Advises Quick Response Time

A sales response within five minutes of obtaining an online sales lead can make or break a sale, but only five percent of companies actually respond within that time and many companies mis-estimate their own response times. Those are among the key takeaways from's report on the speed of sales responses in the Internet age.

The report, the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) 2013 ResponseAudit from the Research Division of lead response platform provider, is subtitled “Illusory Superiority.” The key findings indicate that companies are under-performing in sales responses, and need to “respond more quickly to Web leads, be more persistent in contacting leads, and call each lead more frequently.” Additionally, it found that companies’ perception of how they are doing in this area are “out of line with reality.”

Response Time, Persistency

The two main areas of focus in the report are response time and persistency, since these are the biggest factors in moving a lead through a sales funnel to become a customer. Lead response time indicates how long between the submission of an electronic lead and the first contact by a sales rep, and persistence in how many times a new lead is contacted before being abandoned. Considered contact methods were email and phone calls.

A previous report, the five-year Lead Response Management Study, had found that minutes count in landing a sale. It said that “the odds of contacting a lead are 100 times greater when contacted within 5 minutes after the lead was submitted” than if the sales agent waits 30 minutes. The odds that the lead will begin moving through the sales process are 21 times greater if contact is made within 5 minutes, compared to 30.

Other studies have shown firms are spending more money on generating Internet leads -– an increase of 82% between 2005 and 2009 -- but their processes are not structured for fast responses. One report found that the average response time for companies that responded even within a month was 42 hours. Only 37% contacted the lead within an hour, and 24% took more than 24 hours.

1.3 Call Attempts found that, between 2008 and 2012, only 1.3 call attempts on average were made to contact a new lead before the sales rep gave up. Its recommendation is making 8 to 12 calls to “dramatically improve contact rates.” uses a patent-pending system that employs a “secret shopper” with an alias name, email, phone number and company website. The fake shopper fills out an online form and the system measures all call attempts, email messages and time stamps.

Learning Opportunities

Although response times to Net-delivered leads can clearly impact the possibility of gaining a customer, this report raises several questions.

One question not answered by the report is whether its recommendation of as many as a dozen calls to contact someone will likely result in a negative backlash against that brand. For instance, after entering your contact information into an online form to get information about obtaining home mortgage refinancing, you will expect a followup call, with perhaps a voice message if you’re not available.

Phone Deluge, Social Media?

But 8 to a dozen phone calls, many with messages left, or the same number of emails? I, for one, would feel deluged by a wave of hard selling. Perhaps the idea is not to leave a recorded message on each call, but one could conceive that a child or spouse is home when you’re not, answering each call and assumedly taking messages each time. Additionally, most phones these days show listings of repeated call attempts.

The other question is where social media fits into all of this. Countless CRM and sales software vendors these days are preaching the need to respond to customers via multiple channels, with special attention to responding via the channel in which the inquiry is made. A company’s Facebook page, for instance, could get an inquiry about the brand’s product, inviting a Facebook or similar response, but the report does not appear to address those channels.  

Finally, what about the role of modern CRM, customer service and sales tools in helping companies respond rapidly, and in measuring their responses more accurately than they apparently do? Most such tools these days are boasting of their monitoring capabilities and their ability to quickly channel requests. Are companies buying these tools but still not responding quickly because of a lack of urgency? Do these tools make a difference in response times? The report doesn't say.