Lionel Messi is arguably (or inarguably, depending on who you ask) the best soccer player in the world. At 28, he's scored more goals than any other player in history. He's a fantastic scorer-easily the most valuable independent asset to every team he plays on. Now, imagine the outcry if Messi was told to play goalie in his next match.

The way you structure a team matters. Sometimes, the way teams are distributed matters more than each person's raw ability. If someone doesn't ever get "the ball" (a good lead), he or she will never be able to score. That's why lead assignment is so important. The minute opportunities come in, they present sales leaders with a choice: which rep should get each prospect and why. The way managers choose to distribute opportunities is the grown-up version of kids picking teams at recess-they're choosing the people they think represent their best bet of ensuring success.

Most managers have better things to do than sit around evaluating and assigning every individual opportunity, so instead they establish a process to govern how opportunities are distributed. Once the process is set, that's when prescriptive sales solutions come in. They automate the established process so that all managers have to worry about is analyzing the results and adjusting their teams.

In my last article, I wrote about what prescriptive solutions are and why they are important. Now, it's time to talk about how they can affect real change at your organization.

Strategic Distribution Models

When sales managers consider opportunity distribution models, they have several options. Many sales organizations (roughly 12 percent, according to Bridge Group, Inc.) still use the "round robin" approach, which means that leads are handed out like cards regardless of availability or skill set. There is a clear disadvantage to this approach because it doesn't take into account salespeople's specific strengths or availability to make a call right now depending on what's most important.

Yet if you're trying to follow up fast with a new hot prospect, round robin is an optimal distribution strategy. Going back to the soccer analogy, consider a soccer player ready to make a pass: if Messi isn't in scoring position but Luis Suarez is, the decision on where to send the ball is obvious.

In sales, if a hot new lead comes in you might not be able to wait around for the best rep to become available. (By that time your competitor will have contacted the lead, dramatically decreasing your chance of contacting and converting it.) In this instance, consider notifying all available reps and the first to "buzz in" wins the lead. By gamifying the process, you ensure fast follow up.

The second strategic distribution model recommends assigning leads based on merit and ability. Allowing salespeople to play to their strengths helps both individuals and the organization get ahead in the long term. This is called performance-based assignment, and it's been proven to be the most effective approach for driving conversions. In fact, performance-based opportunity assignment has been proven to increase conversion rates year-over-year by 111 percent.

Assigning leads based on accomplishment serves the dual purpose of incentivizing high performance by rewarding good work and increasing the likelihood of closing a deal by putting the best leads in the best hands. Rewarding excellent salespeople with high-quality opportunities has proven to be a more effective motivation tool for salespeople than alternative systems like gamification, which tend to lose efficacy over time.

Once managers have found the model of lead distribution that works best for their business, they can implement prescriptive solutions in an instant. Prescriptive distribution platforms analyze each incoming opportunity, determine which rep is the most appropriate fit according to the established process, and assign the opportunity appropriately. Because there is transparency for the rep into the process from start to finish, there is never questions about who should follow up with which lead or why. The result is a streamlined sales organization that works like a well-tuned engine.

There's a reason for playground pick. When it comes to success, the people matter. Find a structure that works for your business, implement it, and watch what it does for your bottom line.