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News Flash: Your Sales Lead Response Times Impact Close Rates

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley

Why and How to Improve Your Lead Response Times

In March 2011, the Harvard Business Review audited the lead response time of 2,241 companies to a web-generated test lead, and the results weren't exactly 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.

Chances are, if someone walked into your office wanting to work with you, they wouldn't still be standing there if you waited 42 hours to say hello. And in the world of smartphones and digital marketing, you have a lot less time than that.

Another report by 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, 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 faster so you can close more sales.

Ways to Improve Your Lead Response Times

1. Answer the Phone!

Yes, a lot more is being done digitally nowadays. But not everyone is sitting at their desk. People still call. People still text. When they do, answer it. A prompt response to phone calls is courteous, professional, and respectful of their time. And beyond that, it gets results.

LeadConnect found 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.

2. Pay Attention to — and Engage On — Socials!

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 there? 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.

3. Prioritize Lead Form Responses!

Lead forms have one job: getting 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

Lead forms should be treated like someone's 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 Emails, But Make Introductions!

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

It doesn't get much better than referrals when it comes to qualified leads. If you're committed to speeding up lead response time, friends and colleagues of your loyal customers need to be at the top of the list.

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!

Live chat is definitely an asset when it comes to responding to leads immediately. 79% of customers prefer to live chat for that very reason. If the office is closed, you can set your chat 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. 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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