In a world full of noise, time is becoming one of the most valuable resources at our disposal, and this is particularly true for agencies and media companies that are selling to local businesses. It's time to become the Barry Allen of lead response time.

Studies have shown that if you aren’t getting in contact with your prospects within 5 minutes of them submitting a demo, or requesting additional information—you are running an exponential risk of losing that prospect. With the high costs of paid advertising, and the ever increasing competition in the digital landscape, you literally can’t afford to waste another moment.

Below we’ll cover why lead response time is so damn critical and the data backed strategies that you can implement to reduce your lead response times, and improve conversions.

Setting the Scene

Let me set the scene for you.

Your name is Taylor (or maybe not), you have 2 dogs, one cat, and a mother who loves you very much. It’s a pretty regular Saturday afternoon, and you’re just itching to get downtown and grab yourself some new shoes. And it gets better, you know exactly what you need—a pair of navy blue Adidas boosts.

Now, you walk into a shoe store downtown and out of the corner of your eye, you catch a glimpse of those gorgeous (and overpriced) foot garnishes. You make your way over to the shelf and behold this shoe, surely a gift from the heavens. Now you just need to find your size, but there isn’t a staff member, echo, nor ghost in sight.

You wait a few minutes… Aaand still nothing. So, what do you do?

Let’s be brutally honest, this could be your best friend's shoe store, and you're still not going to wait all afternoon for a staff member to show up. No, you’re going to pop over to the shoe store that is right across the street and buy the very same shoes there.

This begs a question... Why should B2B online service be any different?

It shouldn’t. And that’s why speeding up your lead response time should be one of your primary objectives if you are an agency selling B2B.

Why Does Lead Response Time Matter?

Lead response time is quickly becoming the most powerful determiner of successful contact, conversions, and even bookings and closes for agencies operating in the B2B space. The longer you take to contact a lead after they request information or a demo, the less likely you are to close that deal.

We had a lead come in, and we were really busy, so we didn’t call them back immediately. We thought we’d get back to them in the afternoon. Well, afternoon came around, and we reached out to the lady who had submitted her information. She told us that someone had already come out to look at the house and that they already signed the contract with them. ​We saw how much the house was sold for, and the investors that beat us to the lead made $25,000 on that deal.​ You can imagine how strict we are on our response times now.

Shawn Breyer

Breyer Home Buyers

Here's what the data and experts say about why lead response time is a critical component B2B sales.

1. You Have 5 Minutes to Contact Leads

Lead Must Be Contacted in 5 Minutes or Less

This seems nearly impossible because it is for many organizations using their current processes, but the consequences are severe. And according to a study conducted by drift, only 7% of the surveyed companies are currently achieving an average lead response time of five minutes or less.

You want to be the first company to make first contact, and in more competitive industries you'll be lucky to be even the third caller if you wait five minutes or more to call.

Roy Harmon

Owner, Advertoscope

But, just how severe are those consequences?

2. 78% of Customers Buy From the First Responder

According to a study by Lead Connect, 78% of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first. That’s how severe the organizational consequences can be of taking a few extra minutes to make a cup of Joe before getting to those leads. So if you aren’t the first contact for your prospects and still make a sale, you must be working some kind of voodoo. If you’re anything like me, that’s a risk that just isn’t worth taking.

Many times, the first vendor to engage a prospect has the opportunity to shape their perspective for the entire duration of their project. By setting the bar high and shaping how they see ALL potential solutions - not just yours - you have the opportunity to build your value and truly emphasize your key differentiators. The first time they hear about a feature or a benefit, it's unique and impressive. You want that to be coming from you. The third or fourth time they hear it, it's old hat - and that makes it harder to stand out.

Leif Peters

Senior Account Executive, IntelliChief

3. Sales Conversions are 391% Higher in the First Minute

Lead Response Is Optimal at 1 Minute

According to Lead Connect, 391 is the percentage increase in sales conversions when inbound leads are contacted within the same minute that they submit a demo. This isn’t an increase in presentation bookings or anything like that, this is conversions. If your organization is able to make this a reality, you would join the top 1% of companies selling B2B, and enjoy the (conversion) fruits of your labour.

The fact is that the ideal time to contact a potential customer is exactly when he enters his phone number into the form. At this time, he is available and thinking about the seller's services. Added to that, if the response time is slow, the prospect often finds another supplier.

Karl Norman

Business Development Director, Lead Connect

Furthermore,

4. Longer Than 5 Minutes = an 80% Decrease in Lead Qualification

Eighty is the percentage decrease in the odds of qualifying your lead between 5 minute and 10 minute response times. I’m pretty sure that is what more math savvy people would call a very exponential decline…

Now you know that the opportunity costs are great if you aren’t the best lead-slinger in your industry. B2B is a complex space with so many variables that are outside of our control, which is why we must make every effort to control those that we can.

Fifty-five is the percentage of companies of the same survey that took 5+ days to respond to leads. Worse yet, of this 55%, 12% didn’t respond at all...

Remember, unless you’re Microsoft, you probably aren’t generating the majority of your inbound leads organically. And we know that paid advertising on various platforms is all kinds of expensive.

So how is it that anyone could let even a single one of these leads sit for an entire business week, or worse yet—slip away entirely?! It makes me wonder if 55% of the surveyed companies want to go bankrupt…

^this is the flash (the competition) running away with your money if you're one of the 55%.

P.S. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Most of this data originates from a major study that was conducted by the Harvard Business Review back in 2011. Normally, this would bring the credibility of a study into question; however, with the dramatic growth in business solution usage and the need for faster business transactions, these numbers only become more valid—and maybe even lack some degree of severity for 2018.

Moral of the story, if you want to stay competitive, you’re going to have to do way better.

[Study] Reducing Response Time Through Instant Demos

It all started with our company goals and direction for 2018, and one thing that kept coming up was the need to reduce lead response times.

To test the impact near-instant response time had on our sales funnel, we recently implemented an “instant demo” process for our inbound prospects. Lets see what that looked like.

Process

Like many companies in the B2B space, we were already utilizing a chat feature on our website to help trim some time in that funnel. This process allowed us to capitalize on more MQL’s by initiating that first (human-ish) touchpoint sooner. But, we thought that there was more that could be done.

So—we added an "Instant Response" website plug-in by CrankWheel to our web repertoire. CrankWheel is essentially a plug and play demo form that comes with the promise of near instant phone or video contact from a sales rep. These were our steps in implementation.

  1. Replacing existing demo forms. Our website guru Adam took the liberty of adding the plugin to most of the pages on our website for the duration of Vendasta office hours.
  2. Assigning a dedicated sales rep. Next, in collaboration with the sales department, we assigned one sales rep per week to be responsible for all “instant demo” requests coming through our website. This means that this rep would take all of the video or voice calls as they came in, and supplement spare time with work on existing accounts.
  3. Collaboration with marketing. The assigned sales rep would be in direct communication with the Demand Gen team in marketing so that accounts could be built for prospects in our sales database as calls came in.
  4. Watch the fireworks go off. As leads began to come in through our new plugin, we noticed that successful contact and booking numbers skyrocketed.

Results

Here are the results of our Instant Demo test to reduce response time:

The Affect of an Instant Demo on Lead Response Times

In only a few months, one of the most notable results was a near perfect contact success rate, in comparison with our overall average at 57%. We also witnessed a presentation booking rate at 57%—which more than doubles our overall average. Our close rate at 5% is the same as that of our organic BOFU leads, but we suspect that this number will grow over the coming months as more of these leads begin to move through our sales funnel.

While coming in contact with any qualified potential partner through Olark or CrankWheel, I've never had a single one skip out on a presentation opportunity. These leads are hot, and ready to buy. Once you've given them that opening to second guess their motif or direction they want to drive their organization, the likelihood of partnering is drastically reduced.

Danny Chagnon

Sales Development Rep, Vendasta Technologies

CrankWheel has been working quite well for us, but it isn’t the only tool that can help you cut down response times at your agency.

Try CrankWheel and our Instant Demos out today on the Vendasta Site!

Tools for Decreasing Lead Response Time

There are many tools available on the market to decrease your lead response time and improve your sales efficiency. Here are some of the best ones that you can add to your inbound arsenal.

1. Messenger Monitoring

A simple first step for your organization that doesn’t cost a penny would be actively monitoring the Facebook and Instagram direct messaging accounts for your business profiles. This is a form of lead interaction that allows you to readily answer questions for prospects and establish a touchpoint with minimal effort!

Facebook Messenger also allows users to take it one step further and  easily set up simple automated responses to frequently asked questions. This can act as a great way to stay on top of leads without having to implement any new tools. It also prevents the need for users to be sitting on their phone all day waiting for the next message to come through.

2. Live Chat Tools

Live Chat Tool for Reducing Lead Response Time

The best time to have that first conversation with a lead is not after they’ve submitted a form and left your website. It’s while they’re still on the page that they’re interested in. This is when they are the hottest, freshest, and most interested.

A live chat tool can serve as a great way to initiate that first point of contact, and begin the qualification process. What is faster than an instant messenger? Other than the flash, not much. It is also one of the best ways to mitigate the risk of losing a prospect to a competitor, or as the result of a slow response time.

Despite this knowledge, in a survey conducted by drift, only 14% of the 433 companies surveyed have live chat features enabled on their sites. This means that it is a great time to get an upper hand on your competitors and help to better drive conversions in your sales funnel.

Check out our marketplace and see how our Live Chat tool or our Website Chatbot tool can help you accomplish your prospecting goals.

3. Instant Contact Software

Software and plugins that let prospects on your website instantly connect with a sales or business representative will drive more conversions and bookings for your agency. These tools can ensure that you never break that 5 minute threshold with another prospect.

Stop doing what everybody else is failing at – scheduling meetings and delaying the customer from purchasing your products. By helping out in under a minute, you’re 21 times more likely to sell your product!

CrankWheel

CrankWheel was the tool that we integrated in our case study at Vendasta. This WordPress plugin comes with CRM integration through Zapier, or directly through Salesforce so that you can easily add it to your sales funnel.

Get an Instant Demo at Vendasta

Don’t give your prospects the time to explore other options when you already have everything they need.

4. Email Automation

Every business and media company that is selling B2B has to have email automation—no exceptions. After your prospects have done some investigation on your website, maybe chatted with someone on an instant messaging app, and submitted a demo, this should always trigger an instant email response.

Emails aren’t going to land you a prospect, but they might buy you a few minutes of loyalty before your sales reps can get in touch over the phone.

Vendasta Email Automation for Lead Responses

See how our B2B Marketing Automation Software can help you take your email strategy to the next level.

The Strategy for Decreasing Lead Response Time

Even if you have all of the right tools, you are still going to need a bulletproof strategy if you want to slash your inbound lead response times. Here are your steps:

1. Align Sales and Marketing

Align Sales and Marketing for Better Lead Response

The closer the coordination and collaboration between the sales and marketing departments within your agency, the more efficient your team is going to be at navigating the sales funnel. This can make it easier to define and understand roles, and also ensure that the transition from a digital lead to a personal connection is seamless.

There is nothing more damaging to a sales funnel than sales and marketing teams operating in silos, or even as rivals. The goal is the same, and sales success is marketing success (and vice-versa), so don’t forget that.

Here are some tactics to better align your teams:

  1. Shared workspaces. By putting sales and marketing right in the same room, you can open lines of communication that aren't available through messaging apps. This can also help to build a stronger bond and sense of cohesiveness between teams.
  2. Instant messaging. Much like with prospects, by using apps like Slack, you can create groups and communicate instantly even if you are unable to be in the same workspace as each other.
  3. Job shadowing. Nothing can build a better sense of appreciation for the work that others do like actually being put in their shoes. Don’t be afraid to take a day to give your team members a bit better perspective.
  4. Team bonding. Whether it be through team meetings (we do Master Sales Training, and Distribution Lunch & Learns at Vendasta), or after hour “meetings”—because a beer with your team isn’t going to hurt anyone.

2. Have a Bulletproof Lead Qualification Process

Lead Qualification Best Practices

Qualifying leads before they are passed along to a sales representative can be one of the greatest assets to your agency. Having consistent parameters set speeds up the qualification process for marketers and prevents sales reps from wasting valuable time on dead-end calls.

Time is money in this crazy industry, so the more efficiently your sales and marketing teams can qualify leads, the less time that is wasted creeping LinkedIn profiles and calling prospects that aren’t a fit.

Depending on your ideal clients, your qualification process will vary, but having detailed buyer personas in pace can help you better guide lead selection and qualification.

See how you can build your own personas here:

Related Reading: [Worksheet] Build Your Own Buyer Persona: What, Why and How

3. Use the Tools Available

Have the Right Tools for Reducing Lead Response Time

As examined above, chatbots, live messaging tools, instant demos, and email automation should all be pieces of your sales puzzle if you want to take the upper hand on your competition and get those prospects while they’re still boiling hot.

Time is invaluable when doing business in the B2B space, so make sure that you don’t waste another second by not leveraging the technology at your disposal.

P.S. I can tell you right now that it doesn’t take very long to find a competitor in most businesses verticals, and if they answer first, you just lost a possible sale.

4. Have a Prospect Grading Process

There is only so much time in each business day, and if your sales reps are unable to easily determine which prospects are the highest value to your organization, the result can be poorly allocated resources and lost prospects. The answer? It can be as simple as assigning a letter grade to each prospect in the qualification process (A, B, C, D, E, etc), or there are pipeline management tools that you can implement to provide more sophisticated and automated grading info.

Regardless of your choice, the grading process allows your sales and marketing teams to focus on the highest value leads. We like to call them hot leads, but you can call them spicy leads, molten leads, tangy leads—or whatever else floats your boat.

See how you can start to streamline your prospecting today with our Pipeline Management Tools, complete with a built in lead hotness rating.

Prospect Grading Software with Vendasta

Related Reading: Sales Leads Management: Become the Pipeline Plumber


Oh, and one last thing—remember that your sales team has to be hungry. This industry is just too competitive for anything short of killers. You can take all of the right steps on the marketing end of the funnel, but you have to make sure that you have the best of the best picking up those phones day in and day out.

A Glimpse into the Future

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, automation. I know, I said everyone’s favorite buzzwords…

These advancements are going to revolutionize the way that business is conducted, that is certain. For marketing agencies and media companies, one of the greatest changes will be in the way that sales funnels become automated. Here is where we are headed:

Jane Smith just finished a conversation on your live messenger on your website, and she decides to click on your new instant demo form so that she can get in contact with a sales representative. This triggers an instant email response to Jane notifying her that John Doe will be her agent, and will be in touch shortly. Four thousand miles away, John Doe is notified that Jane Smith is interested in learning more about his SEO products. John calls Jane 30 seconds later regarding the products and services he can offer her, and everyone lives happily ever after.

The Future of Lead Responses

In the meantime, there is usually a little work involved in between these steps. Your agency might not have robots (yet), but you probably have some damn talented marketers—which are basically the next best thing, am I right?

Conclusion

If you are an agency or media company that is selling B2B, decreasing your response time should be one of your primary objectives for 2018, no matter what. Just remember these steps:

  1. Align Sales and Marketing
  2. Have a Bulletproof Qualification Process
  3. Use the Tools Available
  4. Have a Prospect Grading Process

So we’ve been doing a lot of talking (and hopefully you’ve been doing a lot of reading), but one question still remains… Does Vendasta contact leads in 5 minutes or less?

Well amigo, there’s only one way to find out.

Give that demo banner below a click and we’ll show you not only how fast we can get in touch, but also give you the rundown on any number of our great products and services that can help you speed up your response time, bring your clients greater value, and build a relationship that is stickier than your favorite Canadian maple syrup.