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Sales - 8 min READ

How to Slash Your Lead Response Time in Half

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Author photo: Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart


Sales teams have speed on the brain.

And hey, rightfully so.

Because the quicker you can close your current deals, the more leads you can fit in your pipeline.

Lead response time is one of the most important aspects of your sales cycle. Conventional wisdom tells us that the company that contacts a lead first and fastest is the one to score the sale.

The reality, though? Most companies are responding to leads at a snail’s place.

Research from Drift notes that only 42% of B2B companies respond to leads within a five-day period. Meanwhile, this old-school study notes that mere minutes in your lead response time can be the difference between your next sale and a lost lead.

The takeaway here is that you can’t afford to let your leads linger. Rather than force leads to play the waiting game, companies need to adopt modern tools and tactics to follow up with their leads ASAP.

Below we’ve broken down some actionable tips to help you slash your lead response time without having to start your current sales process from scratch.

1. Give your leads instant gratification with live chat.

Anything you can do to avoid tedious back-and-forth with your prospects is a plus.

Just avoiding the notion of a long-winded conversation is a point in your favor.

Enter the rise of live chat. Preferred by 42% of consumers versus phone calls, email or social media, live chat ensures that you don’t waste any time nurturing your leads.

For example, let’s say that you have a lead that wants to know more about a specific service. Having a rep immediately available to answer helps you hold your lead’s interest when they’d otherwise bounce.

Using live chat, businesses can route questions to the appropriate rep to keep the sales cycle moving. Here’s a snapshot from Kayako:

Although some companies may be skeptical of the hype behind live chat, the ability to provide your leads with instant gratification is valuable. In fact, 79% of businesses note that offering live chat has a positive effect on sales, revenue and customer loyalty.

2. Route your leads directly to reps

As soon as someone fills out a form on your site, the clock is ticking.

Maybe they have a question. Perhaps they’re interested in booking a demo.

Either way, sleeping on anyone who’s shown legitimate interest in your product isn't an option—you could lose them to a competitor who’s faster to respond.

Serving as a supplement or alternative to live chat, lead routing solutions do the legwork of encouraging leads to take that ever-so-valuable next step.

For example, tools such as Calendly automatically route your on-site leads to specific sales reps by scheduling meetings based on specific criteria. Whether they do this based on a rep’s availability or experience level, businesses can put their leads in good hands in real time.

Leads then choose a time to meet that works for them, which is automatically booked and logged in your email calendar and CRM.

Other platforms such as Chili Piper act as a hybrid live chat and lead-routing solution. For example, Chili Piper allows leads to talk to a rep immediately or book an appointment in the future.

Not only does this reduce lead response time, but it also encourages leads to experience your product sooner rather than later.

3. Define your MQLs to prioritize your follow-ups.

Bear in mind that not all of your leads have an equal interest in your product.

It’s no secret that unqualified leads are one of the biggest time-wasters of sales reps.

That’s exactly why businesses should determine who’s a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and who’s just a tire-kicker.

In short, MQLs are leads who’ve shown significant interest in your business based on their behavior. These are the folks spending tons of time on-site engaging with content or who have already asked questions.

Looking at your CRM data, you can better understand the behaviors that signal an MQL for your business. This data paints a clear picture of who deserves your attention first and what actions you should take to eventually close them.

Although lead response time is certainly a priority, there are only so many hours in the day. If you’re wondering who your most valuable leads are and who deserves your attention first, your CRM can clue you in.

4. Automate as much of your sales communication as possible.

There’s no denying that communicating with leads can be incredibly time-consuming.

Crafting responses. Tracking interactions. The to-do list for any given lead goes on and on.

This is exactly why sales teams are investing more than ever in automation.

Take chatbots for example. Whether on-site or via social media, more and more businesses are putting the process of answering their leads’ questions on autopilot. Here’s a sample bot from Drift:

Surprising to some critics, a staggering 69% of people actually prefer talking to bots versus actual reps in certain cases. If someone needs a simple answer and they want to get it ASAP, they’re more than happy to speak to a bot. These bots allow businesses to be “on” around-the-clock and engage with leads 24/7.

Autoresponder emails are another example of automation that can cut down lead response time significantly. The ability to automate follow-ups and check-ins is a life-saver for reps who already have plenty on their plates.

That said, modern teams can’t neglect the importance of personalizing their follow-ups. In the Relationship Era where customers crave individual attention, treating your leads as one-size-fits-all is a dangerous game.

Instead, reps can enjoy a balance between automation and personalization with the help of follow-up email templates. By templating your follow-ups, you can speak to the needs of your leads as individuals while saving some serious time in the process.

For example, automation features in Copper such as activity logging and syncing with Google Calendar can cut down on data entry when your leads start to get serious about buying.

5. Ramp up the frequency of your follow-ups.

The most straightforward way to reduce lag in your lead response time is to simply engage with your leads more often.

How so? Well, if 80% of sales require up to five follow-ups after your initial meeting, sales reps shouldn’t be shy about touching base.

That’s why businesses can’t allow for massive gaps between those follow-ups. This is where automation comes in.

However, automated communication shouldn’t be the be-all-and-end-all of how you follow up with your leads. Some leads might require special nurturing because they have a lot of objections or are otherwise flaky about responding.

To guarantee you’re following up with the right frequency, it’s important to have detailed notes and reminders set for those special cases. This can help you develop a sales cadence that successfully closes more deals:

A CRM like Copper allows businesses to schedule tasks and activities in order to keep better tabs on their communication. Rather than scramble for details about a specific lead, you can check your CRM to see who needs your attention and why:

6. Rethink how your reps are spending their time.

Another easy way to encourage your reps to respond to leads faster is by freeing up their schedule to do so.

Let’s say that the average salesperson only spends one-third of their time on revenue-generating tasks such as responding to leads. Ask yourself: are your reps empowered to respond in a timely manner in the first place?

If your team’s time is being eaten up by meetings or data entry, they’re not being set up to succeed. On a similar note, not focusing on your sales teams’ strengths could be a one-way ticket to burnout.

Tracking sales performance on a company-wide and individual level is a must-do. If you’re concerned about lead response time, it pays to know what activities are standing in the way of speedy responses and what can be done to eliminate them.

7. Step up your sales training.

Cutting down lead response time isn’t about just speed, but what your reps actually say to leads too. This rings true for sales calls and emails alike.

The more comfortable and knowledgeable a rep is, the easier it is to respond to someone swiftly and with a sense of confidence. Companies create their own bottlenecks when their reps are stuck scratching their own heads.

For example, here are some points to emphasize during sales training that can help speed up a rep’s communication with leads:

  • Common sales objections and reasons why someone might hesitate to make a purchase
  • Frequently asked questions about product features, price points and so on
  • Your company’s unique selling proposition in cases where someone brings up a competitor

Having these answers handy can help reduce back-and-forth or conversations that otherwise keep your leads from closing.

8. Don’t sacrifice service for speed.

To wrap things up, let’s not forget that speed isn’t everything when it comes to closing deals.

Although we shouldn’t make our leads wait for no reason, we also shouldn’t let service fall by the wayside just because of speed. Funneling your leads through your sales cycle without paying attention to the details of their experience isn’t the answer.

Given that the average sales call is getting longer, it’s clear that people still expect meaningful conversations before handing over their hard-earned money.

The takeaway? Make speed count, but don’t rush your leads for the sake of rushing.

How are you speeding up your lead response time?

No business wants to leave its leads hanging.

By reducing your lead response time, you can serve more customers while also making the most of your sales rep’s schedules.

Doing this requires keen attention to detail—you have to genuinely care about your leads’ experiences with you. With the help of tools including your CRM, you can speed up your sales process without sacrificing your quality of service.

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