5 Tips for Improving Your Speed to Lead Response Time

by Sol Jakubowicz

5 Tips for Improving Your Speed to Lead Response Time

Companies are investing billions of dollars on digital marketing.  Thanks to COVID in 2020, online activity leaped by gigantic leaps and bounds.  We – even the technology laggards among us – realized that everything can be done online.  Searching, researching, and shopping for every product or service became a foundation of our lives.  In response, most companies adopted a digital-first go-to-market (GTM) strategy. In the US, B2B digital ad spend increased by over 22% in 2020 to over $8 Billion, according to emarketer.  In 2021, B2B ad spend hit over $9 Billion.

Besides the ad spend, companies are also extremely aggressive in all other activities that support the ad, such as graphic design of the ads, strategic planning, and campaign management with all that it entails.  What is absolutely shocking is that after expending all that effort and cost, many companies are leaving the money on the table by not responding to leads in a timely manner.  Companies are ignoring perhaps the single most important metric of the whole sales process: the Speed to Lead.

What is Speed to Lead

Speed to Lead is the lead response time – how long it takes a company to follow up with a contact who has identified themselves as interested by downloading content, filling out a form, or answering a call to action.  The response time can be measured in minutes, hours, or days.

Speed to Lead Statistics

Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 2241 companies in the US, measuring their response time to leads generated online.  The survey found:

·        37% responded within an hour

·        16% responded within 1 to 24 hours

·        24% responded in more than 24 hours

·        23% of the companies never responded at all

·        The overall average response time, among companies that responded within 30 days, was 42 hours.

Chilipiper.com provides the following industry benchmarks:

  • Healthcare: 2 hours and 5 minutes

  • Telecommunications: 16 minutes

  • Small Companies (1-300 employees): 48 minutes

  • Medium Companies (301-2500 employees): 1 hour and 38 minutes

  • Large companies (2501+ employees): 1 hour and 28 minutes

Does Lead Response Time Make A Difference? 

The answer is obviously yes, but how much of a difference is shocking. There are many statistics about this.  Specifics vary, but the message is clear: Responding to a potential lead immediately or within 5 mins is exponentially more effective than taking anything longer.

According to LeanData:

·  You are 7x more likely to qualify a lead when reaching out within an hour as opposed to just one hour later (Harvard Business Review)

·  You are 100 times more likely to connect with a prospect when you make initial contact within five minutes as compared to if just one hour has elapsed.

·  You are 21 times more likely to convert a lead into an opportunity when responding in five minutes or less as opposed to having just one hour elapsed. 

According to Xoombi:

·  Lead conversions are 391% higher if you call within 1 minute of an online inquiry.

Why does Speed to Lead Make Such a Difference?

The obvious explanation is that by responding to users in real time, you can be speaking to them while “they are in the moment”.  This is the time – be it 2 am or 2 pm – that for whatever reason they were inspired to do the search, and respond to some type of call to action.  Speaking to them while they are in this mode is of utmost importance.

However, there is a more technical reason that explains the huge advantage to responding right away.  Users, while in their moment of search, will not stop searching after submitting a form. They will search for other options.  Having said that, consider this:

78 percent of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first (Lead Connect)

Remember this statistic as it is the key principle in improving Speed to Lead.

What Prevents Companies From Quick Response Times to Leads?

With all the indisputable evidence about the benefits of fast response times, why are companies still so slow at responding?  One would think that when faced with the benefits, companies would stop at nothing to implement faster lead response processes.  The reasons that stop them are different for smaller companies and larger companies.

Smaller companies often do not have the lead closing infrastructure in place to handle leads effectively.  There is usually only one or a handful of sales people available who are equipped to respond.  As responding to leads may not be a full time workload, this task is given to the people who are otherwise fully engaged with other tasks.  When calls come in, they are not always available to respond immediately or within 5 minutes.  Within a small team of responders, small companies also do not have the technology to route leads to the right person in real time.  Finally, due to the fact that there is only a small number of people for the task, they cannot be available 24/7, and often need to respond to leads at a much later time frame.

Larger companies can have the same challenges articulated above. However, there are other levels of complexity in handling their leads.  Most large companies are marketing a variety of products in a variety of verticals for a variety of target audiences.  Leads that are generated need to go through a filtering process potentially a few levels of human review before they get assigned to the correct agents. 

In far too many cases, for small, medium and large companies, the main obstacle to improving response time is failure to recognize the disadvantage and not appreciating that improving the process can be achieved with an investment that will yield extremely high returns.

What Are Obstacles to Improving Speed to Lead?

Each company will need to carefully assess their current process for responding to leads and why the process is not responding fast enough. Different industries will have unique nuances making it imperative to carefully consider implementing the tips that work best. 

By far the biggest obstacle to contacting leads is getting in touch with them in the first place. Here are the most common reasons:

  1. Speed to Lead - The initial contact with the user takes too long and the user has moved on from their search. 

  2. Calls not answered due to a non-identified caller ID - Even when companies call users immediately, they are hesitant to answer an incoming call from an unidentified number.

  3. Calls not answered due to user availability - The user is no longer available to respond - for various reasons.  

  4. Calls not answered due to user readiness - The user is not able to speak freely and is unwilling to answer the call.  For example, in the case of an inquiry to a cosmetic surgeon, divorce lawyer or an addiction clinic, the user may not be in a position to have a conversation - or even acknowledge that they initiated a reach-out.  

Overcoming these obstacles are the most critical factors to overcome in improving lead closing.

How to Improve Speed to Lead?

The following tactics will increase your Speed to Lead, increase your ability to convert leads into opportunity and ultimately increase revenue.

1. Use Click To Call buttons. 

Click to Call buttons can be implemented on ads on mobile devices. Once the user is interested, all they need to do is click – and the call will be put through.  Interested users will be speaking to your company within seconds.   The challenge to properly implementing this is having the team in place to respond to calls in real time.  This solution may seem obvious, but I am still shocked at how many companies are not using it, or are hesitant to use it. 

Alternatively, many companies may be implementing this effectively, but are also running ads on desktop, or 24/7 – times when the team is not in place to respond to calls.  It behooves companies to do the math, and A/B test.  Are campaign conversion rates much higher when using click to call ads, when there is somebody there to take the calls? If so, and if you can’t improve the other campaigns, perhaps you should be putting more budget into these Click to call ads.  You may not want to lose those potential users who are searching at other hours, but why not spend your ad budget on campaigns that will be exponentially more effective?

This tactic will address: 

Speed to Lead (by initiating instantaneous user contact), 

Calls not answered due to unidentified numbers (as the user is calling you). 

Calls not answered due to user availability

Calls not answered due to user readiness

2. Provide Your Call Back Number

Experience has shown that most users will not answer calls from an unidentified number.   In the US, whether the caller ID is shown on incoming calls is dependent on the call receiver, and call initiators cannot control (or force) their business name to show alongside the number.  When a call comes in to a person, who has had no previous connection to your company, only the number will show.  This kills the call answer rate.  For a simple solution, the form and the CTA can inform users - we will call you back from phone #555-555-5555.  Please look out for our call.  

This tactic will address:

Calls not answered due to unidentified numbers (as the user is calling you). 

3. Use Preferred Call Back Times

When is the best time to call a user back?  Assuming a lead comes in at 7 pm and your team is not equipped to respond in real time, when is the best time to respond?

Some would say at 9 am the next morning – first chance in the next business day. Others may suggest to call back at the same time of day the inquiry was left.  This is a hint to the time of day the user is active online. 

Why not ask the user?  Implement a question on the contact form for a preferred call back time, with options such as:  Immediately, 9-12, 12-3, 3-5.   This takes the guesswork out of the process and gives the user the feeling that your company is already listening to them.  If they choose an immediate call back, they will not be surprised when the contact is made.  The challenge with this approach is actually responding at the requested time.  If you cannot commit to doing this, then don’t ask in the first place.

This tactic will address: 

Speed to Lead (providing instantaneous user contact if the user selects this option) 

Calls not answered due to user availability

4. Use Text Messaging

Many users may prefer to be contacted by text as opposed to a call.  For example if they are at work, on a bus, or any place where a conversation is difficult, they will simply not answer the incoming call.  With text, they can respond at their own pace, and without speaking.  In certain industries, this mode of instant contact with the user is more effective than calling. 

It is important to note that in most cases, a phone call with the user will eventually be required.  Text messaging should not be considered the be-all solution, rather it should be combined into a 1-2 punch with a phone call - at the right time.  

This tactic will address: 

Speed to Lead (if the message can be automated and respond immediately)

Calls not answered due to user readiness

5. Use an Instant Contact Automation Tool 

Using click to call is an awesome option, but it is only relevant for mobile users.  For desktop users there is another way forward - using an instant contact automation tool.  Within seconds of completing a form, the user receives a call  or a text from the tool informing that the call is being put through.  The tool then connects the user with the right agent - via a queue that your company controls-  in real time.  It also provides the agent with full oversight into the user - by providing tons of relevant data.  The agent will know everything they need to know before even speaking to the user.  Within seconds, the user is speaking to a representative of your company, without either of them needing to make a call.  Callingly and Calldrip are 2 excellent tools for this. 

This tactic will address:

Speed to Lead (by initiating instantaneous user contact), 

Calls not answered due to unidentified numbers (as the user is calling you). 

Calls not answered due to user availability

Calls not answered due to user readiness

Bonus Tip - Provide a Download

Providing a downloadable, with actual useful information has proved to be an extremely successful strategy for Sunhouse Marketing.  The downloadable should be clearly addressing the information the user is searching for.  In Google’s language it should be addressing user intent.  Imagine that a user clicks a CTA to download the material.  In most cases the material will be viewed, and assuming it is compelling, it will keep the attention of the user for a few minutes.  You have now temporarily paused the user’s need to look elsewhere for a solution.  Imagine further that a rep from your company is able to contact the user, while they are still viewing the material.  When this is executed correctly, the results are phenomenal. 

This tactic will address: 

Speed to Lead (by initiating instantaneous user contact), 

Calls not answered due to user availability

Calls not answered due to user readiness

Speed to Lead Summary

Put simply, a quick response to a lead inquiry does one thing:  It lets the user feel that they have been heard and help is on the way.  If this feeling is accomplished, the user will not need to contact any other companies and your company will be the main option in the user's eyes. After this initial contact is made, the lead closing dance can continue - but that first step of creating the relationship has been accomplished.  More of your leads will become opportunities.  Opportunities become revenue.  In reality, the name of the game should not be “Lead Generation”. It should be “Revenue Generation”.  

Put another way, by responding to leads in a more effective manner, you will increase revenue and profits- without an increase in ad spend or budget.  You will be capturing revenue that was always there in potential and turning it into reality.   

Sol Jakubowicz

CEO at SunHouse Marketing

Co-founder of SunHouse Marketing, a digital marketing consulting company with a strong focus on Lead Generation.  Our leading-edge lead gen processes focus on the main goal of our clients: Revenue Generation.