As marketers, we often see our top priority as getting the right message to the right prospect or customer at the right time. However, within our organizations, we also have an equally pressing need to get the right lead to the right sales rep at the right time (a.k.a. lead routing). As we all know, scaling the right message to the right target is a marketing ops process that must be automated if we want to become masters of account based marketing (ABM) and close more deals. Likewise, it is equally essential for marketing ops teams to automate lead routing if we expect to get the right lead to the right rep, before it goes cold and a big opportunity is lost. Before we talk about the best practices you need to implement in your pursuit of automated lead routing, we’ll talk about why increasing your speed to lead via automated lead routing is important.
Get ‘em While They’re Hot
In the digital age, the lifespan of an inbound lead is alarmingly short. Most customers are expecting near instant gratification, but they aren’t getting it. Yet it appears that the more time you are able to shave from response rates, the more favorable customers will feel toward your organization and the more likely your reps will exceed sales and revenue goals. Recent research by SuperOffice found:
- 12% of customers expect to hear from a company they contact within 15 minutes
- 46% of customers expect to hear from a company they contact within 4 hours
- 12 hours is the current average response time for a company to respond to a customer
A landmark study by the CMO Council called, “Understanding the Real Expectations of Today’s Connected Customer” found that the most important attribute of a good customer experience (CX) is a fast response time. In short, when a lead comes in, you need to treat it like a hot potato and get it to the right hands in seconds, so that the right rep is able to respond quickly, as in minutes, not hours.
#1 – Marketing Needs to Make the First Move
For most B2B organizations, it is not humanly possible for the sales team to respond to every qualified lead marketing sends them within minutes of receiving it. But, that’s not a bad thing. It’s an opportunity for marketing to further develop the lead by routing it into an automated and highly personalized nurture campaign. After all, 52 percent of customers expect the offers you send to be personalized!
When marketing takes the lead in contacting leads first, it enables us to provide potential customers with the instant responses they are seeking. Moreover, it allows us to warm prospective customers up before routing them to the appropriate sales team member, which is important for building mutually rewarding sales enablement relationships. Lastly, make sure your nurture campaigns are compatible with a variety of channels (SMS, email, chat, messaging apps, direct mail, etc.) and are easily sent via the preferred channel of your hot new lead. According to Gartner, B2B buyers spend just 17% of their journey meeting with potential suppliers, and 80% of the interactions between suppliers and buyers occur in digital channels.
#2 — Make Sure Your Tech Is Well-Integrated
These days, your next great lead is just as likely to come from a web form, as it is from any number of channels you are using for campaigns. Before you can respond to leads in a timely manner, you first must be able to receive them from any source (forms, lists, ads, etc.) and integrate their data into your organization’s tech ecosystem. You should also be able to receive leads from third party sources and instantly ensure the data they contain is standardized according to your organization’s rules—which brings us to our next point…
#3 — Better Data = Better Lead Quality
Running a well-oiled marketing revenue technology stack requires great vigilance. This is why it is vitally important that you have automated processes in place to ensure the customer and prospect data you receive is standardized, validated and enriched — before it is ever allowed to be routed through your system, much less given to the sales reps you are attempting to help. With a whopping 46 percent of B2B sales reps complaining that lead quality and quantity are their most pressing challenges, it’s no wonder that most sales enablement programs are not living up to their full potential. Finally, it’s important to marketing to maintain optimized data quality so that the personalized lead nurture campaigns we discussed in #1 have every opportunity to succeed.
#4 — Meet With Sales Leadership to Determine Lead Assignment
Once your technology is integrated with all data sources and processes are in place to maintain data quality, you are now ready to meet with leaders in the sales department to collaborate on how leads should be routed. We cannot stress enough how important this step is. When you invite sales to provide input, it not only helps you build a great relationship between marketing and sales, it helps prevent future drama if you ask the right questions, such as:
- Which sales reps cover which territories?
- Which sales reps are given priority?
- Is priority based on performance, experience or something else?
- What is the protocol when there is an overlap in territories/industries/etc.?
- Which reps own specific accounts?
- Are subsidiaries of accounts considered theirs, too?
#5 — Determine Your Lead Routing Criteria
Routing leads is a bit like segmenting your marketing lists for campaigns. The difference is that instead of sending content to customers based on criteria such as firmographics, you are receiving and organizing leads based on firmographics before sending them to the right sales rep. A few of the criteria you should consider using to determine a lead’s route include:
Geography – This is the most popular criteria for B2B’s participating in automated lead routing because it makes sense to match reps with customers in their territory.
Company Size – This criterion is useful when sales teams are divided by the size of the companies they serve, be it small, mid-size or global enterprise.
Industry — Here again, when sales teams are divided according to industry expertise, you want to match the leads to the sales reps who serves those specific industries.
Use Cases/Product Expertise — It’s always good to know which reps are considered experts on specific product and service lines so you can put your best rep on the job.
#6 — Set Up Your Rules for Automating Leads
Now that you have determined which sales reps receive which types of leads, you are ready to create automated workflows between your data orchestration tools, your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, and your marketing automation platform (MAP). As you build automated workflows, that route your leads in real-time, make sure you track:
- How long it takes for sales to follow-up with leads
- Which criteria are producing the best results
- Any changes in territories or other criteria
- Any personnel changes in the sales department