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Lead distribution: The ultimate guide

Lead Distribution
What is lead distribution?
The key stages of lead distribution
Why is lead distribution important?
How to distribute leads fairly: 4 methods and what to consider
4 factors to consider when distributing leads
Automate lead distribution with auto-assignment
Final thoughts

Informed and intentional lead distribution helps to ensure sales teams and lead managers direct prospects along the most impactful route possible.

Generating and qualifying leads in terms of their readiness to buy is only part of the story when it comes to optimizing your sales results. It’s also vital that you take a lead’s specific interests, needs and buying preferences into account by assigning them to the most appropriate sales rep.

According to insights from McKinsey, upgrading the customer experience can result in a 15–20% increase in sales conversion rates.

Since every new lead you generate is a potential customer, it makes sense that getting lead distribution right can positively impact your sales revenue.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll examine key aspects of the lead distribution process, including what the different stages are and why it’s so important. We’ll also look at various ways you can use manual or automated lead distribution software to assign leads fairly and with better sales outcomes.

What is lead distribution?

Lead distribution is the process of routing or assigning leads to sales team members based on a predefined set of criteria. This could include location, product interest or sales rep availability and skill level.

As a critical component of any offline or online lead management strategy, intentionally distributing leads can maximize your team’s sales performance.

For example:

  • Bumping up lead response times can make your sales process more efficient

  • Improving prospect interactions can enhance the customer journey

  • Increasing customer satisfaction can help boost conversions and revenue

There are a number of ways you can approach the lead distribution process. You can route leads manually, for example, or with the help of automatic assignment tools that use rules, algorithms or artificial intelligence to distribute leads.

Whichever method you choose, using the key lead distribution stages to strategically route sales opportunities will ensure the right lead is contacted by the right rep at the right time.

The key stages of lead distribution

The main goal of lead distribution is to elevate the revenue potential of every new lead you generate. The best way to achieve this is by qualifying, scoring and then matching outbound or inbound leads with the salespeople best suited to nurture them into paying customers.

Since impactful distribution leads to more profitable sales pipelines, here’s what you should consider when structuring the four stages of lead distribution.

Stage 1: Lead generation

Sales lead generation is the process of attracting and connecting with people who express interest in your product or service, so you can work on transforming them into customers.

In this first stage of the lead distribution process, you should aim to capture prospective buyers across various marketing and sales channels.

For example, you might attract new leads through:

The goal of lead generation (or lead capture) is to create a pipeline of qualified prospects you can nurture and convert into sales. With that in mind, Gartner insights show that businesses that source over 40% of their leads from marketing experience higher conversion rates than others.

Stage 2: Lead qualification

Lead qualification is the process of determining whether a prospective customer is a good fit for your product or service.

In this stage of the distribution process, it’s important to gather key information about prospects, so you can identify your best leads based on their:

  • Buying patterns and online activity

  • Interest level and engagement duration

  • Demographics as they relate to your product

The goal of lead qualification is to pass leads that meet your internal guidelines to the next stage, while discarding those that don’t (or nurturing them for future opportunities).

According to sales research from Sales Insights Lab, you can expect 50% or fewer of your initial prospects to be a good fit.

Stage 3: Lead scoring

Lead scoring is a method of ranking your leads based on their perceived value and readiness to buy.

In this stage, you should prioritize qualified leads by scoring their likelihood to convert and generate revenue.

You can do this by weighing a prospect’s:

  • Needs and challenges

  • Goals and budget

  • Timeline and purchasing authority level

The goal of lead scoring is to focus your sales efforts on the most promising opportunities first so you can increase your chances of closing deals.

Stage 4: Lead assignment

Lead assignment is the process of distributing incoming leads to salespeople or teams based on specific rules or conditions you set in advance.

In this final stage of the lead distribution process, you’ll typically assign leads (or make them available) to sales reps based on criteria like:

  • Geographic location

  • Industry or product line

  • Sales skills, availability or expertise

The goal of lead assignment is to ensure you match every quality lead with the sales rep who’s best equipped to follow up and convert them.

Once you’ve optimized these four stages, you’ll be in a better position to capitalize on what makes lead distribution so important for sales performance.

Why is lead distribution important?

Implementing a formalized lead distribution process is important for several reasons.

  1. First, it can increase customer satisfaction and conversion rates by ensuring leads are followed up by the most appropriate members of your sales team.

  2. Second, by helping to balance your sales force workload, and avoiding overloading or underutilizing any one rep or team, thoughtful distribution leads to improved productivity and morale.

  3. Third, it can help you track and measure the efficiency and performance of individual salespeople, providing valuable insights for coaching and improvement.

Here are three ways you can make the most of these important attributes.

1. Reduce your lead response time

Using lead distribution to standardize the process of routing leads to available and qualified reps enables you to:

  • Reduce the time and effort required to respond to each new lead

  • Improve the customer experience by enabling sales agents to provide personalized, relevant, real-time interactions and service

  • Prevent the lead funnel leakage and wastage that can occur when leads are ignored, forgotten or duplicated

2. Increase your lead conversion rate

Because lead distribution is aimed at matching leads with reps based on key criteria such as geography, product, industry or expertise, you can use it to:

  • Ensure prospects are contacted by salespeople with the most relevant knowledge and skills to address their needs and pain points

  • Maximize the chances of closing a deal with each lead

  • Increase your conversion rate and sales revenue as a result

3. Enhance your sales performance

Since lead distribution can divvy up workloads and opportunities more equitably across a sales team, automating your process will make it even easier to:

  • Remove bias from lead assignment

  • Raise productivity by ensuring each lead is routed to the next available (and most qualified) sales rep

  • Boost motivation by creating a fair and transparent sales culture

Sales research from sales expert Marc Wayshak shows company culture and management effectiveness are consistently rated as the most important to salespeople (compared with base compensation, for example, which is rated significantly lower).

That makes the fair distribution of leads an important consideration when it comes to getting the most from your sales team.

How to distribute leads fairly: 4 methods and what to consider

While you can auto-assign or manually distribute leads, company size and your sales team’s structure and goals will generally determine which approach works best to allocate leads fairly and effectively.

Here’s a breakdown of four common lead distribution methods you can try.

Method 1: Manual lead distribution

This method involves manually assigning leads to sales reps.

  • Pro: Simple and flexible

  • Con: Can be tedious, biased and time-consuming, especially if you have a large volume of leads coming from different sources

Method 2: Round robin

This method involves automatically assigning leads to reps in a rotating (or round-robin) order.

  • Pro: Faster, fairer and more consistent than most manual methods

  • Con: Easy to ignore the individual characteristics of both leads and reps, making it less effective for optimizing sales outcomes

Method 3: Cherry-picking

This method involves having reps select (or cherry-pick) their own online, offline or email lead nurturing opportunities from a sales pool.

  • Pro: Promotes confidence and initiative by giving salespeople control over which leads they follow up

  • Con: Can be tough to scale and may result in small or less-appealing deals being left on the table

Method 4: Automated lead distribution

This method involves using lead distribution software, apps or automated tools to assign leads based on lead scores or the skills, experience and availability of sales reps.

  • Pro: Saves time and promotes faster lead responses, which can increase conversions

  • Con: Some dedicated software and AI systems can be complex or expensive

Whether you employ one or multiple methods, it’s important that every lead is followed up by the most qualified and available team member and that your distribution practice leaves no lead unattended.

4 factors to consider when distributing leads

These four factors will help ensure your lead distribution strategy is both fair and efficient.

1. Sales rep skillsets

You should consider each rep’s experience and strengths when assigning leads, including key sales skills like communication, negotiation, problem-solving and rapport-building. This will increase your team’s chances of engaging successfully with prospects, understanding their needs and pain points and providing the best solutions.

2. Individual sales roles

If some sales personnel specialize in certain products, markets or customer segments, it makes sense to assign leads that match their areas of expertise. Make sure you have clear, consistent lead distribution strategies for pairing various sales roles with the quality, quantity and type of leads available.

3. Sales rep availability

When certain reps are unavailable (due to vacation or illness, for example), leads that would have been assigned to them will need to be redistributed. This can create an imbalance in workload and performance. To prevent some reps from having too many leads to handle effectively and others having too few to meet their quotas, be sure to monitor rep availability carefully and adjust your distribution accordingly.

4. Lead scoring and impact on commissions

MarTech’s Sweta Patel suggests thinking of lead scoring as a bridge from marketing to actual sales.

Lead scoring is used to rank prospects against a scale that represents the perceived value of each lead. The resulting score is then used to determine which leads the sales team will engage, in order of priority.

One easy way to score leads is by ranking them as cold, warm or hot in terms of their buying interest, readiness, budget and timeframe. You can then monitor and follow up on promising leads with the help of a lead tracker template.

It’s worth noting that lead scores can also impact commissions by helping salespeople:

  • Prioritize their follow-up efforts

  • Increase their sales efficiency, conversion rates and average deal sizes

  • Avoid wasting time and resources on uninterested or unready leads

Automating the scoring process will make it easier to match high-quality leads to the team members best able to serve them.

Moreover, by using a robust and reliable auto-assignment system, you can optimize distribution, leading to more impactful sales outcomes.

Automate lead distribution with auto-assignment

Pipedrive’s State of Sales and Marketing report reveals that sales and marketing tech usage has increased by almost 50% since 2020.

Automating lead distribution is a smart way to both enhance prospect knowledge and streamline your sales operations.

Automated lead enrichment, for example (using automation to gather and evaluate information about a lead’s interest in your product or service), can streamline the process of assigning the most appropriate reps to work with prospective customers.

Using technology to auto-assign leads, meanwhile, lets you set up rules to automatically distribute deals evenly among team members.

By taking advantage of features and tools that accommodate automatic assignment, you can:

  • Generate and engage a larger number of leads

  • Tailor your qualification process to find out more about your prospects

  • Save time by distributing and responding to leads faster

Here’s a simple selection of lead management, lead generation and auto-assignment tools you can use to power your lead distribution process, generate more sales opportunities and close more deals.

Automatic assignment

With Pipedrive’s automatic assignment feature, you can automatically route new deals to the right reps or teams. Automatic assignment allows you to set up rules that assign deals to different sales teams and reps based on different criteria recorded in the deal’s fields, such as location, source and more. Thanks to automatic assignment, you can follow up faster and increase conversion.

Automatic Assignment


Pipedrive’s easy-to-use lead generation software doesn’t just capture leads from anywhere, it lets you score, segment and distribute leads directly to sales reps. Use LeadBooster’s powerful Chatbot, Live Chat and Web Form features to engage and qualify leads with custom questions and conversations 24/7, then track lead activity from anywhere for complete oversight.

Leads Inbox

Switch out your spreadsheets for Pipedrive’s Leads Inbox feature and pool all your leads in one place. Hot, warm and cold labels make it easy to know where each assigned lead stands. You can schedule follow-up emails, calls or activities directly from Leads Inbox to get the ball rolling while keeping your deals pipeline free of lead clutter.


Outplay is a next-generation sales outreach platform optimized to help sales teams improve efficiency and book more meetings. Using Outplay, you can connect with new or assigned prospects by emails, calls, voicemails, text/SMS, LinkedIn and more.


Klenty is a sales engagement platform that helps sales teams execute hyper-personalized, multi-channel outreach at scale. Use a mixture of emails, calls, LinkedIn tasks and texts to build outreach sequences, then shift leads between them automatically based on engagement.


Leadfeeder is a lead generation and website visitor-tracking tool that also powers Pipedrive’s Web Visitors feature. Install the tracking script and start identifying real companies visiting your website that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Collect information about where visitors are coming from and how they interact with your website, then use “just-in-time” lead data and website activity to present sales with fresh opportunities.

It’s also important to recognize that by simply implementing automated notifications, you can alert sales reps whenever a new lead is assigned to them and prompt them to take action immediately.

You can also use automated workflows to send personalized emails or texts to your leads as soon as they enter your system, keeping them engaged and interested in your offer.

Final thoughts

Leads are the lifeblood of any sales process. If they’re not handled properly, however, they can easily be wasted or lost.

By using a lead distribution system to assign leads to reps based on quality and relevance, you can:

  • Ensure every lead is matched with the right sales rep for their needs

  • Increase the likelihood of building rapport, trust and value with your prospects

  • Improve sales efficiency, conversion rates and the customer experience

Additionally, by automating lead distribution, you can eliminate the possibility of duplicate or missed leads which could hurt your sales productivity and revenue. You can also track and analyze the performance of your distribution efforts to identify areas for improvement or optimization.

In many cases, the best way to build an automated process is to start small.

You might, for example, try combining your favorite lead generation tools with Zapier and a CRM like Pipedrive to set and apply simple lead routing rules.

No matter how you develop your lead distribution process, remember that regularly monitoring and evaluating its functionality will help ensure it remains fair, efficient and impactful.

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