Salesforce Lead Assignment Rules Best Practices and Tricks

By Stacy O’Leary

Salesforce Lead Assignment Rules are a numbered set of distribution rules that determine which owner a Lead record should be assigned (either a specific user or to a Salesforce Queue). They are generally used at the point in time when a Lead is created (typically by Web-to-lead or an integrated marketing automation platform like Pardot, Marketo, HubSpot). However, they also could be called again later on an existing Lead (by a user), or by a tool like Data Loader.

I confess: I love Salesforce Lead Assignment Rules almost as much as I love the Approval Process. A good set of Lead Assignment Rules will buy you endless friends in both sales and marketing, and will make your incoming data sparkle and look perfect (even if it is not!) In this guide, I’ll be talking about the initial Lead sort, upon creation.

Salesforce Lead Assignment Rule Example

Here’s a quick example:

  • Criteria #1: If State = California, assign to Stacy
  • Criteria #2: If Country = United Kingdom, assign to Ben
  • Criteria #3: If Country = France, assign to Lucy
  • Criteria #4: If Annual Revenue is greater than $500,000,000 USD, assign to “High Roller Queue”

Planning Lead Assignment Rules

Like everything else in Salesforce, the structure itself is relatively simple. A set of criteria are evaluated and then, an action takes place – but, what’s not simple is building these out properly. Let’s say our org gets 1,000 new Leads a month. That’s a lot of Leads, we want them to get routed to the right person!

Discovery: questions to ask

There are a lot of considerations to think about.

  • Where are the new Leads coming from? Marketo? HubSpot? Other integrated systems? Web forms? Are there any examples you look at? Make friends with the people who run these systems, you need to have a good relationship because you’re going to need their help.
  • What fields are populated on these newly created Leads? What fields are required? If it’s minimal, can you get more information? Generally, the more information you have, the easier it is to sort.
  • What if a Lead comes in from one of your Partners? What if a Lead comes in from one of your competitors? From one of your employees? Are there any kinds of Leads that should never be distributed out to your team, like students or media inquiries? (Remember – ANYONE with access to the internet can fill out your form! They do not have to be a legitimate prospect!)
  • Who is covering what territories? Do you have any territories that don’t have a sales rep yet? Do all new Leads have enough data to determine territories?
  • What about the Leads that don’t meet any criteria at all? Where will they go? Who will work them?

I know that’s a lot of information to think about, but it’s important to have these answers. This way you can cover every incoming Lead scenario and reduce the amount of bad data your sales reps, BDR’s, or SDR’s are sifting through. You’ll need to sit down with both sales and marketing teams to be able to answer these questions. But, the good news is that they’re generally pretty receptive to this kind of project. Everybody wants to have good data!

Refining the requirements

Now, let’s say we’ve done that. We’ve had our meetings with marketing and sales. After our meetings, we know that:

  • Our new Leads, almost always, come from Marketo . They could come from a Marketo form, or a list imported from a trade show, but Marketo is the system that pushes them to Salesforce. If a person creates their own Lead, we do not want to take it away from them.
  • We always have: first name, last name, lead source, email, company, state and country. We sometimes have # of Employees, but that’s pretty much all we know about them at the moment of creation.
  • Any Lead that comes in from a Partner should be directed to our channel team. We don’t want to market to competitors, employees, or students.
  • We have a territory plan defined by Sales, and we’d also like to separate prospects for the UK and France, though we do not have a sales rep for those areas yet.
  • If something comes in that we cannot otherwise sort, let’s put it in a holding place and let marketing send out generic nurture emails. If a person in this holding place takes interest, we can always give it to the sales team later.

We’ll also need to take a look at the territory plan from Sales.

Western USEastern US + CanadaUK + France
# of Employees <5,000Joe CavillMaeve EastonTo Be Determined
# of Employees >=5,000Jessica HarrisDylan WolfeTo Be Determined

That’s it! We have a good idea of where the Leads are coming from, what they will look like and where they should go. Now is the time to create a few Queues (Queues are just ‘buckets’ that can own a record, rather than a person.) In this example, we’ll need queues for:

  • Partners (any Lead that comes in from a Partner company)
  • Disqualified (any Lead that comes in from a competitor, is an employee, or is a student)
  • UK + France (any Lead where Country = United Kingdom, or France)
  • Unsorted (any Lead that does not meet any criteria)

Creating Lead Assignment Criteria

Now that we know ‘what goes where, we have to figure out what order to put these in. Lead Assignment Criteria are going to be evaluated in the order they appear, so it’s critically important to get it right.

Leads that shouldn’t be distributed

Criteria #1 should be the criteria that catch anything that shouldn’t be distributed out to the team at all. In this example, it is our competitors, employees and students.

Next Criteria

Criteria #2 should be the next strictest criteria. In this example, we know that Partners should be given directly to the partner team, so we’ll handle those second.

After you’ve sorted out the stuff you know you don’t need, you can begin distributing the good Leads out to your team. You can evaluate any field on the Lead, so make sure you know which fields are being filled out.

Continue creating your criteria in order of importance. It might help you to do this in excel first, so that you can rearrange the order.

The Final Empty Criteria

Finally, add empty criteria and assign those to an Unsorted Leads queue. (You can periodically run a report to review these Leads to find areas of improvement for your Lead Assignment Rules.)

It sounds pretty simple, right? The hardest part is outside of Salesforce: figuring out where they come from and where they’re going.

Activate the Lead Assignment Rules

Once your rules are created, you can Activate them, and all Leads going forward that meet the criteria to be sorted, will be distributed out to Users or Queue.

There are a few items to consider:

  1. Leads can only be sorted by a field value at the moment it was sorted.
  2. The Lead Router does not auto-convert Leads to Contacts
  3. You cannot deactivate a User license if that person is part of the Lead Assignment Rules (even if the Lead Assignment Rules have been deactivated.)
  4. Create a report for yourself, for that last criteria – Leads that are unsorted. This way you can review them periodically and see if there’s enough volume to justify sorting them in a certain way.

Do you have any tips or tricks for working with Lead Assignment Rules? Let us know in the comments below!

The Author

Stacy O'Leary

Stacy is a 5x Certified Salesforce Consultant & Full Time Mom.


    Harsh Pandya
    August 02, 2021 7:48 pm
    Super helpful! My current employer uses Marketo to create and also assign leads, but I am wanting to shift the lead assignment portion over to SFDC. There has been hesitation due to potentially losing copious amounts of activity history that Marketo tracks, where SFDC lacks in tracking.
    Anita Ubby
    April 04, 2022 8:59 pm
    Hi, what is best alternative to creating lead assignment when we need to determine where the head office is located. Currently using Zoominfo Matched account but a lot of fields end up blank, thereby we are not able to assign leads to reps.
    Nelson Rioux
    April 08, 2022 1:17 pm
    For those who use Pardot, a prospect has to be assigned to a "Assigned User" to allow them to sync to Salesforce. Doing this, it bypasses the Salesforce Lead Assignment rule. To overcome this, the trick is to specify "Assign prospect via Salesforce active assignment rule" in form completion action or in the prospect record.
    April 22, 2022 4:31 pm
    Hello guys! Can you provide an example of how the final empty criteria would look like? Thanks!
    July 08, 2022 7:05 am
    In Lead Assignment how do we skip inactive users ??
    Markus Keller
    November 14, 2023 8:35 am
    A real best practice if you have a lot of rules is to use formulas instead of criteria. This way, you can add a comment to each rule. This makes it way easier to maintain! Simple Example: ---Rule 1--- /* Marketo Leads — France */ AND( CreatedBy.Name = 'Marketo Integration User', Country = 'France' ) ---Rule 2--- /* Other Leads — France */ Country = 'France' (also, my last rule is always just "true" - this is really catching everything else)
    Pierre D.
    November 15, 2023 2:37 pm
    Thanks for the great article, but here's a twist: my client wants the lead assignment emails to all come from the same email address. A workflow email alert allows the "From Email Address" to be an org-wide email address, but for the lead assignment email there's no such setting, so it appears to come from the user who created the lead. Any thoughts?

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