How The Concept Of “Speed To Lead” Helps Increase Your Opportunities To Close More Qualified Prospects

Posted by LinkedSelling in B2B Lead Generation & Sales Development

“I feel the need, the need for speed.”
-- Maverick, Top Gun

I love that line. A lot of successful people talk about speed as a major factor for their business success. 

Speed in making decisions, speed in agility. Speed in adaptiveness. 

This past year has definitely shown that people who’ve been able to make changes in how they operate, or change in what they offer to better serve their clients, and/or change in how they communicate internally and with clients, come out on top. 

ALL of that requires speed and agility. 

The idea of “Speed to Lead” is an example of how using speed in sales follow-up with prospects who’ve shown interest (when they’ve shown interest!) will result in more sales opportunities. The clock is ticking when your leads request your attention. Speed matters. This post will share with you how we managed to get a 25% increase in sales appointments simply by increasing our speed to lead time.

What is Speed to Lead?

Hopefully you’ve experienced it. You’ve definitely learned what is not… 

Like when you sit down at a restaurant and it takes forever for your server to come over. Or you walk into a store and there is no one there to help answer your questions. Or maybe you send an email to a potential vendor and you get no response… for days (or weeks!). 

It’s a disappointing experience and definitely not likely to get you to return, or to speak highly of the service offered.

So what happens? You go somewhere else. Paying attention to your speed to lead will make sure your prospects don’t do that to you.

Speed to Lead is exactly the opposite. The team over at Chilipiper describe it perfectly, 

“Speed to lead is the elapsed time between someone expressing interest in your business and your sales reps’ earliest response. Maybe that means filling out a form. Perhaps it’s a demo on-site request.”

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Why does Speed to Lead matter?

It matters because the only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness. Your prospect might be downloading your ebook - and everyone else’s. They might be looking at your website, but they also looked at 10 other websites that day. How can you make sure you’re remembered? 

More importantly, how can you capitalize on their interest and move the conversation forward… while they’re still interested?

The answer is simple: Contact them as soon as they show interest.

In other words, as soon as they’ve taken any type of action (whether filling out form, downloading an ebook, or whatever it is), give them a call. 

There’s plenty of research that supports this. To start, Professor Olroyd of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that the faster you connect with new leads, the higher your chances of conversion. 

According to his studies, the odds of having a conversation with a lead are 100X greater when a contact attempt occurs within the first 5 minutes, compared to 30 minutes after the lead was submitted. 

Furthermore, the odds of converting them into a sales opportunity are 20X greater when contacted within 5 minutes versus 30 minutes after the lead was submitted.

When Speed to Lead Isn’t Prioritized

On the surface, it makes sense; the sooner you engage your leads with a call or email after that initial point of contact, the better. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it?

Leads don’t happen by accident. You pay for them so naturally you’ll want to make the most of every opportunity, right? Don’t let them go to waste due to sluggish response times that are totally within your control. 

In fact, according to Dave Elkington, the CEO and founder of a company called

“B2B companies spend anywhere from $30 to $200+ on each marketing generated lead while B2C firms typically spend from $2-25 for each hot lead.  He says that if a CEO realized the amount of money they were throwing down the drain in terms of wasted leads and lower close rates due to no-follow-up, slow-follow-up and low persistence,  they would shake the tree and turn things upside down."

Making those changes requires a conscious effort as well as real changes in workflow for your sales teams. Not just that, but sales teams should prioritize speed to lead and optimize it like any performance metric. The key to an effective speed to lead approach is to start with your prospect in mind (same thinking we’ve talked about when aligning your sales process to the buyer journey) and engage with them when they want to engage, to “meet their intent with answers and solutions, and establish a meaningful connection.” (Clearbit).

Think about it, when you have a potential prospect who's eager enough to browse through or request content, or even better, to request an appointment or hop on a call, their purchase intent is at an all-time high. They’re pumped up! They’re ready to talk. They’re interested. With any luck, they might be one of those 3% of prospects that are ready to buy outright. Here’s the trap though: with every moment that passes between that initial outreach and your response, their interest starts to wane. 

If they don’t outright forget about you, and your content, or their attention hasn’t been scooped up by a competitor, they’re thinking something along these lines...

Do I really need this? 

Maybe I’ll sleep on it. 

I wonder if I could get it somewhere else?

I wonder how [your competitor] addresses the same issue…

Improving your speed to lead isn’t just a nice thing to do to enhance customer experience. It’s critical to your business - and your bottom line. 

To support this, Vendasta reports that 78% of Customers Buy from the Business that Responds First.

Simply put, speed makes all the difference when it comes to getting leads to close. 

Leif Peters, Senior Account Executive of IntelliChief illustrates another reason this matters...

“Many times, the first vendor to engage a prospect has the opportunity to shape their perspective for the entire duration of their project. By setting the bar high and shaping how they see ALL potential solutions - not just yours - you have the opportunity to build your value and truly emphasize your key differentiators. The first time they hear about a feature or a benefit, it's unique and impressive. You want that to be coming from you. The third or fourth time they hear it, it's an old hat - and that makes it harder to stand out.”

Another benefit of increased speed to lead is that responding first also shows these leads that you value their time, and about providing a positive customer or client experience.

NOT putting effort into this means:

  1. Wasting the money you spent to acquire the prospect
  2. Losing out on potential sales opportunities
  3. Losing out on potentially shaping the buyer experience and perspective
  4. Potentially providing a less-than positive customer experience
  5. You give room for your competitors to enter the scene

How to Capture More Appointments While You Are Still Relevant

If you want to book more appointments, timing definitely matters. You want to find the sweet spot of finding a good prospect, with a relevant and urgent problem, and then offer your solution (or at least start the relationship). Again, the key is to do this while they’re engaged with you. Show up right when they need you and not only are you more memorable - you’re helpful. You’re a resource they can get immediate information from.

Increasing your speed to lead to get those great quality prospects to book appointments and engage in real sales conversations as soon as possible requires up-to-date, live data, and a team of SDR’s or sales people who can jump on the new prospect as soon as possible. 

Can your team respond within 5 minutes when a prospect shows interest? Most businesses can’t. 

However, you can make the case that whatever you CAN do to increase your speed to lead will most likely increase your sales opportunities - and possibly even your closing rate.

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Results From Our Speed To Lead Experiment

We switched things up internally with our LinkedSelling SDR team. For a specific campaign run by the marketing department, increasing the speed to lead time of our SDR team resulted in an increase of 33% more sales appointments for our sales team. 

Our SDR team usually would call a prospect after data had been updated up to a week after the prospect had shown interest. We decided that wasn’t good enough, so we began making sure the data is updated immediately and that our SDR’s call within the first 24 hours of an action by the prospect. 

Note that this isn’t even a goal of calling within the first 5 minutes - the time shown above and proven by studies to be THE best time to call. 

The results were immediate and significant. The average appointments for the three months before the change our average appointments book per month by our SDR’s was 82 appointments.

Once we made the change in November, we immediately saw an increase in qualified sales appointments.

In Month 1, our SDR’s brought in 134 appointments.

In Month 2, we tightened up our speed to lead even more and our SDR team brought in 195 appointments.

Speed Has Become An Important Element Of Strategy

What does all this mean for your sales team? It means that even increasing your speed to lead to within 24 hours can drastically increase sales appointments for your team. 

It means that taking more control over the timing of the buyer cycle, having live, updated access to data on incoming activity from prospective buyers, an optimistic attitude, and an agile team, you can easily put yourself far above the competition. All by simply increasing your speed to lead.

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