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Fast lead response times secure new business

Conversion – an ambiguous definition

A lot of time and effort is spent by digital experts and digital agencies to increase online conversion rates through A/B testing. Changing the content and position of texts, buttons and colours often has significant effects as a recent article by conversion expert Miles Burke shows: how a few tweaks on a landing page can increase 5 times the conversion.

Increased conversions rates and A/B testing your website and landing pages are extremely important. Yet, this is only as important as the follow up that is given on a conversion. This is where it becomes interesting, as the definition of ‘conversion’ can be somewhat ambiguous.

Merriam-Webster defines a conversion as: ["the act or process of changing from one form, state, etc., to another"]. Cambridge Dictionary backs this statement by defining it as: ["the process of converting something from one thing to another"].

This leaves a lot of room for interpretation and judgement, but when talking about doing business, isn’t a true conversion the moment someone has actually agreed to make use of your products or services?
A true conversion is the moment someone actually agrees to make use of your products/services.

A true conversion often takes place off site

For online retail companies, a true conversion may be as straightforward as a sale on the website. This is where the customer has expressed his/her interest and has agreed to make the purchase, going into a contract with you by making a payment. For non-retail companies – such as hire/rental companies or B2B companies - this may be very different. For these companies a web conversion may simply be the request for a quote or the filling out a contact form. However, the true conversion may not take place online at all. The final transaction takes place outside of the online platform and may require initial follow up by phone or email before concluding the deal or making an appointment. Now this is where it becomes very interesting. No matter how good your ‘web/online’ conversion rates are, the follow up on the lead determines everything in whether a true conversion will take place. Research into this has shown astonishing results.

The best day to contact a lead is Wednesday or Thursday - never makes your calls at lunch time

Let’s skip back in 2007 when Dave Elkington (CEO and James Oldroyd (PhD Professor Sloan School of Management, MIT) presented their extensive research on web-based leads. They had asked themselves a simple question: “how and when should a person respond to a web-based lead”.

What they learned astonished many. Elkington & Oldroyd’s research was executed among more than 600 companies ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies and their results were drastic. It is important to note, that they distinguish a difference between a lead and a qualified lead. The latter being defined as: [having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker].

The first thing they showed was that the best day of the week to call and make contact with a lead is Wednesday or Thursday. In fact, on a Thursday you have 49.7% more change to contact a lead than on the worst day, Tuesday. For qualified leads, the best day would be Wednesday, which is 24.9% better than the worst, being Friday. Monday consistently showed poor performance.
The best days to call are Wednesday and Thursday
The best time to call and make contact with a lead turned out to be between 4pm and 6pm. The chances of making contact were 114% better at that time than at the worst time, which was 11am. The best times to call leads in order to qualify them is between 8am and 9am or between 4pm and 5pm. Lunch time (12pm-14pm) is the worst time to contact a lead. In fact, calling between 8am and 9am showed a 164% better chance of qualifying a lead then between 1pm and 2pm.
Avoid calling at lunchtime
These numbers are huge and this insight is very valuable. In conclusion of the above, the best time to contact a lead on a Wednesday or a Thursday between 8am and 9am or between 4pm and 5pm. However…

The absolute killer: you are 100x less likely to make contact after 30 minutes

Even though the above results were statistically very significant, these results were absolutely dwarfed by what Elkington & Oldroyd learned next. They showed that you are already 100x less likely to make contact after 30 minutes of the initial lead request. The chances significantly drop after that to the extend that you are 3000x less likely to make contact 5 hours later.
After 5 hours, you are 3000x less likely to make contact with the lead
This is plainly shocking and most companies still don’t realise the impact this can have on their business. The logic behind the above is simple. When someone does a lead request, they are actively searching and thus have time for the matter. This may not be the case a few hours later where they have moved on and are going about their everyday activities.

Making contact the first 5 minutes significantly improves your chances

Timing is thus of the essence. The full report was called “How Much Time Do You Have Before Web-Generated Leads Go Cold?” and showed that the odds of getting in touch with the lead are very high if the lead gets contacted within 5 minutes of placing a request. The chances of getting in contact after 5 minutes then drop significantly.
Contact your lead within 5 minutes
When someone is called within 5 minutes they are amazed at the response time, adding a ‘Wow Factor’ to your level of service. This positive and pleasant surprise works in your favour as a vendor from that point of time onward. Simply put, your have created an excellent first impression.

Respond within the hour and you are 7 times as like to qualify the lead

In another study issued by Harvard called “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads” revealed that businesses that respond to a lead within the hour are more than 7 times as likely to qualify the lead as businesses that respond an hour later, and more than 60 times as likely as companies take 24 hours or longer.
Respond within an hour and you are 7 times as likely to qualify the lead

35-50% of sales go to the vendor that makes first contact

Responding quickly also has another spin-off effect as another interesting study done by InsideSales illustrates. They state that that being the first to contact a lead instigates a process of natural preference. Their study reveils that 35-50% of the sales go the vendor or agent that makes contact first”. They refer to this as ‘self-selection’. Customers have a natural tendency to go with their first choice. So if you get there first, you become that first choice and you hold an intangible advantage over your competitors.
Be the first to contact the customer

Bring all your guns….

And when you do contact them, use everything you have. Don’t just call them or email them. Also send text messages smoke signals and carrier pigeons if you can says Jason Fell from According to Cardone, a renowned sales powerhouse, the chance if you converting a lead go up by 300% if you have the data to text a client within the first 5 minutes.
Use all media at your disposal to contact your lead

So where does this leave us?

Essentially it is very simple. Having good online conversion rates are only part of the sales equation. When you get a lead, be as fast as you can to respond to it and use any means as you have (phone, email, text message). If your lead follow-up process is not in order/not fast enough, you are significantly lowering your chances of contacting the lead and turning it into a true conversion. In other words… if your competitors are faster, they are more likely to make the sale.

A little test in Australia

As a matter of test here in Australia, I placed a few quote requests for installing solar quotes at my house through various providers. I got the first response 2 days after I filled out my details on numerous websites. I got my last phone call 9 days after my initial request. As friendly as he was, I felt sorry for the guy. I’m sure he was not aware of the consequences of his call. In fact, Elkington and Oldroyd’s study revealed that if you try to make contact after 20 hours, it actually hurts your ability to convert this lead, and thus hurts your business. I told him this, and all I got was a virtual shrug. Guess who did not get the deal…