Lead routing 101: Examples, best practices, and automation tips

Don’t keep leads waiting! Learn how to do lead routing the right way.

Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns
Oct 20, 2023

17 min read

Lead routing 101: Examples, best practices, and automation tips
What is lead routing?
Lead routing is the process of automatically distributing incoming leads across the sales team. Effective lead routing helps revenue teams match leads with the right sales reps, speed up lead response time, and close deals faster.

When you automate lead routing, your sales team can:

  • Improve speed-to-lead so you reach prospects before the competition

  • Boost sales team productivity and efficiency

  • Prevent high-quality prospects from falling off your team’s radar

  • Spend less time on manual lead reassignment

  • Create a better experience for potential customers

  • Speed up your entire sales pipeline to close more deals, faster

In this guide, we'll explain how lead routing works, share a few examples, and walk through five best practices for lead routing. We'll also show you how to automate lead qualification, routing, and booking with Calendly.

How does lead routing work?

Picture this: You're a sales manager at a B2B software company. You have a form on your website inviting interested visitors to request a product demo. Your form is connected to your CRM, but you don't have any lead routing systems, automations, or workflows in place.

Halle, an enterprise IT buyer, visits your site and thinks your product could be a great fit for her company, Acme Inc. She wants to learn more, so she fills out your demo form and gets a "We'll be in touch soon!" message. A lead is created in your CRM.

It’s a busy week, and you don’t have a chance to review new leads in your CRM until a few days later. Based on the info she entered, Halle matches your ideal customer profile (ICP), so you manually assign her to your top enterprise sales rep, Taylor. Taylor emails Halle the next day, but it’s too late — while Halle was waiting to hear back from your team, she booked and attended a demo with a competitor, and is no longer interested in your product.

What if you could speed up your response time and make sure no more qualified leads slip through the cracks?

That’s where automated lead routing comes in.

Automated lead routing

When new leads enter your CRM — imported via spreadsheet or integration, or generated through your website forms — lead routes match them with the right rep. These routes can be automated through lead routing software. Some CRMs (like Salesforce) have built-in lead assignment features, but many sales teams choose to pair a third-party lead routing tool with their CRM.

Automated lead routing uses rules you set in your CRM or a third-party tool to distribute and match leads with the right reps and queues. (You'll often hear people and companies use the terms lead routing, lead distribution, and lead assignment interchangeably.)

Let’s revisit that example with Halle. This time, your team uses Salesforce as your CRM and has set up automated lead routing via Salesforce’s built-in lead routing features.

Halle fills out the demo form on your website. She shares her name, email address, company name, and company size. You use Salesforce’s web-to-lead forms, so Halle’s form submission automatically creates a lead record.

Your revenue operations team has set up Salesforce lead assignment rules that match sales leads with queues based on company size. Acme Inc. has 5,000 employees, so Salesforce automatically assigns Halle to the enterprise lead queue. Taylor, your top enterprise sales rep, gets a notification that a new lead has been added to the enterprise queue.

Taylor checks out Halle’s lead record and sees that Acme Inc. is in your company’s target market, so they email Halle to set up a discovery call right away. Because Taylor doesn’t have to wait for someone to manually assign the lead to their team, they connect with Halle more quickly, beating out the competition.

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Qualify, route, and book sales meetings instantly

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Lead routing examples

There’s no one-size-fits-all lead routing strategy. The routing criteria you choose will depend on your sales processes, audience, tech stack, team size and structure, and goals.

To help you get started, here are some common lead routes sales teams use to assign reps the right leads:

  • Lead routing by location: If your team uses sales territories to distribute leads, assign leads from specific locations to sales representatives who understand the regional market. For example, if the state/province equals Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, or Washington, assign the lead to the West Coast lead queue.

  • Lead routing by rep availability: Assign leads to the first available rep using round robin lead distribution, so your team can respond to meeting requests faster.

  • Lead routing by company size: Assign leads based on the size of the company, assigning larger companies to a dedicated enterprise sales team.

  • Lead routing by product: Assign leads interested in a particular product to a queue of reps who are experts on that product.

  • Lead routing by industry: Assign leads from different industries to salespeople who are knowledgeable about specific industry use cases.

  • Lead routing by account matching: If the lead works for a company that already has an account record in your CRM, route the lead to the dedicated rep for that account.

  • Lead routing by temperature: Distribute leads based on how ready they are to buy. “Hot” leads — prospects who have shown more interest and are a better fit for your product — are routed to AEs for immediate follow-up, while “warm” and “cold” leads can be nurtured until they’re ready to talk to sales. 

Use the right channel based on the lead temperature. Cold leads? Let marketing warm them up. Warm leads? Let an SDR pull them into a meeting. Hot leads? Get them in the hands of an AE now.

Testimonial author

Armand Farrokh

Founder at 30 Minutes to President's Club

Lead routing best practices

1. Clearly define your lead routing strategy

Before setting up lead routing rules, you need to determine which criteria your team will use to distribute leads. The options are nearly limitless — where should you start?

It’s time to bring your revenue operations, sales, and marketing team members together to answer some questions:

  • Lead sources: Where do leads come from? Do we use marketing forms through our CRM or a third-party integration?

  • Sales team structure: How is the sales team structured? Are different teams or individuals specialized in specific products, industries, use cases, or regions? 

  • Lead data: What info do we request from new leads? Which standard and custom fields do we require? Do we use any data enrichment tools to shorten our forms?

  • Sales territories: How are sales territories defined? Are there specific regions, countries, or territories we should take into account for lead assignment?

  • Integrations: Do we have any third-party integrations with lead routing features? Are we using those features?

  • Special circumstances: Are there any priority levels or tiers for leads that require special attention? For example, do we have a designated rep or queue for leads with complex needs and use cases?

  • Poor fits: What should we do with leads who don’t meet any of our criteria?

It’s a lot of info to gather and organize, but it’s important to learn as much as possible to cover every scenario and equip your sales team with accurate data. Putting in this time and effort upfront will pay off in productivity once your lead routes are in place!

Once you define your lead routing logic and processes, document them in a team drive or internal wiki, so you can reference them for future updates, training, and troubleshooting.

2. Prioritize the right prospects with lead qualification

Your team's time is valuable — what if you could guarantee they spend it on high-value prospects?

That's where lead qualification comes into play.

Not every inbound lead is the right fit for your product. If you sent every form fill directly to a sales rep, your team would spend a good chunk of their time talking to leads who may never convert.

Lead qualification determines how likely a sales prospect is to become a customer based on their level of interest, how well the product fits their needs, and how ready they are to make a purchase. With an effective lead qualification process, your team can focus on the most promising leads, speeding up the sales cycle

To know whether a lead fits your ideal buyer persona, you first have to define your ICP. What makes someone a great fit for your product? What are some telltale signs they're ready to buy (and have the authority and budget to make it happen)?

Your ICP should include job titles, company size, industry, location, demographics, pain points, and existing tech stack. Depending on your product, you may have multiple ICPs in different industries.

Adding lead qualification to your routing strategy helps get valuable potential deals in front of your top sales reps ASAP. Remember our B2B software company example? Your ICP is an enterprise IT buyer. You can set up lead routes that automatically assign leads 1) from companies with over 5,000 employees and 2) whose title includes “IT,” “procurement,” or “sourcing” to your enterprise sales team.

Our lead qualification processes are critical for getting the right customers in front of sales quickly.

Testimonial author

Sarah Jackson

Senior Manager, Revenue Operations at Calendly

3. Set up lead scoring

Not every lead is ready to talk to a sales rep. Lead scoring lets you quantify how engaged and qualified a lead is as they move through the buyer’s journey. 

You can identify and track the most promising leads by assigning values to actions like website visits, content downloads, demo bookings, or email interactions. Sales and marketing automation tools like Salesforce, Marketo, and ActiveCampaign simplify lead scoring setup and monitoring.

At Calendly, we use lead scoring to determine which leads should be routed to the sales team, and when. Here’s how it works:

  1. A new lead fills out a form on the landing page for a piece of gated content.

  2. The lead enters Marketo, which we use for lead nurture and scoring.

  3. Depending on the lead’s industry, title, and other characteristics, we use segmentation to send nurture emails with content related to their interests and needs.

  4. The lead scores points based on activities, like replying to a sales email or booking a meeting.

  5. When the lead hits a score of 100, they’re routed to the sales team to book a meeting.

  6. Once they’re qualified by a sales rep, they become a sales-qualified opportunity.

Lead scoring ensures sales reps prioritize warm or hot leads — leads who’ve demonstrated real purchase intent. Sales pro Armand Farrokh, Founder of 30 Minutes to President’s Club (30MPC), says sending lukewarm leads right to AEs is a common lead routing mistake: “The biggest mistake you can make is trying to get an enterprise AE to work [new] e-book leads, then complaining when your time to first touch is 27 days.”

Looking for more sales insights from the 30MPC team? Check out these templates and scripts for every meeting in the sales journey.

4. Gather high-quality lead data with your marketing forms

According to a report from Ruler Analytics, 84% of marketers use form submissions for lead generation. Those forms are great opportunities to collect important info about leads — if you add the right fields. You need more than a name and email address to put your new lead routing strategy into action! Plus, you need to understand a lead’s company size, industry, and pain points for lead qualification.

Having too many form fields can negatively impact your conversion rates, and long-form answers are time-consuming for your team to read and analyze. Luckily, when you know what job titles, industries, and company sizes tend to make good leads, you can use dropdown menus to collect that valuable info without overwhelming prospects.

Depending on your tech stack, you may be able to use data enrichment tools like Clearbit and ZoomInfo to shorten your marketing forms while still collecting all the info you need to route leads. Clearbit provides verified B2B company and contact info, then dynamically shortens your forms accordingly. Does Clearbit already know how large the company is? If so, the form hides the “Company size” question. For the most effective, accurate lead distribution, look for lead routing software that uses the info from both visible and hidden fields to route leads.

5. Match known leads and customers with their account owners

What happens when a known lead or customer fills out your marketing forms?

Without lead routing, they might be added to your CRM as a new lead and enter a lead nurture flow meant for brand new prospects. Duplicate leads can lead to conflicting info, wasted resources, and annoyed prospects — especially if they get twice as many emails from reps!

If you use Salesforce for lead management, a third-party lead routing tool with Salesforce account matching can help prevent duplicate leads. When a lead fills out your marketing form, the routing tool checks whether they (or their company) already have a lead, account, or opportunity record in your Salesforce instance. If they do, they’ll be routed to the existing owner instead of added to Salesforce as a new lead.

For example, when bob@wotoly.com fills out a form on your website, your lead routing tool looks up the Wotoly domain in Salesforce, sees the Wotoly opportunity already exists, and automatically sends Bob to Wotoly’s assigned sales rep. That’s a better experience for Bob, and less time spent manually reassigning leads for your team. 

Qualify, route, and book leads instantly with Calendly Routing

Basic lead routing processes assign leads to sales reps in your CRM. What if you could take that one step further — what if qualified leads could instantly book a meeting with your sales team?

That’s where Calendly Routing comes in.

Webinar: Boost Inbound Lead Conversion in Three Steps

Webinar: Boost Inbound Lead Conversion in Three Steps

See how B2B marketing and sales leaders at Smith.ai, RCReports, and Quickpass use Calendly Routing to increase speed to lead, improve customer experience, and hit their growth goals.

How does Calendly Routing work?

Calendly Routing works with your marketing forms (HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and Calendly forms) to instantly qualify, route, and book leads from your website. Interested leads can book sales meetings right from your marketing forms, and your team can improve conversion rates, create a better customer experience, and reach prospects before the competition.

When you add routes to your marketing forms, Calendly shows scheduling pages only to leads who meet your qualifications, like prospects from specific industries or companies of a certain size. That way, your busy team can focus on the most valuable deals. 

You can create three types of routes in Calendly: Booking, screening, and fallback routes. When someone fills out your form, these routes determine what happens next.

Booking routes automatically route qualified people you want to meet with to the right rep or team’s Calendly booking page.

For example, you can route leads from Fortune 500 companies to the booking page for a 30-minute intro call with your enterprise sales team. Or, when a qualified lead shows interest in a specific product, you can route them to book a 45-minute demo with your product expert.

Calendly’s lead routing solution works hand-in-hand with the Round Robin meeting assignment feature. Let’s say you use Calendly Routing to send leads with a company size of over 500 to your enterprise sales team’s scheduling page. On the scheduling page, the lead chooses the time that works best for them.

Calendly's Round Robin feature looks at the availability of every team member, then automatically assigns the meeting based on the logic you set:

  • Distribute leads equally across the team

  • Assign to the first available rep

  • Prioritize specific team members (like reps with specific knowledge or a new team member building their portfolio)

Gif illustrating how a user fills out a website contact form and is routed to a Calendly booking page.
Speed up your sales cycle by letting high-value leads schedule at the peak of their interest, eliminating the delays that cause them to buy elsewhere.

When a lead books a meeting via a sales rep or team’s Calendly booking page, Calendly’s Salesforce integration automatically creates a new lead, contact, or opportunity. If the lead already exists in your Salesforce instance, the event is added to their existing record.

If a qualified lead fills out your form but doesn’t book a meeting, your existing routing rules and lead distribution tools kick in as usual. If you use Calendly Routing with Marketo, you can trigger retargeting campaigns to nurture leads who didn’t book on the spot.

The Smith.ai sales team had more incoming leads than ever, but inefficient lead management processes meant reps spent a lot of time searching for info, coordinating handoffs, and rescheduling meetings.

Smith.ai added Calendly forms to their site to instantly qualify and route leads, creating a better handoff from marketing to sales. “More productivity at scale means more revenue secured, so we consider this a major win,” says Bryce Kropf, Sales Enablement Manager at Smith.ai. 

Since implementing Calendly Routing, Smith.ai has seen 34% of marketing qualified leads (MQLs) converting to appointments from their website.

We’re seeing an incredible 26% increase in demos booked through the form. The experience is clearly resonating with customers and it’s driving better end results for our sales and marketing teams.

Testimonial author

Bryce Kropf

Sales Enablement Manager at Smith.ai

What happens when a lead doesn’t qualify for a meeting? 

Screening routes filter out leads who don’t meet your criteria, like a company size smaller than 10 people. If a lead doesn’t match your existing booking or screening routes, fallback routes kick in.

Instead of sending unqualified leads to a booking page, you can display a custom message with next steps, ask them for more information, or redirect them to a specific URL, like a piece of gated content or a webinar signup page.

What happens when a known lead or customer fills out your form?

A real-time Salesforce lookup lets you match known leads and customers to their assigned account owner and filter by deal stage, territory, or other fields in Salesforce. You can use any Salesforce object (accounts, opportunities, leads, and even custom objects!) and build conditions from any field in that object. Leads and customers schedule with the right team member no matter the deal status or situation — without any manual reassignment on your end.

Screenshot showing Calendly integrates with Salesforce lookup to match and schedule leads and customers based on real-time CRM account ownership.
Calendly integrates with Salesforce to match and schedule leads and customers based on real-time CRM assignment.

Lead routing with Salesforce account matching has been a game-changer for RCReports. Before connecting Calendly Routing with their Salesforce instance, RCReports AEs spent at least five hours a month reassigning leads booked on the wrong calendar. All that manual work created a clunky customer experience and frustration for the sales and marketing teams.

Now that we’ve implemented Calendly’s routing feature with Salesforce integration, demos are always booked with the correct AE, reducing friction for both our team and the customer.

Testimonial author

Abbie Deaver

Director of Marketing at RCReports

What does Calendly Routing look like in action?

Let’s check back in with our friend Halle at Acme Inc. as she has the Calendly-enhanced experience.

She fills out your demo request form, which you built in Marketo, enriched with Clearbit, and integrated with Calendly and Salesforce. Calendly uses the Salesforce lookup to see if Acme Inc. has an account in your Salesforce instance. They don’t, so the next step is lead qualification.

Based on her responses and Clearbit form fields, Halle is a qualified lead! She is automatically routed to the Calendly booking page for your enterprise sales team. Halle can immediately book the meeting time that works best for her — without waiting for a sales rep to reach out.

On the backend, Calendly’s Round Robin meeting distribution optimizes for availability, so it assigns the meeting to the first available sales rep — in this case, Taylor. Calendly instantly creates a lead record in Salesforce with Taylor as the lead owner. The lead record shows all the info Halle entered into your website form (including the data from Clearbit) and an activity log of any meetings she books with your team via Calendly.

If you were solely relying on Salesforce's built-in lead assignment rules, Halle's lead record would have been assigned to the enterprise sales queue, and she would have had to wait for Taylor to manually pick up the lead and reach out to her to book a meeting. Adding Calendly, HubSpot, and Clearbit to your Salesforce lead process saves Taylor time, creates a better experience for Halle, and increases the likelihood Halle will purchase from your company over a competitor.

Users on Calendly’s Teams plan and above can connect Calendly to Salesforce. The full suite of Salesforce routing features, including routing by Salesforce ownership, is available on Calendly’s Enterprise plan.

To learn more about Calendly Routing, get in touch with our sales team.

Improve speed-to-lead and delight your prospects

When you add lead routing to your sales process, leads stop slipping through the cracks. You follow up with leads quickly — before the competition — and meet with leads as soon as they’re ready. Your team saves a ton of time on admin tasks like manual lead assignment and scheduling, so you’re more productive than ever. You can prioritize the most valuable leads and spend more time connecting with prospects who are actually ready to buy.

You’ve created a faster sales cycle and happier customers — and your sales team hits their numbers. That’s a win-win situation.

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Rachel Burns

Rachel Burns

Rachel is a Content Marketing Manager at Calendly. When she’s not writing, you can find her rescuing dogs, baking something, or extolling the virtue of the Oxford comma.

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