What is speed to lead, and how can improving this critical metric help you close more deals than ever before? In this article, we'll walk you through key strategies and tools that you can use to supercharge your speed to lead time and help you optimize your overall sales funnel, and improve lead data hygiene.
What is "Speed to Lead?"
Speed to lead is the time between a qualified prospect contacting your company with interest in your product/service and their first contact with a sales rep.
What each organization considers a qualified lead contact may vary, but it's typically an action such as filling out contact or demo request website forms that puts them into your sales pipeline.
So, Why is Speed to Lead Important?
Saying that improving your speed to lead is essential is honestly an understatement. Studies have proven time and time again that the time it takes to respond to your leads has a critical effect on your chances of closing.
One highly regarded study by the Harvard Business Review found that companies that responded to a lead within an hour of receiving it were almost 7x more likely to connect and qualify that lead than companies that contacted the lead just an hour later. And, they were more than sixty times more likely than companies that waited for 24-hours or more.
But honestly, even those numbers are outdated.
With so much more competition online and so many more companies utilizing various automation methods to engage with customers, the most successful window for qualifying new leads and improving your odds of closing lies in the first few minutes of a lead coming through.
This is because most businesses aren't responding within this "golden" time frame, as it can be a difficult target to hit. You need to have systems in place that route your incoming leads directly to a sales rep that can make immediate contact in real-time.
The Average Speed to Lead (and What You Should Aim for Instead)
Now, if you're feeling discouraged that you're not yet pouncing on leads within minutes of them arriving, take a deep breath. Most businesses aren't hitting these targets (and it’s by a lot).
That same study by the Harvard Business Review found that just 37% of businesses responded within the hour, with an even smaller subset of that hitting that "golden" 5-minute window target.
This means that any changes you enact now to shorten your lead response time can put you way ahead of a significant portion of the competition. And the faster you can connect with these qualified leads, the greater your chances of growing your sales.
Ideally, you should always be aiming to follow-up with leads within that one-hour window. Every bit shorter than that exponentially increases your chances of closing the deal, but the one-hour window is the crucial cutoff to see significant improvements in your deal closing rates.
Strategies to Improve Your Speed to Lead
Okay, now you know why speed to lead is important, but how do you start optimizing it?
Here are some key strategies that can help you get a handle on your current lead times and build an infrastructure that streamlines your sales process from the moment your potential lead hits "send."
1: Determine Your Current Lead Response Time
Obviously, if we're going to optimize lead response times, we need to be able to measure the current benchmark. If you haven't already started tracking these numbers, collaborate with your sales and marketing teams to begin collecting this data. Pay attention to your average response times and your extreme highs and lows so employees can identify potential issues and opportunities within your response strategy.
2: Create Lead Response Goals for Your Team
Once you've determined your current response time, create goals for your sales managers to have their teams aim for so that everyone feels responsible for improving your speed to lead. Make these goals incremental and achievable so your team feels empowered to hit them.
Alternatively, you can make it part of your marketing and sales SLA to include something about a maximum lead response time. You’ll obviously need to factor in working hours and weekends, but this can be an effective strategy.
3: Analyze The Data and Look for Trends
On every campaign to improve lead response times, you’ll start seeing trends emerge. For example, you may notice that certain reps are doing better than others at immediately responding to their inbound leads. Ask them to walk you through their workflow to better understand their process. Sometimes your reps have good strategies and tools they use that can be implemented across the org or to other people on your team.
4: Invest in Automation Technology
This is a big one. You can pay more attention to lead response time, clean up your CRM processes, and see a slight improvement in your speed to lead, but the real game-changer is automation.
Utilizing automation tools allows you to move faster than ever before and helps you close huge gaps in your lead response times. They can help take a lot of pressure off your sales managers and reps, so they're spending less time staring at Salesforce and more time selling.
We've compiled a list of our favorite automation technology tools to help you supercharge your speed to lead and redefine how you capture customer data and close deals.
3 Tools Guaranteed to Improve Your Speed to Lead
These three tools use different types of automation to help you connect leads and the reps that can help them faster than a swipe on a dating app.
Rattle is a new powerhouse in Salesforce automation, allowing you to create custom alert workflows that connect Salesforce and Slack, so your reps never miss a new lead. Rattle helps you create custom Slack alerts that trigger events like new lead creation and new lead assignments, and include detailed information that sales reps can use right away to make contact with their lead and start the sales process.
These alerts can also include action items, such as logging call information right in Slack, which automatically updates the Salesforce record. This can help you improve your speed to lead and level up your data hygiene practices.
- Rattle allows you to immediately alert the right rep when a lead comes in and is assigned to them
- In a single message, Reps can get all the relevant info on the lead and make edits to it directly from Slack
- Native integrations with tools like Outreach so reps can directly sync leads to email sequences. This can effectively reduce your speed to lead to minutes (or less)
- This process still relies on reps to follow up promptly (it doesn't automate the contact with the customer)
Chili Piper takes advantage of a growing trend in customers wanting to "self-service," allowing them to book meetings with sales reps directly instead of waiting for a callback. Effectively, Chili Piper allows leads to insert themselves directly into the sales pipeline with no intermediary, which can be an appealing strategy for teams that want to generate a high volume of demos or similar meetings.
- Allows customers to book meetings themselves using any of the lead capture forms on your site
- Eliminates time wasted by exploring scheduling conflicts
- Pricing is based on the number of routed leads, which can rapidly increase depending on your volume of lead form submissions
- Some users complain that the calendar can be slow to load
- Limited form data can be captured to qualify leads before booking meetings, which could result in more unqualified meetings
Drift provides chatbots and live chat services for organizations that want to fully outsource the first communication with their potential lead to AI. These chatbots can help you qualify leads without ever speaking to the customer, resulting in more qualified leads making it to your reps.
- Chatbots can pre-qualify leads for reps
- Chatbots can also help qualified leads self-schedule a meeting with a rep
- Not all users like to engage with chatbots, especially as chat is typically seen as a line for customer support. Many website visitors will still prefer to fill out a form instead
- You may miss out on a significant amount of potential leads that abandon the chatbot mid-process
To improve your speed to lead effectively, you need to instill a sales culture that prioritizes fast response times and supports their efforts through strategic automation. When sales reps understand the urgency of responding to leads and have tools that help them follow up quickly and effectively, you can out-close your competition and move in on a bigger share of the market.