Lead Response: Everything You Need to Know

9 min readJune 29, 2020

A sales team’s lead response, and everything that surrounds it, makes or breaks their success. At its core, lead response is the amount of time that it takes for a sales team to respond to an inbound lead sourced from their site, an advertisement, or a partner. However, the enablement of a rapid lead response time and the ability to respond through the right channel, with the right message, and the optimal content at the right moment is far more complex.

The optimal lead response is extremely quick, but it goes far beyond just answering a request. Sales teams must use technologies to prioritize their outreach, enable rapid communications, gather contextual information, and deliver it in the right manner, in conjunction with a real human connection. To put it all in one place, we gathered together everything you need to know about lead response, including: the optimal lead response time, how you should respond to inbound leads, and the technologies you can use.

Why is Lead Response Time Important?

Lead response time is so essential because the quicker your sales team responds, the more likely you are to get in touch with the contact. Inbound leads are very important because of two reasons. First, they typically have marketing spend against them, whether it be advertising, events, or even SEO, content, and partnerships. This means that inbound leads are more costly than outbound ones, and need to be captured and sold to so teams can earn a positive return on investment.

Second, due to this marketing spend as well as their general nature, inbound leads are typically more qualified and ready to buy than outbound leads. This means they are looking to purchase, are in the midst of a purchase decision, or are a good customer fit. This interest also shortens the sales cycle, which means they have a higher probability of both closing, and closing quickly.

This makes inbound leads highly profitable for sales teams (when managed correctly) but they must be properly capitalized on with a rapid lead response time.

The Optimal Lead Response Time

Studies have shown that the optimal lead response time is 5 minutes or less. Within that, the sooner the better, so your lead response time should be as fast as possible with a maximum time of 5 minutes. In fact, the data further shows that you are 100 times more likely to get in touch with an inbound lead 5 minutes after they have contacted you versus 30 minutes after. Moreso, the likelihood of a sales rep successfully qualifying an inbound lead drops 21 times between 5 and 30 minutes. This means that a fast lead response time is crucial when it comes to capitalizing on inbound leads and earning the ROI.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of B2B sales organizations are incredibly slow. The average lead response time is 42 hours. Other data shows less than half of B2B companies respond to inbound leads within 5 days, and 58% never even respond. Take into consideration the fact that B2B marketers spent over 4.6 billion dollars in advertising last year, and that means nearly 2.7 were completely lost.

However, as stated previously, lead response is more than just a quick response time. Leads need to be contacted in the right order, through the right channel, and with the right message. It seems that many companies have attempted to solve the problem of rapid response with an automated email, but that is not contextually relevant, provides no value, and no opportunities for true engagement. To properly respond to a lead, sales teams must provide legitimate value in their response.

How to Respond to Inbound Leads

Using Lead Response Reps

Depending on the volume of inbound leads that your team generates, companies either hire reps specifically to handle inbound leads, or assign certain inbound leads to specific reps.

These inbound reps are known as Lead Response Reps, Inbound SDRs, or Marketing Qaulification Reps. When an inbound lead fills out a form, downloads marketing content such as eBooks or whitepapers, attends a webinar, answers marketing emails, or even calls in, lead response reps are tasked with responding to them.

The benefits of hiring a team of dedicated lead response reps is that they can help to create a dependable stream of opportunities for your account executives. Account executives don’t have to spend time qualifying inbound leads themselves, and they can instead spend their time only selling to sales-ready leads. Companies often choose to hire dedicated lead response reps based on the number of unique monthly marketing leads. It’s advised to hire a company hire its first dedicated lead response rep when there are between 300-400 unique marketing leads, though this number will vary depending on industry and customer base.

What Channels to Use

To increase your chances of generating a conversation with an inbound lead, sales reps should attempt to contact prospects through at least two (if not more) channels. If there was an initial way the request came in, such as phone, email, chat, or text, the first response should always be through the same channel. Then, the sales rep should immediately follow up through a second channel, but in a manner that is not overly intrusive. If the initial contact took place through a web form, the phone is the most preferred method as it lends itself most directly to a true conversation.

For example, if a prospect fills out a web form, the sales rep should immediately attempt to contact that individual over the phone. If they do not get in touch, they should leave a message, then immediately send an email about why they called.

If an inbound lead comes through and email, text, or chat, the lead response should take place within that channel, and then the rep can move the conversation to a phone call or video conference which is more conducive for a sales conversation.

How to Prioritize Inbound Leads

Naturally, a sales organization may generate hundreds of inbound leads every day, which can be difficult for reps to respond to. Not every lead is going to be an ideal buyer as well, and therefore you don’t want unqualified contacts to take precedence over qualified and interested buyers. Sales reps can only respond to certain leads quickly, and there should prioritize their responses to the most qualified and ready to buy contacts.

This is where technology can help. Sales tools will score leads and automatically prioritize them for sales reps. The key is to not automate the actual connection, as a standard email may turn off the prospect. Instead, automate the path to a response. The tool should look at things like the amount of time spent on site, prior engagements, what pages and content they have engaged with, and generate a score. The higher the score, the more important they are to get to. Inbound leads are then ordered according to their score and reps are able to easily see which contacts to respond to first. Even better, some tools and automatically notify exactly who and how reps need to reach out to.

Lead Response Requires Contextual Information

Lead response is more than simply reaching out to an inbound lead quickly. The reps who respond must be informed with the right information and armed with the right steps in order to effectively engage and capitalize on the leads. Sales applications with automated lead enrichment that can both gather applicable information and deliver to the reps in a manner that allows them to have a valuable and impactful conversation are key. Reps should not spend time scavenging the internet for essential lead information before every call, nor should they waste time dialing the wrong numbers or emailing incorrect addresses. The right sales application will automate lead data enrichment and CRM cleanup and save valuable time from both an admin and outreach perspective.

How to Optimize Lead Response

Sales analytics tools can generate data that provides complete visibility into the performance of marketing campaigns, especially those that capture inbound leads. With this insight, we can maximize our inbound efforts to collect as many leads as possible. This newfound ability has produced large increases in inbound lead volume for nearly every company, creating the need for reps who specifically handle inbound leads.

We’ve found five metrics that are key indicators of your inbound reps’ effectiveness. By monitoring them, you gain direct visibility into how quickly and effectively your team (and each rep) responds to each inbound lead. You can also instantaneously diagnose an issue and respond before you damage your pipeline.

Average Lead Response Time by Rep

The average lead response time by rep reveals, on average, how long it takes reach rep to respond to an inbound lead.

When you compare average response time with each reps’ score, you can identify a problem before it begins. If a rep is faster, that’s great, they can serve as an example. What specifically do they do that allows them to respond quickly? Or, do they handle less lead volume?

If a rep is slower, they should receive a little extra help. Are too many leads assigned to the lagging reps? Do they spend too much time trying to reach each individual contact? Or, are they simply not quick enough? If a rep’s time increases, you must intervene quickly. Every second a lead goes uncontacted, the chance of a win drops.

Opportunities by Lead Response Time

Now that you know how long it a takes a rep to respond to any given inbound lead, you can start to understand how it impacts your pipeline. Opportunities by lead response time takes the inbound leads that get converted to opportunities, and then examines how long it took a rep to make contact.

This is combined with the average lead response time by rep so you can immediately know if inbound response time is affecting your pipeline. If your opportunity by lead response time is 10 minutes, but your reps’ average lead response time is 30 minutes, your reps are responding too slowly to effectively create an opportunity. Therefore, your funnel will likely slow. On the other hand, if the average lead response time is faster, they could be on the path to outperform their goals.
The same method can be applied on an individual basis as well. If a rep struggles to convert inbound leads, examine their response time. It may be slower than what is necessary to create an opportunity.

Conversion Rate by Lead Response Time

Conversation rate by lead response time makes a direct comparison between your reps’ inbound lead response time and their lead conversion rate. With it, you can directly examine how response time impacts your conversion rate.
Many companies create SLAs (service level agreements) that dictate how quickly reps are supposed to respond to leads. How exactly do you determine that time? If you know that your conversion rate drops after 30 minutes of no contact, then you know where to set your standard. Conversion rate by lead response time also shows how response time impacts your sales goal attainment.

Inbound Web Leads by Product

This is where marketing can get in on the fun as well. Most companies either sell multiple products or run multiple marketing campaigns at the same time. Inbound web leads by product tracks how many leads are generated by each different campaigns. This is especially useful if you have a team with product specialists who only focus on the sales of a specific product.
With inbound leads by product, you can see exactly how many those inbound leads those specialists need to handle, and marketing can understand how effective their campaigns are.

Follow-up Rate

What is Lead Response ringDNA Blog HeaderFollow-up rate tracks the percentage of inbound leads that have calls and emails logged. Basically it shows you how many attempts at contact each rep makes on their inbound leads. In B2B sales, it can take up to eight or more calls and emails to secure a meeting. Therefore you can see which reps are doing their due diligence and making multiple contact attempts on each lead.

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About the Author

Zack Cronin

Zack is a Sales Content Specialist at RingDNA. He is passionate about solving everyday problems and increasing performance through innovative technology. Zack has worked directly with sales teams and understands the challenges they face on a daily basis. When he's not developing and sharing knowledge at RingDNA, he loves being outdoors, hiking, and coffee.