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Speed to lead is a critical measure of any good sales process.

The best sales leaders I’ve worked with have always prioritized this. As a matter of fact, if you are not measuring your speed to lead you are setting up your sales team to fail.

In this article, we will be discussing the importance of speed to lead, why it matters, benchmarks, and some actionable tips on how to optimize your sales process and improve your lead conversion rates.

Sit back, take some notes, and follow along. You too could be a lead conversion hero.

What is Speed to Lead?

Before we get started, let’s quickly take a minute to discuss what this topic is all about. Speed to lead is the amount of time it takes your sales reps to follow up to an inbound lead or prospect inquiry. It is the time between the lead generating an action such as a demo request on your website and your sales rep’s response time.

Your sales reps response time can include SMS, social media engagement, email, or phone call. The method by which your team responds doesn't matter as much. You may even want to consider software automation to execute this step.

Depending on your industry and the personas you target, you may want to consider if either email or phone call will work better for you.

Speed to Lead Benchmarks

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

Most of the data I’ve seen tends to take a cookie-cutter approach here. But the truth is, you should be benchmarking your own metrics against your industry and competition. If you are a scrappy startup, your speed to lead may look very different than a large enterprise outside of your vertical.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s try to keep the data consistent here and look primarily at B2B software company benchmarks. The most common studies used to determine best-in-class benchmarks typically refer to the five-minute rule. Aim for a speed to lead of five minutes or less and you are 100x more likely to successfully connect with your prospect.

Interestingly, in a study conducted that looked at 114 B2B companies, 99% of these companies were failing to hit this mark.

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.

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Why This All 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.

  • Lead conversion increases by 391% when sales reps respond within the first minute
  • The odds of qualifying a lead drop by 80% after the first five minutes

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 had 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.

How To Improve Your Time

Create The Right Culture

Ever hear 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. After all, 78% of B2B buyers purchase from the vendor that responds first.

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 to potential customers.

Design Engaging Landing Pages

Your landing page is your first chance of converting a visitor to 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 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 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 do research on the lead will drastically improve your response time.

This piece of the puzzle is important as it provides the sales reps receiving the leads 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 sales people based in different timezones, take advantage of that. Route leads from specific time zones to reps that are in that 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, their company size and their 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, all leads are not created equally. 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 oil engine that is focused on speed to lead.


Speed to lead is a critical measure for all sales organizations who receive inbound inquiries. You may even already be measuring this, 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.

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