In the B2C world of instantaneous and often impulsive buying, the faster you respond—the more sales you generate. Think about your last online purchase of a commodity product or service. You quickly go online; do your research; find several options yet have more questions. You reach out. One company responds right away. Another responds a day later; one you never hear from. Online buying statistics indicate you buy from the one that responds first.

First-through-the-door response will get the sale 35 to 50% of the time. With the average online shopper attention span at about 8 seconds—yes, shorter than a goldfish—speed is key. An often-cited study published in Harvard Business Review audited over 2,000 companies who determined if they didn’t respond in 5 minutes or less, they risked losing those prospects forever. The study measured how long each company took to respond to a web-generated test lead. Almost a quarter of the companies, 23%, never even bothered to respond. The average response time of those that did respond was almost two days.

Slow Lead Response Turns Hot Leads Cold- Fast

Corporations spend billions annually online to generate leads and positively impact their inbound revenue motion, yet a significant percentage of marketing spend is wasted with slow response times. For example, a separate study by the same firm looked at 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 12 B2B companies in the U.S. Those that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were seven times as likely to qualify –have a meaningful engagement– than those that waited just an hour later. They were sixty times more likely to qualify as companies that waited 24 hours to respond

What is Speed to Lead?

These studies, some done several years ago, show quick response has always been important and historically abysmal. Yet, the urgency and impact of speedy lead response have only increased with the rapid growth of online sales and the quick and impulsive buying habits of consumers. So much so that it’s spawned a new term — speed to lead, to highlight the importance of lead response time.

Speed to lead is the amount of time it takes your organization to respond to inbound prospects, whether they are categorized as raw, marketing-qualified (MQL), or sales-qualified (SQL) leads. How quickly organizations engage and capitalize on interest impacts how fast prospects move through your sales funnel and turn into customers.

Speed to Lead is measured in minutes, and for some industries in seconds. This is because of the rapid decline in response after a few minutes. Another often-quoted study indicates salespeople are 21x more likely to qualify a lead if they engage in less than 5 minutes, but 7x less likely if they wait 2 hours, and 60x less likely if they way 24 hours.

Why the Slow Response?

There are many reasons why sales reps leave digital buyers either unattended or default to the failing, second-day contact response. Leads aren’t prioritized and distributed fast enough. Leads are too hard to reach. Companies have too few resources and automated processes for productive lead engagement. Processes and automation that do exist aren’t completely integrated into intelligent, omnichannel campaign management.

How to Improve Your Lead Response Time

Who are these unattended hot prospects? How likely are they to buy? What’s the best way to reach out and respond? Most importantly, what capability will enable you to be the “first through the door?” Look to a new breed of omnichannel campaign management software with a built-in Customer Data Platform (CDP) that integrates with all relevant data systems and includes full-featured dialer and callback capabilities. Included will be AI and analytics to optimize campaigns and workflows.

Such a solution will enable you to engage fast and intelligently so that you capitalize on buyer interest and intent. You will be able to qualify your hot prospects at machine speed and scale and move raw leads through the MQL-to-SQL-to-conversion funnel. Here are key considerations to increase your speed to lead:

Prioritize Your Response

Not every raw lead will convert into a sale. And not every sales rep will close every lead. A key requirement in speed to lead is the ability to determine and connect high-priority leads (read hot) to your sales team. An intelligent campaign management solution can instantly determine and assign leads with the highest value and the most likely to close to your best available sales reps. All raw leads that become qualified are organized in a queue before colder leaders are processed. These more valuable leads are routed to your best sellers. Automated, intelligent lead prioritization lets your team spend more time selling and less time on manual administrative tasks.

Meet Your Prospects Where They Are

A recent Harvard Business Review study on the success of Chinese online retailers pointed to the main challenge of established Western retails – find a way to get closer to where the consumer is online rather than direct digital traffic to where products can be purchased. The same holds true for the way you reach out to leads. Responding quickly and connecting today requires knowing individual buyer channel preferences and which combination of channel response outreach works when and why.

Connect Quickly with Repeatable, Proven Omnichannel Sequences

An intelligent omnichannel campaign management solution improves connection rates by combining voice, 2-way SMS, and emails for your outreach. Again, what will be the winning combination? The ability to customize and repeat winning response sequences requires analytics and an AI-driven, Customer Data Platform (CDP) that gives agents a complete view of prospects. Sales have insight into past behaviors and channel preferences. Successful responses to raw and MQL leads are driven by a 360-degree view of customer and prospect data and conversation guides that lets sales spend more time selling. And for leads that aren’t reached immediately can stay hot when placed into re-engagement campaigns.

Respond Intelligently and Efficiently to Improve Speed to Lead

Statistics show sales on average spend only a third of their time actually selling. Any solution that enables sales to spend more time selling and less time performing manual administrative functions will increase response time and conversion rates. Intelligent, data-driven campaign management solutions with integrated dialing capability let agents automatically respond to more prospects faster.

Ensure your dialer supports all dialing modes – preview, progressive/power, predictive, and agentless – letting you choose the best for each campaign. Look for the ability to manage both personal and campaign-level callbacks. Your dialer in combination with powerful contact strategies provides detailed control over the phone number to use and retries based on the outcome of previous attempts.

Ensure You Never Miss Hot Leads with Campaign-Driven Callbacks

Callbacks are not just for queues. As with integrated dialer capabilities, campaign-driven callbacks give your organization the ability to respond rapidly, especially with limited or less-than-ideal staffing levels. Captured leads can be pushed to your callback engine through real-time APIs. Interested prospects who call and can’t get immediately connected will with a callback engine integrated with your campaign management solution. Callback ensures leads get virtually connected within the minute. If website prospects want more information quickly, giving them the ability to schedule or request an immediate callback will deliver quick online sales assistance and the answers prospects seek.

Another function is the ability to offer scheduled callbacks when instant callback is not an option. With “going where the customer is” in mind, sales can leverage agentless dialing to send pre-recorded messages or SMS for checking prospects’ availability.

Whether it is through social media, email, SMS, phone or callback or a combination of these channels–how quickly you respond is a critical step in your path to a conversation and turning prospects into customers. For more information on how to engage with speed to capitalize on prospect intent, contact Acqueon.