No two sales reps are the same. They all have their share of strengths and shortcomings — qualities that ultimately shape how they sell. Similarly, every prospect has their own interests and needs, informing the nature of how they like to be sold to.
In many cases, those "how's" between reps and prospects can align — naturally making for smoother, more amicable sales efforts. That trend begs the question, "How can I ensure that the right reps are pursuing the most appropriate prospects?"
Well, the answer might lie in a practice known as lead distribution. Here, we'll explore the concept a bit further, review its fundamentals and best practices, take a look at some prominent lead distribution strategies, and see some of the best software solutions to support it.
Let's dive in.
Lead distribution is a process where a sales org strategically assigns individual leads to the specific reps best suited to sell to them. It rests on the premise that every lead has its own needs and interests that align with certain reps' personal strengths and skillsets.
A solid lead distribution strategy is one of the better ways to maximize your sales org's efficiency and make the most of your reps' individual strengths. Leads are unique. They all have preferences and pain points — specific to factors like their scale, industry, location, and market position.
The same goes for your salespeople. As I mentioned, no two of them are the same. They're bound to have certain qualities that make each of them better equipped to sell to different kinds of buyers. Lead distribution plays on those trends. It allows you to match reps with the leads that will be most receptive to their personal brand of sales.
This typically automated process can help you trim some fat from your sales org's broader performance. By pairing salespeople with the types of leads they have the experience or acumen to handle most effectively, you can ensure that you're making the most out of your organization's opportunities.
Lead Distribution Fundamentals
As I mentioned, lead distribution is usually an automated process, but there are still some key actions you need to take to ensure you get as much as you can of your strategy.
Capturing and Delivering Leads
It might go without saying, but you can't distribute leads without any leads to distribute. Any solid lead distribution strategy starts with an effective lead capture and delivery process — generally supported by automated lead generation resources. Leads need to transition from marketing to sales as seamlessly as possible, and those kinds of tools can facilitate that process.
Screening for Quality
Lead distribution can only be so efficient and effective if your leads aren't properly screened for quality. You need to know that the leads your sales reps will ultimately pursue are legitimately suited for your product or service.
You have to consider factors like a company's scale, financial circumstances, business needs, and any other element that dictates what and how a prospect is going to buy. From there, you can weed out prospects that aren't worth your time — providing your sales reps with a better, more refined, viable crop of leads.
Setting Criteria and Standards
The whole point of lead distribution is pairing reps with the leads they're best equipped to handle — that can't happen arbitrarily. And unless you're planning on putting a sizable time commitment into distributing leads manually, you need to have firm criteria for identifying which leads should go to which reps.
The key factors at play with this step will vary from business to business and team to team, but they generally include elements like reps' regional knowledge, experience, seniority, overall performance, and current commitments to other deals.
Transparency and Keeping Reps Posted
Your reps need to understand the logic behind your lead distribution strategy — so keep them in the loop about the criteria you set for the leads they're going to receive. They need a picture of who they'll be working with and an idea of why they're best equipped to handle them.
Letting them in on those elements of the process will help guide better-informed sales efforts and communication. It will also keep reps from being confused or dejected about receiving leads they might be struggling with. It might even help to include your reps in the criteria-setting process.
You'll also want to immediately notify reps of incoming leads as soon as you can. Your team needs to stay on top of their outreach — lead distribution can only be so effective if you're not consistently making something of the leads that come in.
Lead Distribution Strategies
1. Round Robin
The "Round Robin" method is one of the more straightforward lead distribution strategies sales orgs have at their disposal. It's a process where your reps automatically receive an evenly distributed volume of leads in the same order — without much tiering or criteria-based screening.
Its primary draw is in its simplicity — it's not particularly difficult to implement and track. That said, it's one of the less sophisticated strategies listed here. The method often doesn't account for reps' strengths, availability, or experience as much as others.
2. Cherry Pick
The "Cherry Pick" strategy offers reps more autonomy and agency in the lead distribution process. With this method, salespeople are allowed to select their own leads out of an existing pool and pursue them as they see fit.
This process can foster healthy competition and a sense of urgency within a sales org — reps are pressed to take initiative, put in extra effort, and try to prove themselves.
That said, this method also leans on the fact that certain leads are much more desirable than others. If you give your reps their choice of leads, you might wind up leaving smaller or more challenging deals on the table.
The "Region-Specific" strategy is relatively self-explanatory. It involves partitioning groups of leads by geographic area and delegating the distribution process to the territory managers that cover each region.
This method allows you to account for reps' knowledge of regional preferences, location-specific needs, and the most prevalent personas by area. But not all regions are created equal.
Some are much more active and lucrative than others. If you opt to go with this strategy, you run the risk of sacrificing efficiency and appearing to favor certain subgroups of reps — two factors that can undermine your sales org's morale.
The "Shotgun" strategy starts with grouping reps by their strengths, skill sets, and experiences. Once you have those groups established, you divide your leads among them — based on fit and relevance. From there, the reps who comprise each group claim leads on their own.
This method is one of the more focused strategies listed here. It lets you match leads with reps who are particularly well-equipped to handle them. It can also foster a healthy competitive spirit within a sales org — but it rests on you having enough leads to go around.
If you have a disproportionately low number of leads, relative to your number of reps, your team's morale can take a hit. It also assumes your salespeople have a certain degree of integrity and selflessness that isn't always there — encouraging "lead-hoarding" is a risk you run with this method.
"Manual" distribution is exactly what it sounds like — personally designating leads for your reps, yourself. It gives you a degree of control of the lead distribution process that no other strategy listed here can match. The strategy allows you to faithfully adhere to the criteria you use to set reps apart from one another.
If you thoroughly understand how your reps operate, you can leverage this strategy to play to their strengths. But this method comes with its share of drawbacks. As you can probably assume, manual distribution is extremely labor-intensive — so if you're working with a larger team, there's a good chance it won't be worth the effort.
Lead Distribution Software
HubSpot's lead management software can set the stage for extremely effective lead distribution. It offers an integrated database that provides visibility into your broader pool of leads with individual contact profiles.
Those features — paired with its first-rate lead scoring and prioritizing resources — allow you to gather the necessary insight to thoughtfully and pointedly assign leads to your most qualified reps.
Best for Mid-to-Enterprise Size Businesses
HubSpot's full suite of lead management tools comes with its Sales Hub Professional Plan — a plan offered at a premium that smaller businesses might not be interested in springing for. Still, Sales Hub's lead management capabilities, along with the extensive list of other resources included with it, easily account for the price tag.
Pricing: Contact for Pricing
CAKE offers an automated lead generation solution for capturing, qualifying, and distributing leads in real-time. It considers factors like lead quality, buyer activity, and traffic source performance — helping you better understand lead behavior and, in turn, more effectively designate them to the most qualified reps.
Best for Advertisers, Networks, and Publishers
CAKE bills itself as a platform best suited for advertisers, networks, and publishers — and its list of clientele reflects that. Though the program's suite of features can work for virtually any kind of business, those types of firms tend to get the most out of it. If your company fits that bill, consider looking into CAKE.
3. Lead Prosper
Lead Prosper is a powerful lead delivery resource that reconciles accessibility with powerful functionality. Its suite of features can give you a thorough understanding of a lead's interest and viability — allowing for more effective, pointed lead distribution.
Backed by real-time analytics, comprehensive visibility into lead behavior, and a host of other capabilities, Lead Prosper is one of the better solutions for shaping a productive lead distribution strategy.
Best for Businesses Interested in a Pay-as-You-Go Pricing Structure
Lead Prosper's pricing model is what sets it apart from other options on this list. It's tailored to suit businesses as they grow by only covering the leads they actually generate.
Like any other pay-as-you-go model, it might not be cost-effective after your company has matured beyond a certain point. But if you're interested in a solid lead distribution resource that grows with you, check out Lead Prosper.
Pricing: Plans Starting at $100/Month
Phonexa is a dedicated lead distribution software that helps facilitate the process easily and productively. It offers first-rate reporting, automation, and routing resources that come together to make for one of the most efficient, effective lead distribution solutions on the market.
Best for Businesses Looking for Flexibility and Autonomy in Lead Qualification and Restriction
While its suite of capabilities is extensive in its own right, Phonexa's lead qualification and restriction features are what set it apart from similar solutions. The software allows you to set detailed qualifications for the leads you accept — it also gives you the flexibility to reliably relax those restrictions at will. That combination of sophistication and accessibility in setting criteria for accepted leads makes Phonexa an attractive option for businesses of most sizes.
Pricing: Free Plans Available
Adrack's target audience is reflected in its name — it's a lead distribution resource, tailored to suit the needs of advertisers, publishers, and agencies. It allows users to fully automate the full lead distribution process. It offers resources for real-time lead validation and first-rate custom assignment features.
Best for Businesses Interested in a Customizable Solution
Adrack's customization capabilities make it one of the more attractive lead distribution solutions available. The platform allows for the creation of detailed, effective lead requirements for thoughtful, productive assignments to your most qualified reps.
If you're interested in a solution that offers you a higher degree of autonomy in how you set your distribution criteria — particularly if you fit Adrack's target base — consider looking into the software.
Wordpress Lead Distribution Plugin
As you can probably tell from the name, the Contact Form 7 Round Robin plugin is a handy resource that can support a smaller-scale "Round Robin" lead distribution strategy. The open-source software can be a solid resource for small businesses or startups that don't have massive pools of leads to distribute.
When done correctly, lead distribution is a practice that can make for leaner, more productive sales efforts. If you can thoughtfully categorize your sales reps, determine a strategy that best fits your sales org, and support your chosen method with the right technology, you can put both yourself and your reps in a solid position to make the most of the leads you capture.