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Have you ever been in a situation where you were able to review leads prior to assigning those leads to a salesperson?

If so, and if you are a sales manager who cares about increasing sales, you most likely looked at the characteristics of each lead before deciding which salesperson to assign that lead to... For example, when I would see a Corvette lead come into BuzzTrack at Courtesy Chevrolet, I would reassign that new lead to one of maybe 2 or 3 people who I felt qualified to handle the typically challenging questions posed by Corvette buyers.  Our closing ratio on Corvette leads was a lot higher, almost double that of other leads...

Why? Because we applied an intelligent decision making process to the assignment of the salesperson to that lead... An intelligent decision that is based upon historical performance and the qualifications of the salesperson being assigned will always out-perform a random process like "Round Robin". 

The Round Robin system of lead routing is the worst system ever devised by the auto industry for handling the decisions around how to assign each lead to a salesperson... Period.  Random has no place in dealership management, it is the opposite of reason and intelligence... Random Sucks... It is like slapping the Magic Button and imagining that something good will happen... Random is the destroyer of positive business results, Period!

When a project I was assigned to involved the rebuilding of a web based lead management tool in the not so distant past, both myself and the lead developer on the project pushed hard for a feature that we included in the fresh new build of this lead management tool which we called "Intelligent Lead Routing" or "ILR".  Whether this feature makes it into the system that dealers will be offered is a political football getting punted around to this day, which I will soon explain.

The basis for Intelligent Lead Routing was fairly simple... To mimic the decision making process that the best sales managers use when they look at a new sales lead and decide which salesperson to assign it to.  Except, we decided to do it more "Scientifically" than a sales manager can do based on anecdotal knowledge (like the way I did it at Courtesy Chevrolet)... During the initial installation of ILR we pull all DMS transactional data available and use historical sales data for previously received and sold Internet leads.  We then apply a complex algorithm based on key lead characteristics, similar to the way top performing Internet Directors will assign Internet Leads when they have a chance, or need to do so. 

What Intelligent Lead Routing does is assign leads within a set of parameters that define eligible sales people (such as used car sales team vs new car sales team) so that leads are assigned based on customer demographics, vehicle of interest, zip code, area code, make, model, price range, vehicle type and other characteristics that are used to match the lead with the salesperson most likely to result in a sale based on historical performance.

We built all kinds of safety mechanisms and ILR can be applied at any point in the lead routing schematics (decision tree) using the "Hypothetical" Lead Management Tool's admin console.  The ILR system could also be used to show how, why and who leads WOULD have been assigned to, had the algorithm been applied.

In our pilot testing, ILR was far more effective than the much simpler and more primitive model of lead scoring based on lead characteristics, although it uses many of the same criteria as lead scoring, the scoring is variable based on WHICH SALESPERSON WOULD RECEIVE THE LEAD!

The fact is that in any lead scoring system, introducing the sales person into the predictive analysis creates variable scoring results. For example, it is not uncommon for a lead which is a "9" on a 10 point scale for one salesperson, to become a "4" on the same lead scoring scale when it is assigned to a different salesperson.  This variance in predicted outcome, or "Lead Score" is based on the differential in historical closing rates for leads exhibiting the same characteristics, but when assigned to a different sales person.

This is a similar outcome and based on the same characteristics as when the same lead is sent to different dealerships using the same lead scoring system, which almost always results in a different lead score based on the historical results for each dealership based on leads containing similar or same data points... The only difference is that the effect is often times much more dramatic when applied to individual sales people.

For example, we all know certain sales people who do VERY WELL with truck leads... They know EVERYTHING about the Ford, Chevy or Dodge trucks they sell and how their buyers use those trucks... But give them a lead on a Focus or a Malibu and that same salesperson does no better than the rest of the sales team. 

Unfortunately for what would seem to be a brilliant system to offer dealers, it may be perceived as interfering with the sale of more conventional "Lead Scoring" systems and as such may be considered too risky to offer for sale to dealers... God forbid they get an advantage that actually sells more cars!

We came up with the idea back when I was working at Courtesy and found that we could increase sales by overriding any type of "round robin" (random) lead routing system.

The whole concept seems to trigger a lot of emotional and hysterical responses from people in the car business... What are your thoughts on an Intelligent Lead Routing system that would assign leads based on the highest probability of making a sale?

Tags: Assigning Leads, Intelligent Lead Routing, Internet Leads, Internet Sales Manager, Lead Routing

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Hey Ralph,

While I don't profess to apply the science and process detail that you have provided on your post, I do share your philosophy based on a simple premise. The partnership between an auto dealer and their sales staff relies on assigned areas of responsibility with a commmon goal to share the profit generated by their combined efforts.

The dealer is responible to provide the facility, inventory, working capital and all related costs of doing business while his/her partners in the sales and service departments are responsible to represent the dealership in the market, establish and enforce cost effective sales/service processes and generally to protect the dealer's financial investment and the sales/service staff's investment of their time and experience. Of course that is a generalization of their respectives roles and shared investments but it will serve to make my point.

Maximizing the R.O.I. for all parties -- the dealer as well as the sales/service staff -- is a shared obligation which supports the concept that the dealer bought and paid for the customer and therefor it is reasonable for him/her to have a vested interest to insure that they are processed properly. If an impartial objective criteria can be established to evidence that one salesperson will be more effective than another with a particular lead source of customer profile then it is in everyone's best interest to assign them accordingly.

This practice may be called profiling in some circles but in this situation it is simply good business -- again, as long as it is impartially and equally applied to maximize the R.O.I. for the team; dealer and sales staff alike!
What you're proposing makes sense to take out the subjectivity of the internet sales person. Consider replacing the subjectivity with the objectivity of whether the internet lead's likelihood is to purchase. then you take ILR to a higher level of performance through matching the lead to the best sales person and giving them the tools to determine which leads they need to work the hardest for winning market share from other dealers working that same lead.
Brad - I like your logic, and I know how adept you are at understanding the benefits of lead scoring. You and I have spoken about this variance on lead scoring by applying the scoring models and criteria down to a predictive process recommendation level... ILR is similar to what we have discussed, but instead bases the assignment of a lead not on the score itself, but rather on the changes in the lead's score when it is scored based on individual salesperson history... The sales person who causes the lead to get the highest score, gets the lead, unless other constraints forbid him/her from consideration.
Phil - The nice thing about ILR is that when it is applied based on a technology implemented algorithm, it is free from any stereotyping or biases that a manager may not even be aware of possessing... Plus, the ILR system can always be over ridden at management discretion... Which is either good or bad depending on who and how the manager is and operates!
Agreed, a point that I made in principal and practice in my reply that you have addressed in process driven by technology and efficiencies that bring people and process together!

"This practice may be called profiling in some circles but in this situation it is simply good business -- again, as long as it is impartially and equally applied to maximize the R.O.I. for the team; dealer and sales staff alike!"
I have been torn on this subject for years. The one issue is busy days, what happens to the lead that sits because you are helping close a deal, desking deals staked up. I do agree that time sitting until you can create the quality match is better than giving to a weak link. But some CRM's can drill down and parse leads based on Lead source, advertising type, and select particular sales people within a group. Courtesy is a big store that has lots of manpower. I am concerned about the Dick VanDyke in Mary Poppins kind of guy (One Man Band-Buskers) that is doing everything. I am all for your plan if you have the manpower. If not my suggestion is tweak your system to help make the lead response quality better. Match your strength to the leads.
Guy - Sage advice indeed... ILR is not for every dealership. the One Man Internet Department would be far better using their technology resources to automate what can and should be automated to free up the limited resources available for what cannot be automated.

Just like random is always bad for business... "One size fits all" solutions are rarely the optimal way to maximize sales and profits. When I was faced with dealing with over 5,200 fresh leads each mnth and a staff of 30 plus people, the ILR system was a natural solution to applying technology to sales process improvement.

A single ISM, or two or three working 300 to 500 leads a month would simply not be a good candidate for ILR... Enhanced automation with robust personalization would!

The death of any lead is the round robin. I have had 15 year car guys that were pissed off that a green pea got a lead and then dropped the ball.

Here is how it should work.

New Car Lead - Best CSI Car Salesperson
New Truck Lead - Best CSI Truck Salesperson
Used Car Lead - # 1 Used Car Salesperson

If the other salespeople don't like it, they can work to become the #1 or Top CSI salesperson and get the leads.

"Coffee is for Closers"
Your summary may sound harsh, but the reality is that leads should be assigned to the salesperson who is most likely to turn that lead into a sale... Period.
Love the idea Ralph... obviously data capture and objective analysis are the keys...
Andrew - The only way ILR can be successful is with both objective analysis and setting a minimum quantity level as the threshold on the data being captured... The size of the data pool must be large enough to provide a relevant and accurate predictive model. Basing such a system on a hundred deals is not enough! The system needs several thousand leads sold to create a statistically relevant and accurate predictive indicator and routing criteria model.
Great post Ralph!

A corollary to this is providing sufficient information about your team to allow customers to request a specific sales rep or call them directly. This doesn't happen often, but some people don't want to be a physical or electronic up for the next joker whose tern it happens to be. As in real estate and other sales professions, let the customer pick who they will buy from. Matching leads is a sales advantage and giving shoppers the ability to self match is a marketing advantage.


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