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How Much Do Sales Lead Response Times Impact Close Rates?

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley

How long does it take your marketing agency or sales team to respond to a new lead? However long it is, it’s likely time to shorten it.

In March 2011, the Harvard Business Review audited response times of 2,241 companies to a web-generated test lead, and the results weren’t flattering:

  • Only 37% responded to their lead within an hour, and only 16% responded within the first day.
  • 24% of the companies audited took more than 24 hours to respond, and 23% of those sales teams never responded at all.
  • The average response time was 42 hours.

If someone walked into your office wanting to hire you, they wouldn’t still be standing there if you waited 42 hours to follow up. And in the world of smartphones and digital marketing, you have a lot less time than that.

Lead Response Management revealed your likelihood of closing a lead drops by 100 times after the first 5 minutes. Beyond that, things only get worse.

It’s pretty clear that when responding to leads, you have to be lightning fast. The good news is, that’s not only possible, it’s what top companies across industries are doing every day.

Here are some simple ways to respond to leads quicker so you can close more sales.


1. Pay Attention to Socials

You might not want to spend any more time than absolutely necessary on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. But the truth is, social media is still where your customers, loyal and prospective, are spending a big chunk of their time. And Ascend2 found that 69% of marketers surveyed relied on it as a primary lead source.

Do you have a presence on socials? Sure, you’re probably scheduling posts. But if people aren’t seeing you engage with comments and hearing from you when they reach out with a question, social media leads will fizzle out.

  • Keep a team member on social media platforms. You can manage many of them from single tools (like Hootsuite).
  • Respond to comments and reviews.
  • Affirm positive feedback and address negative feedback to the best of your ability.
  • Track contacts and the status of social media leads like you would any other lead source.

2. Answer the Phone – Seriously!

Yes, messaging and email is all the rage, but not everyone is sitting at their desk all day. People still call. People still text. When they do, answer it. A prompt responses to phone calls is courteous, professional, and respectful of their time. And beyond that, it gets results.

LeadConnect reported nearly 80% of people bought from whoever responded to their inquiries first. Answering that call or SMS as soon as it comes in is a lot more likely to make a difference to the bottom line than letting it go to voicemail.

  • Have someone monitoring calls and SMS, so responses go out as quickly as possible and no one gets left behind.

3. Make Lead Forms a Priority

When it comes to website architecture, your lead forms have one job: getting more leads. But if you’re letting lead form responses sit in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool all day, you’re losing time and money.

Completed lead forms should be treated like someone is standing in front of you, ready to buy. Get a team member to reach out in person, make a plan for the next steps, and follow up as soon as appropriate.

  • Make sure your CRM tools are set to alert you as soon as a form is completed, and make it someone’s job to respond to form leads right when they’re submitted.

4. Automate – But Keep Email Personal

Email automation is an amazing tool, because it can be an immediate introduction into your sales funnel for a potential client.

Scheduling emails to send when people take action on your website is one way to make sure no one falls through the cracks.

But your canned emails shouldn’t be the only contact someone has from you. Even with personalization on pre-planned emails, there’s nothing that can replace real contact from a real person.

  • According to Hubspot, 86% of professionals prefer email. When in doubt about how to follow up, sending an email is a good call.
  • Focus on the subject line. It’s what gets your emails opened, which is what will keep email leads hot (Source: Email Analytics).
  • Simplicity is key. Think of the emails you’re most likely to respond to and keep yours the same way: short and to the point.

5. Get to Know Referrals

If you’re committed to speeding up lead response time, your referral strategy should be a priority. Because it doesn’t get much better than referrals when it comes to qualified leads..

According to Extole, “Customers acquired through referrals have a 37% higher retention rate and 81% of consumers are more likely to engage with brands that have reward programs”. Numbers like that can’t be ignored, especially if they could be getting you better results right now.

  • Do you have a loyalty program?
  • What would it look like to start one?
  • What are you currently offering customers for referrals?
  • What are you offering referrals for their first purchase?

6. Use Live Chat (Responsibly)

79% of customers prefer live chat when researching brands online or on their smartphone. Live chat is definitely an asset when it comes to responding to leads on your app or website immediately. If the office is closed, you can set your chat support to answer FAQ and guide customers in the right direction.

But live chat is only as good as the team operating it. Don’t lean on it and expect leads to stay active without having a human engage with people.

  • During office hours, stay logged in to live chat. Keep team members on the platform until your posted closing time, so truly immediate response is possible.

Faster lead response time ultimately comes down to in-person monitoring and making connections. When you and your marketing team keep a trained eye on every marketing channel where you have a presence, it’s far easier to swoop in and respond in the nick of time.

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