How to improve Sales response times with content


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Credit: "Slow" by Andy Thompson. Licensed for reuse.
Credit: “Slow” by Andy Thompson. Licensed for reuse.

The average lead response time is too slow

A 2011 study by Harvard Business Review revealed that many firms are too slow to follow up on leads generated online.

The research publication audited 2,241 U.S. companies, measuring how long each took to respond to a web-generated test lead and found: “Although 37% responded to their lead within an hour, and 16% responded within one to 24 hours, 24% took more than 24 hours—and 23% of the companies never responded at all. The average response time, among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours.”

These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold—a phenomenon Harvard Business Review explored in a separate study, which involved 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the U.S. Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which HBR defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

It’s incredible. That’s how fast customers move. How fleeting the attention span is. How quickly demand is perishing.

Although these findings are well-known by experienced salespeople, it hasn’t necessarily led to better behavior.

A more recent piece of research was conducted by Salesforce at Dreamforce 2013, polled over 5,000 companies that were in attendance to find out how quickly their salespeople responded to a submission through a web form. The exercise revealed that:

40% of the companies did not respond at all to the submitted inquiry
The median first call response time of all companies that responded to the inquiry by telephone was 4 hours and 8 minutes.
The average first call response time for the same group of companies was 40 hours and 56 minutes
Only 38 companies responded within the best practice time of 5 minutes

Response speed is key….

One of the pain-points surfaced by Salesforce’s study was poor process management when it came to distributing sales leads among sales reps based on geography and “fairness.”

Other reasons included the practice of retrieving leads from CRM systems’ databases daily rather than continuously; Sales focused on generating their own leads rather than reacting quickly to customer-driven signs of interest.

Part of responding to leads quickly is having the right tools to do so. Do you have a process in place to make sure leads are meted out quickly and to the right sales rep?

…But so is relevance

Speed is critical, but a rapid call-back without context can be a disconcerting experience for customers. The best way to make that first conversation a positive one for the customer is to make it relevant. Make sure you have the analytics set-up to show you what pages a customer viewed before requesting a quote. If you use idio Sales Intelligence, you can view their interests in your CRM before you call them.

Not all leads are created equal – make sure you are not just scoring your leads based on their engagement, but grading them, too. Lead grading is the term for scoring the ‘fit’ of the individual prospect against an organization’s ‘ideal customer profile’. Lead grading is a helpful way to make sure the lead that is generated at least has all of the characteristics of a typical customer and is not just a “tire kicker”.

Get the right technology in place

The key to successfully converting a new lead – whether generated online or otherwise – is speed and relevancy.

Even if you have a sales force that is culturally and operationally geared towards a rapid response time, that is only a piece of the puzzle: CSO Insights found that 42% of sales reps feel they do not have the right information before making a sales call. Their research also found that nearly half of companies report that their sales reps need help figuring out which accounts to prioritize.

The right technology needs to be in place to support your Sales team. Technology that can not only generate a more qualified pipeline but also make sure your reps know what to say when that lead comes through. Your sales team doesn’t need to just act fast, they need to speak relevantly, too.

Jonny Rose
Idio makes buyer-centric marketing possible for global B2B enterprises. Idio’s Demand Orchestration platform uses Content Intelligence to predict the interests of every individual, and automatically deliver relevant 1:1 experiences across digital channels. Global leaders including Intel, Fitch Ratings, and AllianceBernstein trust Idio’s AI to maximize buyer engagement and pipeline, whilst automating marketing complexity.


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