Part of my role as a Marketing Operations Manager is to manage the lead assignment process within Salesforce for our team of 25+ Sales Development Representatives from around the world. A crucial piece to our success is getting the leads to the right person without any delay and ensure a smooth handoff from marketing to sales. In this post, I will walk you through exactly how I manage the lead assignment and lead reassignment process within Salesforce and share some lessons learned along the way.
High-level overview of the lead assignment process
- Manage lead assignment for 25+ Sales Developement Representives around the world
- Manage lead assignment for 10+ channel partners around the world
- Leads are only assigned to SDRs or partners (no AEs or ADMs, for example)
- Leads in target countries are scored and given a rating (A-D).
- Leads that meet our MQL rating are assigned to an SDR for follow up
- Leads that do not meet our MQL rating are assigned to a lead queue in Salesforce
Using standard Salesforce lead assignment rules
When the Sales Development team was smaller and the business rules were not as complex, we used the standard Salesforce lead assignment rules. Now, we only use the standard assignment rules to assign leads to channel partners. These assignment rules are only based on Country and are rarely updated.
Using advanced lead assignment rules in Salesforce
The lead assignment for the Sales Development team is more complex. Leads are assigned based on a number of different criteria including industry and company size. With 25+ Sales Development Reps, territories constantly shifting and the team growing, using the standard Salesforce lead assignment rules were difficult to manage. We purchased Traction Complete an app available on the Salesforce AppExchange to manage the lead assignment for our SDR team. Not only does Traction Complete give us an easier, more visual way of managing our lead assignment rules, it also gives us the ability to:
- Assign leads via round robin
- Automatically match leads to accounts
- Filter records by advanced criteria (using fields from the leads or matched account)
- Account based lead assignment
- Update fields
- Automatically convert leads from a matched account into a contact
- Auto-merge duplicate leads
The lead assignment process
Here’s a basic overview of what the lead assignment process looks like.
Leads are created in our Marketing Automation platform and are scored. The leads are then synced with Salesforce where the Complete assignment rules run to determine:
- Is the lead in one of our target countries? If the lead is not in one of the target countries, the lead is assigned via the standard Salesforce assignment rules.
- Is the lead an MQL? Leads are only assigned to an SDR once they reach them MQL threshold. If they are not an MQL, they will be assigned to the “Unqualified Leads” queue until they reach the MQL threshold.
- Which SDR should this lead be assigned to? The diagram above does not show the details of our assignment flow, but it’s very complex with over 80+ if/else steps based on lead geographic location, company size, and industry. If the lead does not meet any of the criteria outlined in the flow, the lead is assigned to Marketing Ops (ME!). Marketing Ops then reviews the leads to determine why they were not assigned. Sometimes this can be because of missing data or incorrect information (state). The data is then corrected or the flow is modified to prevent further issues.
- Does the lead have a matched account? Another benefit to using an app from the AppExchange instead of the standard Salesforce assignment rules, is the ability to match leads to existing accounts automatically. This can be used to pull fields from the matched account onto the lead record to fill in missing data or to route leads based on account information. We have a lookup field called “SDR” on the Account. If the lead is matched with an existing account, the lead is assigned to the “SDR” on the account.
Assigning leads via round robin
We also have the ability to assign leads via round robin. We occasionally use this feature if an SDR is going on vacation for an extended period of time.
Triggering lead assignment rules when a lead is an MQL
Leads are only assigned once they are marketing qualified. To trigger the lead assignment process in Complete, the checkbox field called “Re-run Traction Complete” must be sent to TRUE. To update this field, we have MQL flows set up in our Marketing Automation system to do this automatically.
Here’s what the smart campaign looks like in Marketo to trigger lead assignment when a lead becomes an MQL
Leads can only run through the smart campaign every 60 days because we do not want leads to continuosly become an MQL if the SDR has had a conversation with them recently.
Here’s what the automation rule looks like in Pardot to trigger lead assignment when a lead becomes an MQL
Tips for managing lead assignments
- Limit the number of times a lead can become an MQL. If a lead is considered an MQL more than once it can impact your conversion rates and skew your reporting. Limiting the number of times a lead can become an MQL can help with this and it can prevent SDRs from constantly updating the lead to “recycle” or something similar.
- Make sure you have all countries, states and provinces assigned. This might seem obvious, but when you are territory planning, make sure that all states, provinces, and countries you do business in are accounted for. Otherwise, some leads might slip through the cracks and not be assigned to anyone or assigned to the wrong person.
- Determine the criteria for lead reassignment. When should the lead be reassigned? Do you have an SLA the SDR needs to meet before the lead is reassigned to someone else? If you shift territories, does the current SDR get to keep anything they are currently working on? Are there certain leads that should be excluded from reassignment? All these questions are something you should work with your Sales Manager to determine before making any changes in Salesforce.
- Allow SDRs to update lead ownership. Sometimes the lead is assigned to the wrong person, usually due to incorrect demographic data. Allow SDRs to be able to update the lead ownership to the correct person instead of pinging an admin to do it.
- Determine if lead alerts need to be set up. Do SDRs need to be alerted when a lead is assigned to them? If not, then you need to create views where they can easily see leads assigned to them. We use Outreach.io as our Sales Engagement Platform, which allows our SDRs to easily see what leads are assigned to them and need to be actioned on immediately. For that reason, we do not have lead alerts set up for MQLs, but we do have alerts sent out if a high-value form (pricing, contact, etc) is filled out.
- Enable field history tracking for lead owner. Enabling field history tracking for lead owner will allow you to see when lead owner updates occur. This is important for troubleshooting to see if your automated lead assignment process assigned the lead to the incorrect owner, or if someone updated the lead owner manually. It will also allow you to easily reverse owner updates if leads are assigned to someone by mistake.
Lead reassignment due to territory changes
Step 1: Update the lead assignment rules in Traction Complete
The first step to do a territory change is to update the flow in Traction Complete. This update will only apply to new leads and new MQLs.
Step 2: Pull Salesforce report of the leads that need to be updated
Next, pull a Salesforce report of all the leads that need to be reassigned. The report should at minimum include the fields Lead ID or 18-Digit Lead ID and Re-Run Traction Complete. I also add the following filters to the report:
- Converted = False (to remove any leads that are already converted into contacts)
- Lead Owner contains _______ (to pull leads owned by a specific person)
- Lead Status not equal to Working (to exclude leads that the SDR is already working)
Run the report and export it as a CSV.
Step 3: Update the field “Re-run Traction Complete” to TRUE
Open the file in Excel and set the “Re-run Traction Complete field to TRUE. Save the file.
Step 4: Upload the file to trigger the re-assignment
I use Salesforce Data Loader to upload the CSV into Salesforce.
Lessons learned from completing many territory reassignments
- Updating via my Marketing Automation platform is MUCH slower. I used to run data updates to trigger reassignment or lead ownership in Marketo, however, it takes a lot longer to complete then exporting a report in Salesforce and importing it via Data Loader.
- If you use a Sales Automation tool, make sure ownership is updated there as well. We use Outreach.io for our Sales Automation tool. I find that 90% of the time lead ownership is synced from Salesforce to Outreach immediately, but sometimes you need to force the sync.
- Create a “Lead Territory Change Template” report in Salesforce. I have a report saved that I reuse each time I do a territory reassignment. The template includes all the filters that I would typically use as well as all the columns I need.
- Always double check that the lead assignment is correct. Run a report in Salesforce and group by the lead owner to ensure that everything is assigned to the new owner.
- Ensure you don’t have any lead alerts setup. Check your Marketing Automation platform and processes in Salesforce to make sure nothing will trigger an email alert or something similar when the lead owner is updated. You don’t want to trigger hundreds, or maybe even thousands of alerts when a lead is reassigned.