Why Time Counts in the Sales Process [Research-Backed]

Beth Hurst posted this in the Sales Skills Category
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The biggest mistake

According to a study by Lead Connect, 78% of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first. Speed is the most important factor when it comes to getting the most out of inbound leads.

the sales process

In fact, wait any longer than 5 minutes and you will see an average decrease of 80% in lead qualification. When it comes to sales, time counts.

This is what happens when you wait…

Someone fills their details into an online form, showing a great interest in your service. They’re at the golden consideration stage – ready to invest and purchase while they are thinking about it.

At that moment they are totally invested and willing to be called.

A minute after this point they might be reading an email, still thinking about your service…

An hour later they’re in a meeting, and the idea might be at the back of their mind…

Four hours later they’re sat at home watching tv and have completely forgotten…

The closer you can make the first contact to that fresh thought process, the better. Start the conversation when their intent is at the highest point possible, and you’re onto a winner. Leave it a while, and your chance of success decreases.

The question that marketers are always asking themselves is – when is the optimum time to follow up on leads?

Some might consider acquiring the leads in the first place to be the hard part, but it’s actually what you do with them that counts. You’ve got all the information at your fingertips, and need to use it in a helpful way.

The facts around timing

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  • According to a study of 1.25 million leads, those contacted within one hour of making a query were seven times more likely to be qualified (as in the conversation was meaningful with someone able to make decisions).
  • InsideSales.com found that every minute counts when following up on leads. The odds of calling and successfully being able to contact a lead decrease by over 10 times in the first hour.
  • The odds of qualifying a lead when you call after 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times.
  • Waiting 10 minutes instead of 5 means you are 4 times less likely to have a meaningful, positive call.
  • After 20 hours, every additional call made seems to hurt the sales person’s chance at qualifying a lead.

Ok so when should I call?

So we’ve established that the quicker you call the better. But there are other factors to consider.

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A survey looked at whether the day of the week or the exact time of the call had any major effect. They found that Wednesday and Thursday were the best days to call, with Thursday being 49.7% better day to call than Tuesday.

When it comes to qualifying leads, Friday was the least successful day, at 24.9% worse than Wednesday.

Not only does day make an impact, but so does the time of day that contact is attempted. The end of the day (from 4pm-6pm) is a huge 114% better than calling to make contact in the 11am-12pm window before lunchtime.

Almost oppositely, 8am-9am is 164% better when qualifying a lead than calling just after lunch (1pm-2pm).

So what does all of this mean for the sales process?

In a perfect world, a lead comes through to you at 8:01 am on a Wednesday, and by 8:06 am they have been contacted, qualified, and conversion is looking likely.

Sadly we do not live in that perfect world, but there are a few lessons we can learn from these studies.

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1. The need for speed

According to Zogby Analytics “60% of buyers said they would begin to question a company’s attentiveness if they did not hear back from the company within 24 hours after submitting an online form.”

The quicker you contact the lead the better chance you have, so put in place an action plan to get there as fast as possible. There are two different ways to ensure speed:

  1. The first is undoubtedly organisation (see point 2 ‘Be organized’ below) which will allow you to be as efficient as possible.
  2. The other thing to consider is the tech you’re using to contact your leads – if there is any way to improve your speed to lead, invest in it.

At the heart of your efforts is always going to be your sales team. Getting them on the same page with the importance of speed is a great first step. You might even consider

60% of buyers said they'd begin to question a company’s attentiveness if they didn't hear back from it within 24 hours after submitting an online form. Click To Tweet

2. Be organised 

Without organisation, you don’t have a sales process. Having a predefined way of managing inbound leads is key to your success. It’s important to think about every little segment and check for inefficiencies.

First things first – how do you find out about the new leads?

  • Notifications should pop up on your phone, your laptop, and your email inbox.
  • Your booking systems should be open ready to go.

Being organised will translate into confidence when speaking on the phone to your potential customers. Preparation for calls could include:

  • Writing any questions you must ask to qualify the call down on a post-it note on your desktop.
  • Learning the product or service inside out.
  • Being able to anticipate common questions.

Organisation doesn’t stop when you put down the phone. It’s good practice to record every interaction you have with a lead on your CRM. Knowing exactly when you left a voicemail and if you sent an email can prevent embarrassing and unprofessional overlaps, especially if you have multiple people working on the system.

3. Have a plan when you can’t get in touch

Take a tip from the Scouts on this one, and be prepared.

While it’s true that 92% of customer interactions happen over the phone, you need to know what to do when no-one is picking up. Write your own templates for emails when they miss your call that you can easily adapt and quickly send. There are many methods other than calling – such as texting, voicemail, or live chat.

Many salespeople give up extremely quickly – after a few call attempts and an email for example. However, it is recommended to try at least 6 points of contact across a few channels before you should even think about letting go. It’s important to work out the most effective amount of times for your business. You may also spot patterns of the most effective techniques and realign your goals accordingly.

4. Know when to stop

Good salespeople know when to stop selling.

Statistically, it’s simply not worth investing the time in pursuing a dead lead after a certain point. It’s all about figuring out exactly when that point of no return is, and moving on to being productive with the next potential customer.

You should know when to say enough is enough, and ditch an unprofitable, time-consuming contact in favour of chasing fresh customers.

It isn’t realistic to expect a conversion every time – only to hope that you are committed to doing everything possible to ensure the percentage is high as it could possibly be.

It’s important to not get disheartened when a customer says no or doesn’t respond to your contact attempts. Dust yourself off, look over your process and try again.

5. Sense of urgency

Every time you speak to someone, they are only one step away from investing their money.

As they’ve willingly inputted their details and are waiting to be called, half of the job is already done! This isn’t a forceful cold call — all you need to do is reassure their already existing intent to buy.

There’s no need for the hard sell — instead, you can build a relationship gently based on trust from being honest and informative. Click To Tweet

You need to explain, reassure and elaborate that it’s worth their time and investment. There’s no need for the hard sell — instead, you can build a relationship gently based on trust from being honest and informative.

The flip side to this is that you still need to give that final push of motivation to get the customer to convert.

One way to do this is to imply a sense of urgency to the situation.

This could be simply mentioning that appointments book up early in advance, or using temporary promotions to persuade them to snap up a deal. Use their existing desire for your service, nurture it, and encourage them to stop dithering in a friendly, easy way.

6. Keep an eye on your assets

When you’re trying to attract new customers, it’s important to put your best foot forward on all accounts.

  • Your website should be clean and up to date
  • Any reviews online should be positive
  • Your social media should be relevant and well maintained.
  • All of your salespeople should be aware of the information on your web page and elsewhere.
  • Aim to portray an image of having your customer’s interests at heart in all areas.
  • In short, make sure everything that isn’t you on the phone still reflects your business in the best possible way.

If everything is on brand and matches up, then your other resources will only reiterate what you are saying on the phone and increase the chance of a sale.

If you’re part of the 55% of companies who take 5 days or more to respond to leads the time to act is now.

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