Lead Assignment Guide: Salesforce and Round Robin

Assigning new accounts, leads, and other various tasks to sales representatives is the foundation of managing a fair business. With Salesforce, this usually involves round robin assignment. 

In this guide, we explore how to use Salesforce tools to implement a basic form of round robin assignment:

  • Lead Assignment Rules (LARs)
  • Process Builder
  • Apex
  • Flow
  • Sales engagement software
  • Syncari for round robin in Salesforce

But before you get started, think about your goals. How many leads do you have? How big is your sales team? How many leads can your team realistically accomplish in a short time?

Before we get into the ins and outs of conducting round robin in Salesforce, let’s discuss what round robin assignment is. 

[Related: How to create a lead scoring model]

What is round robin?

Round robin assignment is synonymous with round robin distribution. It works by assigning specific items to two or more people in order. That last part is important. 

Similar to a card game, the dealer (e.g., a person who assigns leads) gives a card (e.g., a lead) to a player. The dealer continues on assigning cards to the rest of the players (e.g., the team of sales reps). 

This method is great for evenly assigning a high number of “things” to a group of people. The key is that the number of things assigned is greater than the total number of people receiving assignments.

When it comes to distribution for RevOps teams, “cards” are leads, accounts, tasks, or opportunities. And because there are always new leads, the “card game” never really ends. There are always new leads, and controlling when new leads become available is out of your hands. 

This makes lead distribution an ongoing cycle.

[Related: Salesforce deduplication and beyond: How to dedupe leads across your stack]

Tools for round robin lead assignment are on the rise

If you search for “round robin lead assignment” you’ll be surprised how many of these tools are on the market. That’s because it’s not difficult for any tool that is a form builder or CRM widget to theoretically develop a logical cycle function to push leads to different sales reps. 

Part of the reason this is more important today than several years ago is the rise of companies relying on inbound leads, particularly free trials, to fuel sales teams’ efforts. 

The Product-Led Growth movement often refers to free trial signups that are then activated with consultative sales teams. This go-to-market model needs effective lead routing and assignment. 

Take Dooly for example, which has a huge free trial motion. It’s easy to sign up for the tool for free, and easy to see value quickly. But then Dooly needs to route these leads to sales representatives. Getting them alerts and notifications about signups and usage was too difficult to do, given the product data sat in Bigquery, and Hightouch was taking 8 months to set up.

Learn how Dooly was up and running with PLG lead management in three weeks with Syncari.

Beyond lead assignment: full lifecycle lead and contact management

It’s important to think past handing the lead to sales, to the full lifecycle of lead and contact management.

  1. Is it accurately attached to an account, if one exists already?
  2. What happens when it converts to an opportunity? 
  3. If the opportunity closes, how will Salesforce hand off to the billing/ERP tool?
  4. If the opportunity closes, how will success and support teams get the full information in their tools?

And if you could do all this with one tool, wouldn’t you want that instead of five?

But for now, let’s focus on common lead routing logic, and the various tools that support it.

Round robin and the modulo (MOD) operation

Using the MOD Salesforce formula operator is essentially dividing two numbers (the bigger by the smaller) and then ending up with a remainder (whatever is left over). 

For example, MOD(9,7) is 2 because 9 divided by 7 has a remainder of 2. Or in other words, 7 goes into 9 only once, and the number left over is 2. 

Another example, MOD(8,2) is 0 because 8 divided by 2 has no remainder (2 goes into 8 evenly, exactly 4 times). 

Whenever you use the MOD operation, you’ll always end up with a remainder of 0, 1, or 2. But what if you want to make sure each of your five Salesforce reps receives an equal number of new leads? Follow these steps:

  1. Record the names of each sales rep and assign them a number between 1 and 5.
  2. Take each new lead number (let’s say there are 12) and MOD it by 5. This gives you a remainder of 2. 
  3. Add 1 every time there’s a new lead to get a result between 1 and 5 (in this case, 2 + 1 = 3). 
  4. Use the resulting number between 1 and 5 (3, as stated above) to pick which sales rep gets the new lead. 

Because each new incoming lead is one higher than the next, adding one to your remainder allows you to pick a new sales rep each time a new lead comes in. 

1) Using Lead Assignment Rules (LARs) with round robin

Follow these steps to create round robin LARs in Salesforce

  1. Add an auto-number field to Lead. This counts every time there’s a new lead. 
  2. Add a formula field on Lead. This calculates a round robin ID. Your lead number is the MOD of the number of sales reps. Once you calculate a remainder, you add 1 to it.
  3. Hard-code LARs entries. The round robin ID is matched to a designated sales rep. 

Using this method in Salesforce for round robin is simple, automated, and built-in (although you still need a Salesforce license). But this method works for leads only. It’s also slightly difficult to manage because you have to update the round robin ID formula whenever new sales reps need to be added; permanently removed; or temporarily removed when someone takes PTO, maternity leave, or something else.

Moreover, when you add routing rules where leads are created but unassigned to a sales rep, your assignments become skewed. Sometimes reps have varying email addresses, so either they get skipped or possibly assigned twice when you assign a lead.

2) Round robin with Process Builder

Using Process Builder for round robin assignment is a flexible solution because you can apply it to any object (e.g., lead, task, hours, contact, account, opportunity). 

The main difference between using Process Builder and LARs is that the last step is more flexible because it isn’t specifically tied to a lead. 

However, the good sides are that it’s built-in, and you can assign more than just leads to sales reps based on the custom field you set. You can also change past versions you built. So if you need to make small tweaks, you can do so in Process Builder. 

But there are a few downsides, one of which is duplication. You’ll have to try to keep your assignment pattern consistent across every object you use round robin for. For example, this isn’t ideal if the pattern needs to be different for leads vs. contacts.

Another downside is that you have to manually edit the formula field when you want to change your list of reps, whether it be who the rep is or the number of reps. 

Additionally, Process Builder is slightly outdated. It’ll remain available for use but isn’t being improved. Salesforce actually announced that Flow is the future, which we’ll discuss a bit later. 

3) Round robin with Apex

Using the Apex programming language on the Salesforce platform, developers can build a custom logic. Round robin assignment using the Apex solution follows one of these approaches: 

  • Using a combination of formula fields to compute an auto-number value. The Apex version of the modulo operation (Math.mod) sparks a mode that uses a combination of varying formula fields. This combination computes an auto-number value. 
  • Using a set of custom objects that define “slots” in several round robin queues. While this approach is more complex, it allows you to fairly distribute the same type of object (let’s say a lead) to different groups based on any preferred routing.

Apex allows flexibility with round robin because you can assign any object with any logic. Your round robin can also coexist with other routing rules. For example, you can build routing rules to different user groups (or sales reps) without skewing the round robin. 

Additionally, you can test different versions of the round robin code and keep track of how they perform. 

The problem with Salesforce Apex for round robin

Using Apex for round robin typically requires a developer to write the code and maintain it. If this developer leaves, or has to hand off to a new team, this becomes difficult to maintain. Plus, Salesforce code solutions are typically difficult to support over time (especially if the original developer is no longer with your company). 

4) Round robin with Flow

Using Salesforce Flow provides nearly the same amount of flexibility that Apex does, as well as less code (as with Process Builder).

You can use Flow with a more complex routing logic because you can use it with separate groups of reps with different territories. It also automatically assigns a lead (or other object) to the rep who’s gone the longest without one. 

And admins can update Flow logic and change user lists without help from developers (a major plus). 

The problem with Salesforce Flow for round robin

Flow requires some custom objects to support it, and even some lead assignment rules in addition to the flow. Some admins might be uncomfortable with this. Additionally, because Flow is a custom solution, your team must maintain it. 

5) Round robin with sales engagement software

You can also do round robin assignments with tools you already own, such as Outreach, Salesloft, or something else. They have basic, built-in round robin capabilities, so you can carry out round robin using those platforms. 

However, the functionality is limited, and many operations leaders prefer to centralize their lead assignment rather than have multiple systems each perform round robin on their own. Additionally, if you no longer have your sales engagement product, you could lose any round robin assignment functions you had. 

[Related: A simple guide to lead routing for marketing and sales teams]

Using Syncari for Round Robin Lead Assignment

Syncari, a RevOps automation platform, can assist your round robin assignments in Salesforce. You can set up a flow for all new leads regardless of source – enrichment, demo requests, etc. And then centrally assign leads to your sales team via round robin or based on your business logic, whether segmentation by size or industry, territory or job function.

The biggest advantages to Salesforce round robin lead assignment in Syncari are the no-code, drag-and-drop builder, and the customizations you can make to the logic. You can also optimize your assignments based on the customer life cycle. 

If you’re interested in using Syncari for round robin in Salesforce, you can start a free 30-day trial, or request a custom demo.