What is “Speed to Lead” and Why Does It Matter?

When we talk about conversion optimization, the term “speed to lead” is becoming more and more prominent. But what exactly does it mean?

Simply put, “speed to lead” is how much time it takes for a business to engage with a prospect who has expressed interest in their offering. Or, put another way, it refers to how long it takes you to move somebody from your prospect bucket into your lead bucket.

In the world of online business, prospects will almost always express their interest by submitting a form. For example, they may:

  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Request a quote
  • Register for a free trial
  • Schedule a demo

. . . Or any number of other calls-to-action that you may have on your website. The point is, they put the ball in your court, and now it’s your job to take it to the basket. Don’t leave them hanging.

Need for Speed: Conversion Optimization

Okay, excuse the cheesiness. But in the game of online sales, speed is critical for optimizing conversions. And you need to get faster.

Imagine this real-world scenario. You decide that you want a haircut and so you go to your local barbershop. When you get there, the store is open . . . but nobody is at the reception desk.

You wait politely for a couple of moments, but nobody seems to notice you. So, you wave at a barber and try to catch their eye.

Consider these questions:

  • How long do you try to get their attention before you are put-off the entire experience?
  • How long do you hang around until you leave the shop and try to find another barbershop?
  • And if you do leave, what are the chances of you coming back—or recommending that barbershop to anyone, ever?

If you’re like most people, you’d become very frustrated very quickly. After all, we’re not just talking about an employee politely letting you know that there will be a small wait—we’re talking about nobody even acknowledging your presence.

When it comes to lead response, time is of the essence.

For in-person businesses, this seems blatantly obvious. But what most people don’t realize is that speed is just as important for online businesses as well.

Speed matters.

From the moment a prospect hits “submit” on a form, the clock is on.

A study by Velocify reveals that, on average, companies see a 391% improvement in their conversion rate if they call their leads within one minute of their request.

The conversion rate plummets exponentially thereafter. Just one minute later—two minutes after the prospect has reached out—your conversion rate only gets a 160% boost. That’s still nothing to scoff at but is shockingly lower than if you squeezed in before the 60-second mark.

Why does this happen? Well, when you respond to a lead quickly, you accomplish four very important things:

  1. You establish goodwill with your lead by showing them that you respect them.
  2. You demonstrate competence, which builds your lead’s confidence in your business.
  3. You increase your chances of communicating directly with your lead.
  4. You position yourself to provide an offering on-demand during a moment in which you know that your lead is considering buying.

With every second that passes, these advantages diminish significantly. And yet, most companies are still coming up woefully short. In fact, a study by Hubspot discovered that of 466 home services companies surveyed, 40% never responded to their test service request.

How fast is fast enough?

Before we get into why so many businesses are dropping the ball, let’s take a quick look at how fast is “passable” in a prospect’s eye.

It likely comes as no surprise that customers’ response time expectations vary from platform to platform and audience to audience. For example, if you offer a Live Chat feature on your website, customers (on average) expect a response within 48 seconds.

Now, if you’re thinking “Gah, kids these days expect everything instantly!” or “My audience is older–they’re probably more patient,” you might want to think again. A study by NICE inContact revealed that when it comes to email communications, Baby Boomers expect the fastest response time.

Keep in mind that this graph shows what customers expect. The “speed to lead’ times that will drive up your conversions need to exceed expectations. So, in order to give your leads a good experience, you need to keep your response times as short as possible—and always under 15 minutes.

What is slowing down your sales funnel?

If getting back to prospects quickly is so clearly important, then why aren’t businesses acting on this information?

You might think the answer is a lack of resources. For example, to get back to a prospect immediately, you need to have the technology to either notify an on-the-clock employee right then or send an automated response. But for many companies, this isn’t actually the problem.

The issue is a lack of useful data.

Stop hitting the “big speed bump.”

The most effective online forms are short—a maximum of about three data fields. So (assuming that you’re following the best practices for increasing conversions), you probably only collect basic information from your prospects, like:

  • Name
  • Email address

And that’s it.

This lack of data is what we call the “big speed bump.” In order to know if a prospect is a good fit and confidently reach out, a sales representative will need to spend time doing manual research to find additional details about the prospect, like:

  • Company name
  • Company size
  • Prospect’s role in the company
  • Industry
  • Annual revenue
  • Location

Unfortunately, there’s also human error at play here: not only is the process time-consuming, but people make mistakes. The John Doe you find on LinkedIn might not be the same John Doe who reached out to your company. Avoiding these costly errors takes even more time.

How do you create a “faster” automated lead response system?

We’ve established that faster response times are critical to future success, and we’ve identified a lack of useful data as the biggest speed bump. But how do you get faster? And how can you avoid common speed traps?

The trick is embracing technology.

Use data enrichment technology to institute a “fast lane.”

Not all leads are created equal—some will be more qualified than others. That’s one reason why your sales representatives need to spend so much time researching prospects before they choose who to reach out to.

Data enrichment technology can reliably fill in missing data and correct poor information.

When a prospect fills out a form on your website, data enrichment technology will comb the internet for other useful information about the customer, thereby increasing the lead quality. This information can then be used to automatically score the lead and sort them accordingly.

There are two common times in the lead generation process when data enrichment happens:

  1. Inside your CRM, sometime after the form is submitted.
  2. In real-time, as your prospect enters their information into the form.

For example, soon, Lusha will have the ability to enrich forms in real-time by pulling supplemental information about each lead from an internal database. Then, using a set of predefined attributes, the technology will decide whether to send the lead more information, take them directly to a meeting scheduler, or have a relevant expert reach out immediately.

Source: Lusha.co

With this real-time enrichment, you get the benefit of keeping your forms short (increasing conversion rate) and having reliable, relevant data (increasing lead quality).

This process of sorting prospects onto different tracks based on the opportunity quality is called lead routing, and it’s an intelligent way to determine where to devote your resources.

Embrace automated follow-ups.

Not every single follow-up needs to be a phone call from a live sales representative. What’s most important is establishing meaningful contact as quickly as possible.

Once you’ve enriched your data, you can route your leads into an automated follow-up funnel that best fits their unique situation. For example, you may use:

  • Live chat / chat bots (best for specific questions with simple answers)
  • Email automation through your CRM (best for general requests for information)
  • Self-serve demos (best for prospects on the cusp of buying)

Of course, over time, you can test your funnel to see which automated follow-ups are most effective with which segments and optimize.

Conclusion

The faster you can get your “speed to lead,” the more likely you are to convert leads into customers. Avoid the common speed bump of missing data by utilizing tools like lead enrichment and then funneling leads into automated follow-ups.

That way, you can allocate more resources towards the most qualified leads without letting any opportunities slip through the cracks.

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