In today’s unpredictable economy, sales leaders are facing more pressure than ever to close more deals, increase win rates, and drive greater revenue. To relieve that pressure — and get more value from their marketing budget — many companies have embraced automated lead scoring.
Automated lead scoring relies on sophisticated software models to decide which sales leads are most likely to close a potential deal. Given that no two prospects or product demos are exactly alike, it’s crucial that leads are routed to the right account executive (AE). This ensures that prospects connect with AEs who are experienced with their industry and truly understand their problems, resulting in happier customers, higher win rates, and a stronger bottom line.
But what happens when you want to change how that lead-routing system works? Improvements could drive real bottom-line results — or torpedo the sales system you already have working today.
To improve our own internal lead routing processes, ZoomInfo recently restructured our entire new business demo scoring model to see if we could improve our win rates by routing our strongest leads to the people with the best chances for success. Doing so risked major disruption to our new business pipeline and demanded a flexible-yet-precise approach to refactoring our internal processes.
Here’s how we did it.
Tapping Into Potential
Steven Bryerton, senior vice president of sales at ZoomInfo, says the potential of individual leads has long been a factor in how our sales team routes new leads to specific account executives.
“We score leads based on annual contract value (ACV), win rate, what a prospect is going to spend, average sales price, the title of the contact, the number of salespeople they have,” Bryerton says. “We’ve always had that component there. However, we noticed there was room for optimization.”
One of the challenges in trying to route strong leads to the right salespeople is that the best reps have little free time on their calendars. As a result, when strong opportunities arise, they’re often unavailable to handle those calls and close those deals.
Rather than lose a strong opportunity, these leads are routed to other reps, which can result in lower win rates or smaller deals.
“Our best sellers, there’s a small pool of them and their schedule fills up quickly,” Bryerton says. “When a really good lead would come in that was supposed to go to them, they often didn’t have the availability for it. Once that happened, it would go elsewhere. We were assigning great leads to sellers whose skill set just wasn’t quite there yet, whose tenure wasn’t quite there yet. We would still win deals, but not as often, or for as much.”
Building a Better Model
To increase win rates and close larger deals, Bryerton worked closely with Brian Vital, VP of sales development, and Mark Harris, VP of go-to-market, to assess our automated lead-routing system. Everybody involved quickly recognized the potential for significant improvement.
“There was a considerable volume of leads that were being recognized by the model as mediocre,” says Yulin Chen, a sales operations analyst who worked with Harris to refactor the scoring model. “That made routing those leads tricky.”
In spite of the obvious need, there were apprehensions about making changes to such a vital part of our sales operation.
“It took some work to make sure we didn’t disrupt the routing flow,” Chen says. “It’s pretty risky to touch anything routing related, because those are real dollars.”
Harris and Chen finished designing the new scoring model in late 2021, and began a limited testing phase in 2022. This testing phase ran on closed systems in parallel to the previous model to avoid disrupting existing sales pipelines.
They revised the model to incorporate more datapoints, helping eliminate ambiguity and increasing the clarity of the resulting scores. This included more granular data on company size, as well as greater emphasis on the source of individual leads.
“We train the model by segments,” Chen says. “In the new model, we have a stronger emphasis on channels, whether it’s a webinar, a lead from our website, or another marketing channel. We reworked the model to include more separation between each level, and there’s better distribution of volume between each level, so that makes routing a lot easier.”
In addition to refining how incoming leads were scored and routed, Chen also examined how the new system would account for internal performance benchmarks for specific salespeople. This was to ensure that newly scored leads were being assigned to the right reps.
“We have a scorecard that we measure the AEs on, and every month, we refactor that scorecard,” Bryerton says. “It measures ACV and win rate over the trailing 90 days, it measures average selling price. For my money, the most objective measure of a rep is ACV over completed good-fit meetings. For every meeting that we give them, how many dollars do they bring back?”
Trusting Your Instincts
The heightened emphasis on channels in our improved lead-scoring model isn’t just a means of providing our systems with greater differentiation. It’s also a reflection of the institutional expertise of our salespeople, many of whom instinctively know that the source of a lead is often correlated with the strength of that lead.
“Before, we never factored in channel, even though we all knew that leads from our website are the best leads,” Bryerton says. “Now, that’s a major component of the model and how leads are routed to specific reps, regardless of a prospect’s size. That starts to trump some of those other data points when it comes to how we assign leads.”
For Bryerton and the team, refactoring our lead-routing process served as a prime example of how trusting the instincts of your salespeople and seizing opportunities in the face of considerable risk can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your sales team.
“We always knew there was room for improvement, and everybody wanted to do something. But we were hamstrung by fear,” Bryerton says.
Overcoming these apprehensions and developing a better routing model is already showing promise. Since being formally rolled out in June, demo-to-win rates have increased by almost a full percentage point, representing hundreds of thousands of dollars in incremental ACV.
It’s important to note that improved lead routing isn’t exclusive to large companies with sizable sales organizations. Vital says that improving how your strongest leads are routed can make a difference for even the smallest of companies. In fact, smaller companies may actually find it easier to refine their lead-routing processes than larger firms.
“A lot of people will see a graph or chart or the fact that we have 1,800 salespeople and think, well, that’s not for me — but I disagree,” Vital says. “Any changes you can make to how you’re routing the right quality leads to the right account executive can have a meaningful impact. Don’t sit on information that you know to be true.”