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When 78% of B2B buyers purchase from the first vendor to respond, speed to lead is a critical measure of any good sales process. 

The faster your sales team is at responding to leads, the likelier you are to grow faster than your competitors. Factoring in faster response times should be a component of your larger lead management process. 

The best sales leaders I’ve worked with have always prioritized this. If you are not measuring your speed to lead, you are setting your sales team up to fail.

What is Speed to Lead?

Speed to lead is the amount of time it takes your sales reps to follow up on an inbound lead or prospect inquiry. 

Your sales rep's response could be via text, social media engagement, email, or a phone call. The method by which your team responds doesn't matter as much as speed. 

When every second counts, sales automation software can help execute this step, shortening the speed to lead dramatically.

Why Speed to Lead Matters

The time between inquiry and response is crucial because it directly impacts the likelihood of converting that lead into a customer. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the facts.

Fast response times clearly provide your business with a competitive edge. By focusing on your response time, you will improve your customer experience and stand above the competition.

If you have any doubts about the importance of this topic, it’s time to sit up and pay some attention. Speed to lead is a metric that matters.

Speed to Lead Benchmarks

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General Benchmarks

Now that we understand a bit more about this topic, how do we know what a good speed-to-lead benchmark is?

The five-minute rule has stood the test of time for B2B sales. The five-minute rule means that you are contacting your inbound lead in five minutes or less.

Aim for the five minute rule in lead response time
Aim for a speed to lead of 5 min or less and you are 100x more likely to successfully connect with your prospect. The problem here is that most companies just don’t do this well.

Shockingly, just 1% of companies are actually hitting this target. While only 31% of companies try calling their leads at any point in time. In a study conducted that looked at 114 B2B companies, 99% of these companies were failing to hit this mark.

Study Conducted Screenshot
Just 0.9% of companies respond to leads within 5 minutes. Cut down your speed to lead and you are already outpacing most companies in your industry.

Depending on where your organization currently sits with speed to lead, it's important to continually strive to improve this metric, even if it's just by a few seconds. By doing this, you can set yourself apart from your competition and increase your probability of converting leads at a higher rate.

Industry-Specific Benchmarks

Generally, the five-minute rule is a pretty good measure of where your organization should be. But just as businesses are different, the benchmarks in which you should be measuring your sales organization should be different as well. 

The two factors that may play the biggest role in determining where you should be are company size and industry. Below is a breakdown of industry-specific speed-to-lead benchmarks that you can use to measure your sales organization: 

  • Healthcare: 2 hours and 5 minutes
  • Telecommunications: 16 minutes
  • Small Companies (1-300 employees): 48 minutes
  • Medium Companies (301-2500 employees): 1 hour and 38 minutes
  • Large companies (2501+ employees): 1 hour and 28 minutes

Depending on where your organization currently sits with speed to lead, it's important to continually strive to improve this metric, even if it's just by a few seconds. By doing this, you can set yourself apart from your competition and increase your probability of converting leads at a higher rate.

Common Obstacles in Speed to Lead

The vast majority of sales teams struggle to keep up with expectations regarding lead-to-speed. Several structural challenges get in the way of optimizing this part of the sales process.

The three most common challenges that impact speed to lead are:

  1. Poor reporting on SLA: Companies who struggle to measure SLAs (service level agreements) struggle with lead response time. It's absolutely critical to ensure your sales team has a view of their SLAs so that you can help keep them accountable.
  2. Poor lead data: Often leads enter your databases with little to no information at all. As a sales rep, it becomes increasingly difficult to prioritize leads with only half their data available. This is why we recommend having lead scoring tools to help fill in the data gaps and increase the confidence of your sales team.
  3. Poor lead routing: If your lead routing is insufficient, you will run into challenges with speed to lead. Remember, good lead routing is about getting the right lead to the right rep at the right time. If you are sending leads to the wrong person, for example, you are already compromising your ability to convert on that lead.

Practical Strategies to Improve Speed to Lead

Use Software and Tools

When it comes to speed to lead, there are a number of practical strategies your organization can employ to improve this strategy. The first is the implementation of the right software and tools that can help automate and streamline much of this process.

When it comes to software, there are three important tools you may want to consider implementing.

  1. Lead Routing Software

Lead routing software is a critical piece of the speed to lead conversation. Software applications like Leandata and Distribution Engine are exceptionally great at ensuring the right lead gets to the right rep at the right time. To improve this critical sales metric, consider adding a lead routing tool to your tech stack.

  1. Calendar Booking Software

A highly effective solution to ensure no lead goes uncontacted is implementing a calendar booking solution like Chili Piper or Calendly. These tools are intended to streamline the customer journey by allowing customers to engage with you at their best available time. That means, allowing customers to book meetings directly into your calendar whenever is best for them.

  1. CRM Software

When customers first contact you, they may use different channels to speak with sales. As a centralized solution, the right CRM plays a critical role in consolidating customer information which will give your sales organization all the information they need to have quality conversations with potential customers. 

Create The Right Culture

Have you ever heard the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast”? Well, this saying also holds true when you're looking to improve sales performance.

Having worked with hundreds of sales reps in many different organizations, there is something to be said about creating a sales culture that emphasizes urgency.

Urgency to serve the buyer. Urgency to be the best. And in this case, urgency to want to win.

In a world where the average B2B business’s speed to lead is 42 hours, focusing on this one metric can create compounded effects on your sales team’s performance.

While focusing on building the right sales culture that incorporates urgency, there is also a systematic and data-driven approach to improving lead management and conversion.

Here are some more actionable tips on how to increase the likelihood of turning leads into potential customers.

Design Engaging Landing Pages

Your landing page is your first chance to convert a visitor into a lead. Designing an engaging landing page can help increase conversion rates and improve your overall speed to lead. Consider the following when setting up landing pages:

  1. Does your landing page have a strong call to action?
  2. Are your forms capturing the right data required to route the lead to the right rep?
  3. Are you leveraging real-time chatbots and live chat?

By collecting the right data points and making your team as accessible as possible, you give them the best chance to be responsive and quick to the punch.

Use Lead Enrichment and Capture Forms

One of my favorite tips on how to improve your speed to lead is using the right tools for data enrichment. 

Lead enrichment or lead intelligence tools like Clearbit are some of my favorites in the market. Imagine a world where you only need to ask for a lead’s email address and your workflow can enrich data points like company size, job title, and contact information.

The days of sales reps having to do hours of research on leads are long gone. Removing the time it takes your team to research the lead will drastically improve your response time.

This piece of the puzzle is important as it provides the sales reps with most of the data they need to have a good conversation with the lead. This data also helps you route the right leads to the right sales rep at the right time which alone will help improve your lead conversion rates.

Route Leads by Geography

Routing leads by geography can significantly improve your speed to lead. If your sales team is large enough to have salespeople based in different time zones, take advantage of that. Route leads from specific time zones to reps that are in the same geographical location.

This setup does require a level of lead routing sophistication. You also need to make sure you are either collecting location details on your website forms or enriching the lead with this data.

Give yourself and your organization a competitive advantage when it comes to lead response time by routing leads based on geography.

Score Leads for Prioritization

Another way to improve your lead response time is to score inbound leads for prioritization. This means that leads are assigned a score based on factors such as website activity, company size, and title.

There are many different lead scoring models today so you’ll want to make sure you are leveraging the right one for your organization.

Leads with higher scores are prioritized by your sales reps and responded to first. While leads with a lower score can be prioritized accordingly and responded to at a more appropriate time.

By scoring leads for prioritization, you will ensure that your sales team is focused on leads that have a higher propensity of purchasing. Do this right and you will increase your conversion rates and help drive revenue for your organization.

Use SLAs

Another excellent way to improve your lead response time is to set up and operationalize SLAs, or Service Level Agreements. This is generally made between sales and marketing and outlines how sales reps will respond to marketing leads.

Let’s face it, not all leads are created equal. Therefore you will want to have different SLAs for different leads based on lead score or source. When setting up SLAs within your organization make sure you include the following three things:

1. Define the acceptable response time: Marketing and sales need to work together to consider what is an acceptable response time for leads. Again, response time should vary depending on lead quality and lead source for example. There should not be a one-size-fits-all approach here.

2. Establish accountability: Establishing accountability might be the most important piece of the puzzle here. Define who is responsible for ensuring that your lead response times are met and what will occur if they are not met.

It is important to make sure that you have cross-functional alignment between sales and marketing and that everyone understands their role when setting up SLAs.

3. Monitor and measure performance: Once you’ve set SLA targets and you have established accountability, it's time to monitor and measure performance against your SLAs. This means tracking your response times and regularly reviewing performance to identify areas for optimization.

If you follow these three steps when using SLAs, you will sleep a lot easier knowing you are creating a well-oiled engine that is focused on speed to lead.

Full Speed Ahead

Speed to lead is a critical measure for all sales organizations that receive inbound inquiries. You may measure this already, but it's highly likely you still have lots of room for improvement.

Focusing on your lead response time will improve your customer experience and create a competitive advantage for your organization that will help you win more customers.

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By Mohammed Abukar

Meet Mohammed Abukar. He currently leads the Sales Technology strategy at TELUS, one of Canada’s flagship telecom and technology companies. With a broad range of experience in Revenue Operations, Mohammed brings a unique lens to the conversations around process, technology, data, and people. When he is not knee deep in software implementations and integrations you can catch him outdoors enjoying time with family and friends.