Racing to Convert: Lead Response Times are Critical to a Successful Lead Qualification
I feel like everyone in sales and marketing are always talking about “generating leads” or “filling the top of the funnel” but very rarely are they looking inward to exam the strategy and process they have to execute. In fact, understanding the engagement flow of the lead can make or break a strategy of “filling the funnel with leads.” In a study conducted by Lead Response Management, they highlight that you have a 164% higher chance of qualifying the lead based on when you call that lead. WOW! That is not a number you want to ignore when looking at your own lead qualification process.
In a study conducted by ELEVATE, when contact is made within 5 minutes after a lead submission (contact-us form), the likelihood of a lead being converted is 100 times greater than if you reached out 30 minutes after their inquiry. In addition, ELEVATE states that a lead answered within 5 minutes is 21 times more likely to enter the sales process as an opportunity.
Here is my question: Do companies actually have the capacity to generate a model whereby there is a proper strategy and process to respond / nurture a contact 5 minutes post form fill or contact-us inquiry?
Back in the day, I managed a team of inside sales reps and I thought we had a pretty solid process and SLA put in place to manage the exchange and response to inquiries from prospects. I had a team whose responsibility it was to qualify the “scored” leads from contact-us inquiries or events (at the time digital was not a force it is today where we can score by digital engagement). We would rank based on who they were and give them an A/B/C/D label to assist the team in prioritizing call back efforts. This, in no way complies with the standard response times we have today in our digital eco-system. At the time, when we received inbound inquiries from “contact-us” forms, we had a 1 day SLA and we thought that was aggressive. It worked, resulting in a 30% marketing contribution to pipeline, but now I wonder how much better our contribution would have been if we responded within 5-30 minutes?
Nowadays people are at the ready to assist. You see this often when you are visiting a website and a pop-up window appears asking if you require additional assistance. This is how companies (particularly in the B2C world) are combating response times and shortening the sales cycle. Get the customer while they are engaged on your site. Some B2B companies are adopting this methodology but where the sales cycle and deal size become much greater how do you incorporate such a process into your overall engagement strategy?
Many larger B2B organizations are relying on external lead generation agencies to support this expedited engagement with the customer. Often you will see marketing taking ownership for response times with prospects and, as a result, turn to external agencies to make this happen.
The reality is, executive sales teams don’t want to, nor do they have the time to, engage at the beginning stages of a sales cycle where the prospect is really gathering information. In an ideal world, there is a workflow of engagement where the outsource team filters, by qualification, the leads that have meaning to those that don’t. And as research shows, in order to be very successful at filling the sales funnel you need to respond within 5 minutes to really drive marketing contribution.
More than ever, marketing teams are becoming quota bearing individuals whose performance is measured on how much contribution they have to the pipeline. So, if it were up to me as a marketing leader, I would invest much of my budget on the response time and qualification process then on pretty pictures and html emails. But hey, that’s just me.