Are Your Competitors Beating You Out of the Gate? The Average B2B Lead Response Time

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As those of you who watched the Kentucky Derby a few weeks ago may know, the first horse out of the gate often has the advantage. At least, that’s what I hear; the only horse races I’ve ever attended are Charlottesville’s famed Foxfield Races—a spring event held in the hometown of my alma mater (The University of Virginia) at which students seldom actually witness any horses.

Who'S Goning To Win???

But I do know the idiom holds true when it comes to B2B sales: the first salesperson out of the gate usually wins the lead. A 2011 MIT study, in conjunction with InsideSales.com, found that sales reps were 100 times more likely to make contact with a lead if they called within five minutes of an online inquiry, as opposed to waiting 30 minutes. Likewise, lead qualification rates were 21 times greater when leads were called within 5 minutes. (Tweet this stat!)

So when we surveyed our business software vendors to ask how quickly they respond to leads, we were expecting nearly all of them would say that they contact leads within an hour. After all, that’s a full 55 minutes longer than the study suggests sales reps should call!

Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

As you can see in the chart below, over 1/3 of software vendors do respond to incoming leads in less than an hour. And more than half respond within 3 hours. But another third waits a full business day to call leads, and a shocking 7% waits a full week! (Tweet this stat)

How Quickly Do You Contact Web Leads

I’m sure the third of you who respond within a day thought you were doing pretty well. That is, until you saw that in those 24 hours, your prospect has likely already started conversations with your competitors.

If you’re in the latter half of the lead response time group, or if you’re simply looking to speed up your response time, here are three ways you can improve your average lead response time:

  1. Internal Notifications: Note that the graph above says “excluding autoresponders.” Autoresponder emails are a great way to ensure the prospect gets some form of communication from your company within minutes of submitting their request. However, autoresponders don’t replace a good, old-fashioned phone call. If you have the ability to send your prospects autoresponders, send your sales reps one, as well. Set up an internal email notification to let them know that a new inbound lead has come in, and it’s time to pick up the phone.
  2. Man the Phones: Have a dedicated rep “on duty” for inbound leads. If you have a pre-sales team or sales prospecting representatives, they’re ideal candidates for the task. Sometimes, your top sales team members have an important client call or are on-site doing a presentation, and they can’t drop everything to respond to an inbound lead. Dedicate someone for a few hours each day to personally follow up with each incoming lead. It will pay dividends in the long run.
  3. Auto-Assign Inbound Leads in Your CRM: In most of the B2B sales environments I’ve encountered, sales reps spend the majority of their day logged in to the company’s CRM system, knocking out their tasks scheduled for that day. It may easily be a few hours before they see that email notification you set up in Step 1 because they’re so busy logging activity in the CRM on another screen. Eliminate the risk for this situation by auto-assigning inbound leads for follow-up in your CRM to the appropriate rep. Even better— auto-score the most recent lead submissions higher in the queue so that a notification pops up and the lead moves to the top of the to-do list.

Curious, what do you do to ensure a fast follow-up time? Have you been able to make big improvements to your B2B lead response time?

Looking for software? Check out Capterra's list of the best software solutions.

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About the Author

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Katie Hollar

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Katie is the Director of Marketing at Capterra - a free resource that helps businesses find the right software. Her work has been published in VentureBeat, MarketingProfs, CustomerThink, and the Demand Gen Report, and she has been featured in CIO, AdAge, and Website Magazine. Katie has a love of all things marketing, but she is particularly fond of social media and marketing automation. She is a UVA grad (Wahoowa!) and in her free time enjoys reading, running, and cooking. Follow her on Twitter @khollar.

Comments

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Completely agree, we shouldn’t wait until a lead cools off. Today we have a wide set of tools helping to call a client back within seconds after he submits a “contact us” or “request a demo” form. Thus, you catch a hot lead while he is still browsing your website and remembers your brand and offer.

Yuliya
http://info.cloudcall.com/web-callback.html

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Completely agree, we shouldn’t wait until a lead cools off. Today we have a wide set of tools helping to call a client back within seconds after he submits a “contact us” or “request a demo” form. Thus, you catch a hot lead while he is still browsing your website and remembers your brand and offer.

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I agree with Katie and Blair, not all B2B leads should be contacted instantly. However if a prospect has requested a call back using a tool (such as the Lucep tool) they will expect to hear back from the business soon. This is vital as usually once they have requested a call back they will usually leave the site. Having someone from your company respond to them within 5 minutes (with the Lucep tool) helps your business get the relationship off to the best start. B2B is all about relationships and building them, so engaging when someone wants to be engaged is vital.

Zal Dastur
http://www.lucep.com

[…] to a survey conducted by Capterra, 34.51% of your peers are contacting their leads within an hour of […]

[…] But look at what your competition is doing. Image courtesy Capterra. […]

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Spot-on, Katie and Blair!

When one of our clients experienced the 5-minute response, her response was, “that’s not marketing … it’s stalking and harassment!” She says it would better to record and identify web visits, downloads, etc., and then watch for subsequent actions that indicate continuing/growing interest. When the contact overtly “raises their hand,” THAT”S the time to make the phone call.

BTW: one of the participating companies in the “5 minutes” study was a firm that makes and sells a 5-minute response system.

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Blair,

You make a good point- that’s something I should have clarified. This research refers to a sales-ready “lead.” If someone downloads a white paper or registers for a webinar, in my opinion, they should still be in marketing’s hands until they can be nurtured to fill out a “Talk to Sales” or “Request a Demo” type CTA. In those cases, email autoresponders and content marketing are absolutely a better route to go than calling the prospect within seconds.

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Not every web lead should be responded to right away, especially in B2B marketing. People who download a white paper or register to watch an on-demand webinar don’t want to be contacted seconds after filling out a form. It’s the “Contact Us” and “Request a Demo”-type forms that reps need to get on the phone quickly. If anyone is interested, I wrote an article about how to do it here: http://public.ifbyphone.com/general/how-marketers-can-convert-web-site-visitors-into-instant-phone-leads-for-sales/

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Great points about response time. Ideally, you want to be able to make first contact with people while they are still on your website, before they have gone to the next competitor. This means minutes and seconds, not hours.

In addition, it’s not just about first contact, it’s about closing a deal. How quickly can you create and deliver and get closure on a proposal? (This is where an online proposal generator like Mimiran comes in handy.)

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