Among its impacts, the global COVID-19 pandemic furthered the transition of most industries to a digital-first go-to-market (GTM) strategy, and as a result, in 2020 B2B companies in the United States increased their digital ad spend by 22.6 percent over their 2019 spend (eMarketer). In 2021, digital spend growth will slow to just 10.9 percent, but overall, total spend will exceed more than $9 billion for the first time.

Quite naturally, for all that investment, marketers seek a substantial return. According to Salesforce’s 2021 Marketing Intelligence Report: Data and Analytics Trends to Drive Future Growth, optimizing marketing spend is the number one top improvement marketers seek to make in 2021. 

There are two parts of that equation. First, there is the cost of acquiring leads – how can your business attract more quality leads for every dollar of Marketing investment. Although it varies by industry, the average cost per lead in 2020 was $198! The other side of the equation is the conversion of leads into opportunities and, eventually, closed/won deals. And, the key driver of B2B conversion comes down to speed, in particular your lead response time. 

What is lead response time?

Lead response time, or your “speed to lead,” is simply the total elapsed time between a person expressing interest in your business and the receipt of the earliest response from one of your sales representatives. Broken down to its components, lead response time can be expressed by the following equation: 

Lead Response Time = Lead Processing Time + Representative Response Time

 

Why lead response times are crucial

Fast lead times are not the only factor in successfully winning your customer. There’s no question that your lead response, all of your outreach efforts to your prospects, leads, contacts and accounts, has to be of high quality, and your products and services need to be value-added solutions to your customers. All of that should, of course, go without saying. It’s the ante into the game that is the ever-competitive global marketplace.

With quality lead response engagement and solutions being a given, the next sustainable competitive advantage lies in your lead response time. Consider the following:

  • 78 percent of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first (Lead Connect)
  • 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)
  • Only 7 percent of companies respond to leads within five minutes, while 55 percent of companies respond in five or more days (Drift)

That last statistic says a lot. A lead response time of just five minutes is a very high bar to reach. The good news is that most of your competitors are not there, at least not yet. But, rest assured, they are coming. For you, it’s important you get to that mark first.

Speed to lead statistics: The 5-minute rule

How important is a five-minute lead response time? A study by LeadResponseManagement.org uncovered two rather remarkable findings. First, it was found 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. Furthermore, 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 elapse. 

Speed to lead sets you up to win!

 

The importance of fast response times

Lead response time has become the most powerful influence of successful contact and conversion for companies in the B2B space. The longer you take to contact a lead after a request for information or a demo, the less likely you are to win the deal. 

In your personal life, when you walk into a store and don’t receive the assistance you require, how long do you typically wait until you walk out and seek a remedy elsewhere?

In the B2B space, where customers often seek solutions well over $50,000, why would we expect them to wait around longer than they would for apparel or home furnishings? A five-minute lead response time is the benchmark, but you’ll do better the lower your total response time – according to a Velocify survey, lead conversions are 391 percent higher when you call within a minute of an online inquiry. Those aren’t meetings scheduled, mind you, those are conversions.

So, as it costs you, on average, $198 to acquire a lead, you want to ensure it’s money well spent, and as a result fine-tune your processes to push your lead response time to a minimal level. But, how do you get started?

Strategies to improve your lead response times

The first step in optimizing your speed to lead is to determine your current lead response time. Align your Marketing and Sales teams around lead response time and survey your actual results, covering the complete gamut of the types of leads you acquire and by channel. Be careful not to fool yourself with averages. While the mean response time is important, so is the median, as well as lows and highs. 

After your assessment of current lead response times, establish realistic goals and set off on strategizing solutions that both improve mean and median response times, as well as the overall variance.  

With targeted lead response time goals established, focus your initial corrective actions on cutting lead processing time to its bare minimum, at the same time ensuring leads get assigned to the right representative every single time. For organizations with meaningful volumes of leads, the most efficient and cost-effective method to accomplish this is by automating very tedious and time-consuming manual processes. After all, how can you possibly meet a five-minute response time if it takes an hour or more to process leads manually?

Automated lead-to-account matching solutions, like LeanData’s best-in-class product, take your Inbound leads and immediately match them to any existing account in your Salesforce CRM. Contextual account data can be further developed with enrichment solutions like ZoomInfo, also easily integrated into your tech stack. Finally, automated lead routing solutions ensure the right leads get to the right representatives as quickly as possible.

Automating lead processing eliminates the operational bottlenecks and human errors that result from manual processes, and it ensures no leads get left behind, either lost or forgotten.

 

LeanData’s industry-leading routing solution has several features to help your team optimize its speed to lead. First, administrators deploy “edge priority” features to prioritize the routing of time-sensitive leads first – for example, demo requests need immediate routing, while trade show booth visitors can be slotted in behind.

Once leads are routed to representatives, they are then “on the clock,” so to speak, with their personal follow up the only thing standing in front completing the lead response cycle. Automated processes help here too.

LeanData’s routing solution allows the round robin assignment of leads with a variety of filters. Experienced reps, for instance, usually have higher capacity and can effectively handle a larger lead load than new reps. Additional filters include expertise, be it product, language, industry, or other; work and vacation schedules, territories, time zones and more. Round robin assignments maximize your team’s effective capacity by optimizing distribution.

Furthermore, in the routing of leads, LeanData administrators lift speed to lead performance with new Hold Until nodes in their GTM flows. These Hold Until nodes hold lead records midway through processes until specified conditions are met or a defined time-limit expires. Once a record meets the conditions; for example, the Lead Status field is changed or the time limit expires, LeanData automatically directs the record to the next node in its path. In the case of a time limit expiration, the lead is routed to another rep, triggering automated notifications to both the rep and the SDR manager.

Finally, LeanData’s time-tracking functionality automates reporting on lead response time, making reports directly accessible from within Salesforce, empowering reps and managers to learn and improve upon both processes and personal performance.

Summary

In a competitive global marketplace, speed wins the GTM race more often than not. Fortunately, there are proven automation tools and tried-and-true tactics to empower B2B revenue teams to improve upon their lead response efficiency and effectiveness. 

Engaging your leads quickly not only provides a better customer experience for your prospects, it also increases your conversion, building your brand while improving the return on your digital spend. 

Ray Hartjen
Senior Content Strategist at LeanData

Ray Hartjen is a senior content strategist at LeanData, where he collaborates with internal and external customers in furthering the engaging narrative of revenue operations and innovative go-to-market strategies. You can connect with Ray on both LinkedIn & Twitter.