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How responding faster can increase sales
If someone asked you about the factors that improve sales, you likely wouldn’t include response time in your answer.
Even if you did, you may not recognize it as one of the leading factors in whether a lead converts or not. You might think that your branding or your pitch are the key reasons someone chooses you over your competition.
However, research suggests a fast response time is an essential part of lead conversion. In many cases, the company that replies to a prospective customer first is the one that gets the sale.
What the numbers say
In a study on lead response timeliness, researchers examined how the gap between lead creation and first response affected factors such as successful contact and lead qualification. The results were illuminating.
Response times of five minutes achieved multiple times the number of contacts and qualifications as response times of 10 minutes. Similarly, the 10 minutes responses outperformed the 15 minutes ones. Responding within the first hour was six times more likely to qualify a lead than responding in the second hour, which, in turn, was about four times more likely to convert than the third hour.
Another part of the study showed similar results. The likelihood of qualifying a lead can drop by as much as 80% from five minutes to 10 minutes. At the other end of the range, additional response attempts after 20 hours appeared to significantly lower the chance of converting a lead.
In short, this study revealed something that many salespeople already subconsciously know: Time is the enemy of sales.
The huge difference waiting an hour or even a few minutes can make in conversion rates is hard to ignore. This research suggests that response time is more important to increasing sales than almost any other factor.
Why response time affects sales
According to another study, the majority of customers buy from the first responder. The first response invariably sets the expectations for the search. If you can set that bar high, you are highly likely to be the chosen provider. Furthermore, people tend toward what they know, even if they have only known about the option for a few additional minutes.
Consider this: When you respond quickly to a lead, you are more likely to be contacting the lead while he or she is still thinking about your product and business. There is less resistance to continuing the conversation and potentially making the sale.
The average response time for most companies is 42 hours. This may make it seem like you have plenty of time to respond if you benchmark to your competitors. However, look at it this way: If you can get to the customer quickly, you could have nearly two days of attention with no other competitors. That kind of head start is nearly impossible to overcome.
Of course, not all businesses take two days to respond. If you are in a competitive field, you should expect to be at best the third responder if you take more than five minutes to respond. In other words, if you take more than that short timeframe, you may be immediately removing yourself from the playing field.
If leads are reaching out to you for information, they are interested in what you have to sell. So, if you find that you aren’t converting a high percentage of these leads, chances are that a competitor is responding to them faster than you.
Improving your response times could be the simplest and most effective way to increase your sales.
How to improve response times
At this stage, you’re probably wondering how you can possibly respond to leads within five minutes consistently. Certainly, it is no simple undertaking. However, there are some strategies that can help. Before you try to improve your response time, it is valuable to know what it currently is. Then, you can begin using tools and processes to shorten that timeframe as much as possible.
Measuring response time
What is your current average lead response time? Chances are that you simply don’t know. Don’t worry, however, because you are not alone. Most businesses don’t keep track of this metric.
Famed consultant W. Edwards Deming once said, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.’ Fortunately, this is a relatively easy number to measure. Simply capture the time when you receive a new lead, try to make contact, successfully connect, qualify the lead and make the sale. You may be already capturing this information using your customer relationship management or lead management software.
Measure and then work to shorten your sales cycle.
Once you are measuring, it is time to start improving your response times. One way to approach this is with an automated response. This could be with information for a demo or just product data that is usually requested.
The key advantage of this approach is that it is consistently fast. However, the main drawback is that it doesn’t involve a human and is harder to customize to the individual request. Typically, this is most effective when you are able to capture some information on what the lead is interested in. This will help you to personalize the automated response.
Live response processes
Your first response does not have to be from a sales team member. After all, most initial responses are relatively generic. So, you can establish a process that ensures fast responses, 24/7. The initial respondent can help qualify the lead before passing it along to an account manager.
This approach can be more valuable than automation because people tend to buy from other people. They want to interact with a real person rather than a chatbot or automated system.
You can establish this as an in-house process or partner with a team that can consistently respond rapidly. In either case, the respondent can either transfer the conversation immediately to a sales representative or set an appointment for a future contact. Having a fast response that sets up a future conversation is vastly superior to waiting to respond.
This is a powerful way to increase sales.
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