite off.

Jordan Woods, Head of Growth at interviewing.io, explains how well-contextualized emails can make or break a prospect's experience. "I've seen some pretty poor results when it comes to handling 'surging' accounts, and this primarily has to do with the way that sales and marketing choose to engage with those leads," he says.

"Context matters a lot, and makes sure that you don't come off as creepy (e.g., ‘I saw you were on our website') or too ambiguous (e.g., ‘just checking in'). The flipside is that I've had success targeting very specific content, like on-demand webinars and trainings, to folks who have visited related documentation or guides on our website."

Routing needs to send the package to the right place, but also preserve the package's contents so that reps have lots of up-to-date information about a lead.

The Standard in B2B Data

Now reinvented with Artificial Intelligence—Clearbit is the first AI Native Data Provider. Enrich your records, reveal buying intent, and connect with your ideal customers.