Paid leads are expensive — and you don’t want them to go to waste. But delayed response times can send your lead ROI right down the drain.
Because here’s the thing: research shows that contacting a lead within the first minute increases conversions by a whopping 391%, and calling within the first 5 minutes is 21X more effective than calling after 30 minutes.
So how do you make sure you get those leads into the right hands right away?
Automatically routing leads to specific agents can help ensure that your agents are empowered to reach out to potential clients as quickly as possible, while also making sure that all leads are distributed fairly and strategically across the team.
In this article, we’ll cover several of the most effective lead routing strategies, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how brokers and team leaders can use lead distribution to motivate the team and hold agents accountable for their results.
Table of contents
- Does it really matter how leads are distributed to agents?
- Keep it impartial with round robin routing
- Route leads geographically by city or zip code
- Send high-price leads to high-performing agents
- Divvy leads by agent expertise
- Let agents call ‘Dibs!’ with first-to-claim distribution
- Drop distribution and opt for lead ponds
- Find the perfect fit by combining lead flow rules
Does it really matter how leads are distributed to agents?
Short answer: Yes, absolutely.
Distribution is a key part of your overall lead management strategy. As we’ve already pointed out, getting leads into the right hands as quickly as possible can improve your team’s response speed and help them increase conversions.
Connecting with a lead promptly is a great way to demonstrate how organized, professional, and easy-to-contact you are compared to the competition — a big win for your brand.
But that’s only part of it.
How you choose to distribute leads can have a significant impact on your agents’ morale and motivation. It can encourage healthy competition and boost their odds of success… or it could lead to overwhelm, frustration, and even feelings of unfairness.
It’s not a question of which strategy is superior — none of them is inherently right or wrong. But by understanding how each lead routing approach works, you can find the best solution for your team’s culture and talents.
Keep your lead distribution system impartial with round robin routing
Fairness and equality are vital to building and maintaining team morale — which is why round robin is such a popular approach to lead distribution.
How It Works: With a round robin approach, leads get distributed evenly among all agents. The system sends each new lead to the next person in line, always in the same sequential order.
The Plus Side: Round robin is typically seen as the most equitable lead distribution method. It’s easy for team members to understand and it doesn’t play favorites, which means you can avoid a lot of potential conflict over leads.
Of all distribution methods, round robin is also one of the simplest to implement.
The Downside: Although it’s inherently unbiased, the ‘luck of the draw’ may not always deal the same quality of leads equally among all agents, even if the quantity is fair. This could potentially create some frustration for agents who may feel they’ve gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to lead quality.
Round robin can also get tricky when a member of your team goes out of town. Unless you’re quick to immediately reroute those leads, any leads sent to that agent may go cold by the time the agent gets back from vacation.
Another thing to consider? Round robin doesn’t account for an agent’s experience, expertise, or performance. That means your newest agents could end up with a big-ticket lead — hope they’re ready for it!
- Teams with agents who have similar experience levels
- Groups of agents performing at a similar level
- Building a supportive, unified culture
Route leads geographically by city or zip code
There are many reasons you may want to distribute leads geographically. For the Robert Slack team, it’s a matter of necessity: With 600 agents serving the entire state of Florida and 25,000 new leads coming in every month, round robin isn’t an option. Instead, they distribute leads by zip code.
How It Works: Geographic distribution allows you to route leads to specific agents based on the city, state, or zip code of the lead.
The Plus Side: Allowing agents to focus on a specific region can enable them to develop a higher level of expertise about the area and deliver an even better experience for clients.
It may also help agents maximize their time in the field if a majority of their clients are within a certain area.
The Downside: The amount of opportunity in individual cities or zip codes can vary widely — whether it’s the price point of properties in each area, shifting patterns of growth and development, or other factors. This can make it a challenge to distribute leads evenly among agents.
- Turning agents into neighborhood experts
- Serving a broad geographic area
- Focusing on paid lead conversion
Send high-price leads to high-performing agents
When a big opportunity is on the line, you probably don’t want to throw a novice agent at it. Instead, you want a seasoned agent who can deliver the experience and results a high-value client expects.
How It Works: Designate certain price ranges to specific agents or groups of agents and give the high price point clients to your high performers.
The Plus Side: Using this approach can help ensure that the best leads are in the most qualified hands — and are then more likely to become a closed transaction.
It can also be an excellent incentive to get agents to perform at a higher level so that they can earn bigger, better leads.
The Downside: Not all agents will see this as a “fair” distribution method (even if it helps optimize conversions for the team as a whole). As a result, it can quickly become a defeating experience for newer or underperforming agents who only receive leads with a lower price point.
🔥 Tip: Use data-driven performance standards to keep this approach as fair as possible. Using a leaderboard can make performance visual and encourage friendly competition.
- Addressing a broad range of experience levels
- Working toward an overall team revenue goal
- Teams with agents who specialize in luxury properties
Divvy leads by agent expertise
If your team includes agents who work with buyers or sellers exclusively, you may want to route leads directly based on their specialization.
How It Works: Distribute leads to particular agents based on the MLS number or phone number associated with the lead.
The Plus Side: By setting up phone or MLS number distribution, you can connect them to the right person with the right expertise more efficiently and ensure quick follow up.
🔥 Tip: Using dedicated company numbers can help with more than just inbound call routing — they can also make it easier to track your results and marketing ROI.
The Downside: It’s not always an exact science. For example, a potential buyer may call a phone number from a “Sell Your Home Fast” billboard and get routed to a listing agent. This creates extra work for the agent who has to re-route the inquiry to a buyer’s agent and may add friction to the client journey.
It’s also worth noting that not all lead providers include an MLS number by default. You may need a custom integration with your CRM to access that information.
- Specialized buyer’s and seller’s agents
- Teams with diverse marketing strategies
Let agents call ‘Dibs!’ with first-to-claim distribution
There’s a reason some folks call this method the ‘shark tank’ — it’s all about increasing competitiveness among your team and rewarding the hungriest agents.
How It Works: When a new lead comes in, everyone gets an alert via mobile or email. The first person to claim it gets it.
The Plus Side: If you want to boost healthy competition among your team, first-to-claim distribution can help your agents get their heads in the game and prime them for prompt follow up.
The Downside: While the goal of this approach is to light a fire in each of your agents, it may have the opposite effect for those who aren’t as quick on their feet — especially if new leads are few and far between or there are too many agents to compete with.
You could also get into a ‘lead hoarding’ situation where an agent has speedy fingers… but not enough bandwidth to handle all the leads on their plate.
- Smaller teams or groups of agents
- Short-term initiatives to boost morale
Ready to try first-to-claim? Here's how to set it up in Follow Up Boss!
Drop push distribution and opt for lead ponds
Many distribution methods push leads into agents’ hands, whether they’re ready for them or not. Eric Bramlett wanted to try a different approach, so he implemented lead ponds as a way to encourage his team to think of leads as “opportunities, not obligations.”
How It Works: Like first-to-claim, lead ponds allow agents to grab their own lead opportunities — but without the pressure and rush.
The Plus Side: Lead ponds ensure the most available and motivated agents get the lead first, which increases speed to lead.
It also allows agents to manage their own pipelines rather than automatically receiving new leads — you certainly don’t want to send a bunch of new leads to agents who aren’t keeping up with their current lead flow.
If an agent doesn’t have time for a lead they previously worked on, they can also release it to the pond for another team member to take over, maximizing the team’s overall efficiency.
The Downside: Because lead ponds require agents to proactively grab opportunities, it’s possible that leads could go cold before an agent chooses to claim it.
- Helping potential deals get the attention they deserve
- Prioritizing agents’ work/life balance and avoiding overwhelm
Find the perfect fit by combining lead flow rules
For many real estate teams, the right answer isn’t one lead routing strategy or another, but a combination of several approaches. Let’s look at a few ways you might combine multiple strategies to create custom rules for your team:
- Example 1: A large team is divided into several small groups and assigned to a particular territory. When a new lead comes in, agents in that zip code group get a first-to-claim alert and whoever grabs it first gets it.
- Example 2: New leads above $750k go to a small group of elite agents who get the first-to-claim alert. All other leads are distributed evenly among all agents via round robin. Any leads an agent can’t take on go into a lead pond.
- Example 3: Agent territories are determined by zip code and by price. In a given area, one agent works with properties below $500k and another works properties above that price point.
- Example 4: A team routes high price point seller leads to their rainmaker. Other buyer and seller leads are distributed via round robin to the remaining dual agents on the team.
In these examples, you can see how combining lead flow rules allows a team to create a customized solution that meets the unique needs of their team.
It’s also likely that your team’s needs will change over time. You may find that you need to adjust your approach a few times to find the perfect fit. Or maybe your team needs to build some momentum, so you switch from round robin to first-to-claim for a month.
Be prepared to change your lead routing rules as your team evolves. Because ultimately, the best strategy is the one that helps your team succeed.