Divvying Up the Pie: Popular Lead Distribution Strategies for Sales Teams

When It Comes to Lead Distribution, We Need To Stop Focusing on Who Gets the Lead. And Start Asking, What’s Our Strategy?

The challenge with lead distribution is the same challenge you face when splitting up any finite resource. Let’s imagine for a moment that you have a delicious pie, and you want to share that pie with your friends. Do you give your hungriest friend the biggest slice, or do you give divide the pie into equal slices?

Sales managers face this dilemma every day when new leads come into the system. And many have devised clever ways to quickly assign new leads to the right rep.

Indeed, there are now so many ways to distribute leads that it’s hard to determine which methods are right for which teams. From randomly assigning leads to relying on complicated algorithms, lead distribution strategies have multiplied as sales itself has gotten more sophisticated.

In this post, we dive into four of the most popular lead distribution methods, explain how they work, and outline the pros and cons of each strategy.

Does It Really Matter How Leads Are Distributed to Reps?

Yes, it really matters. Implementing lead distribution systems have been shown to positively impact lead volume, contact rates, and conversion rates.

A recent study found that companies utilizing at least one automated distribution method had an 87% higher conversion rate than those that manually distributed leads. What’s even more impressive, the same study found that using multiple automated distribution methods increased conversions by up to 107%.

To understand how lead distribution works, you need to keep two factors in mind: Speed and compatibility.


Most sellers instinctively understand why speed matters. Leads can be fickle, and capturing their attention often requires moving quickly. Online leads, for example, can go cold within just 90 minutes.

Lead distribution methods, like the ones we describe below, are designed to deliver leads to reps quickly. By taking the guesswork out of the top of the funnel, lead distribution methods ensure that reps know which leads to pursue and when.


Compatibility refers to the match between the rep’s skills and expertise and the lead’s needs and requirements. High compatibility means that the sales rep assigned to any given lead has the right information and skills to qualify and convert that account.

By matching leads to reps, you increase the likelihood that the rep has the information necessary to close the sale. If your leads vary by industry, account size, or location, taking into account compatibility could significantly improve the efficiency of your sales team.

What Kind of Lead Distribution Methods Are Available?

Enterprise sales stacks have evolved enormously in the last few years. New automated distribution methods have gradually pushed manual distribution to the side.

While we mostly focus on automated lead distribution methods below, we also include manual lead distribution as an option for those who are starting on a smaller scale.

The four methods we cover are:

Let’s use our pie analogy from earlier to illustrate how these methods work.

Push-Based Lead Distribution

push based lead distro

The name says it all. Push-based lead distribution is where you automatically “push” leads to sales reps based on predefined criteria.

Round Robin

Every person gets a piece of the pie. The slices are distributed in the same order until the pie is finished.

Top Producer

People who meet certain performance criteria, say hunger, get the biggest or best slices. All the slices are distributed based on predefined tiers, and individuals in certain tiers get bigger or better slices.


The group is divided into separate tables by geographic area. Each table gets their own section of pie to distribute among their sub-group.

Pull-Based Lead Distribution

pull based lead distro systems

Pull-based methods enable sales reps to take on new leads at their own pace. Because leads aren’t auto-assigned, it’s up to sales reps to work quickly and efficiently.

Cherry Pick

Each person at the table picks their own slice of pie and eats at their own pace.

Blind Pull

The pie is divided into slices and then hidden from view. Each person at the table selects a slice at random.

Shark Tank

As soon as a slice of pie is cut, the slice is placed on the table for people to grab. The first person with a hand on the plate gets the slice.


The group is divided into separate tables based on predefined criteria. Each sub-group receives a section of the pie, and each member of that group has a chance to claim one or some of the available slices. The first person with a hand on the plate gets the slice.

Hybrid Distribution

hybrid lead distro systems

Hybrid distribution blends push- and pull-based methods. For example, if you have sales reps that handle both inbound and outbound leads, you might rely on push-based distribution for just inbound leads and use pull-based distribution for outbound leads

Using our pie analogy, people at the table experience the pie in two ways. They get to choose some of their slices, while other slices are given to them.

Manual Distribution

manual lead distro

If you have a new sales team or prefer to match reps to leads, you may decide to use manual lead distribution. Manually assigning leads gives you complete control over the pipeline.

Using our pie analogy, the host decides which slice each person gets, and each slice is given away as the pie is cut.

How Do You Choose the Best Lead Distribution Method for Your Team?

With all the options for implementing lead distribution, it may seem impossible to choose one. The “right” method, however, depends entirely on your organization’s goals, culture, and selling process.

We recommend starting the selection process by answering the question, do I want to optimize for speed or compatibility? Pull-based distribution methods like Shark Tank work to increase response time. Push-based distribution methods like Top Producer, on the other hand, help match reps and leads. You may even decide to test several methods or blend pull- and push-based methods.

Ultimately, the best method depends on what works for your team. The method you pick should allow your sales team to respond quickly and close deals effectively. Remember to keep on testing and automating as you scale. What works with two reps won’t necessarily work with 20.

How are you distributing your leads right now, and what lessons have you learned?

Image credits: jefferyw, steve snodgrass (2), NCDOTcommunications, Tilemahos Efthimiadis, Amanda Slater, Clive Darra

John-Henry Scherck

John-Henry Scherck is the owner of Growth Plays, a B2B content strategy and SEO consultancy based in Los Angeles. He works with founders, marketers, and investors to plan, build and refine growth marketing initiatives using a common sense approach.