How to Make Prospects 100X More Likely to Talk to You

08/23/2012

I’ve managed inside sales teams before and we always had long discussions about when was the best time of day to try and contact a prospect. I had reps swear that first thing in the morning works best while others said lunch worked because folks would eat at their desk and still others theorized that right before 5PM folks were more likely to pick up the phone. Whenever I looked at my own data the only pattern that I could see was that the faster you called a prospect back, the more likely they were to pick up the phone.

It turns out I’m not the only one seeing this pattern.

Insidesales.com have been doing research on this topic for years. Their data (free registration required) drives home the fact that follow-up time is THE most important factor by far in contacting a lead. Here are 2 key highlights from the original (2007) insidesales.com research:

  • The odds of contacting a lead within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes are 100 times greater
  • The odds of a lead entering into the sales cycle are 21X greater if the lead is called within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes

This data has been kicking around for a while. Surely we are getting better at following up with leads by now right? In 2011 they looked at over 3000 companies that were sponsors and attendees at Dreamforce (SalesForce.com’s user show) and submitted a web inquiry during normal business hours to see what the response times/rates looked like. I like this study because many of SalesForce’s customers are small and mid-sized businesses that you would expect to be pretty good at this stuff and the fact that they have made an investment in SalesForce tells you that they are tracking revenue and a pipeline in some fashion. So how are we doing? Some of us better than others it seems:

  • 18% responded by email within 5 minutes
  • 1.8% responded by phone within 5 minutes
  • The average initial response time was 48 hours
  • 51% of companies didn’t respond at all

This tells me that some companies out there are knocking it out of the park but a large number of them aren’t even in the game.

Their latest study looks at members of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals. Now surely here’s a bunch of folks that are surely thinking about their inside sales processes more than the rest of us. You would think. Similar to the DreamForce study insidesales.com submitted web forms to the almost 700 companies where AAISP members work. Here’s what they found out:

  • 23.9% of companies responded within the first 5 minutes (yay!)
  • 83% of those responses were email auto-responses (less yay)
  • 35.8% of companies never responded at all. (no yay whatsoever)

(Additional commentary on this data can be seen in a Forbes article here)

The data on responses is a bit mushy to me. I would like to see how they determined if an email was an auto-response or not. I see a big difference between the standard “Thanks for filling the form, we’ll get back to you” email and something more targeted/intelligent. I personally have seen decent conversions from automatic (i.e. generated by my marketing automation system) emails that come from the inside rep’s email address and include some useful additional content that is relevant to the action that triggered the lead in the first place. Those types of emails may or may not be included in this data.

Regardless of the way some folks are following up, the most troubling statistic here is the one that shows that a significant number of web leads aren’t followed up on at all. In my mind this data makes a strong case for why marketing needs to keep a very close eye on response rates and times to make sure that our hard-earned leads are actually treated as such.