Lead Response Time: “Late” is the New “Useless”

Leads are the fuel in your marketing engine, but they don’t stay hot for long. Lead response time can make or break your success in qualifying prospects or converting them into clients. In our rapidly maturing digital age, 57 percent of prospects are conducting due diligence long before reaching out to a business, researching options from competitors and performing their own comparative analysis.

Lead Response Time Lag Is Costing Your Business

So how do lead managers meet these prospects at the precise time they’re ready for a sales pitch? Effective lead response management is data-driven, decisively timed, and, frankly, fast. A frequently cited lead management response study conducted by Professor James Oldroyd of MIT reveals a telling statistic: of the more than 2,200 companies surveyed, the average lead response time was 42 hours.

This may seem relatively quick — after all, it’s less than two days, right? But place yourself in the prospect’s shoes. If you’ve done your research and are ready for a conversation with a vendor on, say, a Tuesday afternoon, how will you feel by Thursday morning? You’re probably sorting your inbox, having coffee, and have likely spoken to at least one competitor by then, even if you haven’t made a purchase.

The window for B2B lead response is narrower than ever. Another study from Professor Oldroyd on web-generated leads revealed that within the first hour of contact, the odds of qualifying a lead drop 21 times between the first five minutes and the first 30. Let that sink in a minute: 21 times. The chances of qualifying decrease four times within the five-to-ten-minute window alone. Think about what that could mean for your company’s bottom line.

Acting decisively and swiftly is crucial to success, but how do you know who is ready to have a conversation? Fresh, multi-source intent data is the answer.

lead response time
(Source: The Continuous Evolution of the B2B Buying Journey, CEB)

Data-Driven Sales Outreach Is Not the Future, but the Here and Now

The key to nailing the right sales lead time isn’t all in the timing. Remember what we said about taking data-driven action? Even if you have a strict lead scoring system, nothing tops reaching out to a prospect right when they’re ready to talk, no matter how they’ve engaged with your content.

Josh George, a senior applications engineer at Lyons Consulting Group, tells Martech Advisor, “Understanding who your customers are and, in turn, what they like, will undoubtedly enable you to increase conversions and sales. Make it easy for your customers to share their data with you, and use that data to keep them engaged with your business.”

But data can be messy and complex. You may be drowning in a data lake, with access only to a huge amount of raw data that requires cleansing, organizing, and manual updating. But there are also solutions that sync the “slow data” in your CRM with “speed data” that monitors prospects in real time and looks for spikes in activity — key indicators that can signal it’s time to place that sales call.

The Best Time to Cold Call

Let’s go back to the 42-hour stat from Professor Oldroyd. His lead management response study effectively says that most businesses are reaching out to hot prospects 41 hours and 55 minutes too late, and that after 20 hours have lapsed, calling can actually hurt lead qualification. Now, you can’t call everyone in the first five minutes, but with intent data driving your sales lead time, you can make the most of your calls by reaching out to the right person at the right time.

Snicker all you like, but your target list really does have a “case of the Mondays.” Oldroyd’s lead management response study finds this truth to be universal across the companies he studied. Mondays are just not good for contacting or qualifying leads. The best days? Wednesday and Thursdays. That halfway-or-more-to-Friday feeling might have your leads feeling more receptive. But don’t push your luck toward the weekend; while people are still good to contact on Fridays, qualifying them is unlikely.

The best time to make that cold call is on a Thursday, a whopping 49.7 percent better than the worst day (Tuesday). And Oldroyd’s data reveal that Wednesday is 24.9 percent better for calling to qualify leads than the worst day (Friday).

Cold calling from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. yielded the best results, 114 percent more successful than calling from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., when people are likely to be rushing toward their lunch hours. For qualifying contacted leads, 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. are best, with the 8-to-9 window exceeding the after-lunch slump by 164 percent. So timing your call strategically could more than double your success rate if you get the right lead in the right window.

lead response time

Know Your Audience

If keeping those timing windows straight is making your head spin, relax a bit. Even if you’re calling at the perfect time, unengaged prospects are not going to be moved. Use your intent data to identify behaviors as they’re emerging. When you see patterns or spikes in activity, strike while the iron is hot. Being the first to call, qualify, and follow up on leads puts you ahead of competitors who might not have fresh intent data to guide their lead qualification strategy.

And while being first in lead response time will always position you for success, being informed is even better.

If you’re ready to learn even more about leads, check out these other articles:

Choosing an Intent Data Provider: 6 Questions to Ask Before You Buy
Intent Data – 7 Ways It Can Turbo-Charge Your B2B Marketing
How Automation and Intent Data Make Your B2B Marketing Sing

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