Lead response time: How quickly should you follow up with leads?

Estimated read time: 11 minutes

Speed matters when it comes to lead response time. How quickly are you responding to people asking for a demo, downloading something or signaling in another way they are interested in purchasing your product? Some companies respond within minutes, others take some time, others, yet, automate everything. Let’s dive into this topic with two chats I’ve had with experts.

This article includes:

  • A chat with the Lead Forensics CMO
  • Email and phone call syncing
  • A chat with a global customer success expert

How quickly should we respond?

Lilah Waite, CMO at Lead Forensics, joined me on a livestream recording of the Business Storytelling Podcast to discuss the topic. You can listen here or watch the video version as well.

Some of the key highlights on lead response time from our chat:

  • Respond to inbound leads within 10 minutes. Responding days later can cost you business and sometimes people don’t even remember why they contacted you. Other times they may have hired an competitors.
  • Offer a human connection. That’s why phone calls still matter to have a good lead response time

  • Don’t give up. Lilah mentioned that many sales teams on average contact prospects 1.3 times. Even with a good lead response time that likely won’t be enough. Consider upping the average to over 10 times. Keep in mind that not all contact attempts come at good times. Even if I’m interested, but you call when I’m in a meeting, I can’t talk.
  • Marketing should deliver leads on a single-instance reporting instance. In other words: Don’t send leads in batches but ship them automatically as they come in. (It’s hard to follow up quickly if you don’t see the lead until a day or week or worse later.)

Certainly, speed can be a differentiator and I’ve won deals and bought things from companies when communications happened quickly. Of course, if teams are used to taking their time or systems aren’t set up to respond quickly, it can be a struggle early on. Use [A]’s process and update pieces of the process one step at a time.

Read next: Can content intelligence take the chaos out of content creation?

Set a goal and go after it, Lilah said. Even if your lead response time goal is 5 minutes and you make it to 10 minutes that’s still better than 4 days, she said.

Consider a quick email to improve lead response time

I’m a huge fan of drip email campaigns (aka nurture campaigns). Sure, most of the ones that land in my inbox are kind of bad. The wording is annoying, doesn’t get to the point and many start with a lukewarm welcome:

“Hello, Christoph. I hope you are doing well.”

<Swipe left>

At least that one got my name in there. Another recent one said:

“Dear <test user first name>….”

This isn’t even the real email? Anyway, swipe left.

Read next: Email design inspiration: Do all marketing emails need to be designed?

While I hate unannounced phone calls and hardly ever answer them, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I do answer calls from unknown numbers to me. And when the caller is in my phone as a contact I’m much more likely to answer.

Now the iPhone is even identifying by name callers that aren’t in my phone but that have emailed me before! That’s important for email marketers and sales people to be aware of.

So here’s what happened:

  • Sales person Kyle emailed me to say how funny it was that we were both at the Content Tech Summit – where I facilitated a workshop.
  • Ok. Well-written email, but swipe left. Not currently looking to buy anything.
  • Then later I got a call. The iPhone let me know that maybe it was Kyle.

I almost answered just because of that. I didn’t even remember who Kyle was but there was a connection. Somehow. I almost answered, which is better than direct decline of the call.

How many business people get their phone calls on their iPhone? No idea. But I use mine exclusively. My office phone rolls over to it 100 percent of the time. I use AirPods for most of my calls.

Read next: How to unlock your iPhone with a mask on! Face ID works even with mask!

In the office I use Skype for Business or Zoom when it’s a group call. Either way, if you take business calls on your iPhone like me, this is good to know.

Read next: Will this virtual background work for my video Zoom business meeting?

More on lead response time and follow up with Tamara Burkett

Follow up matters and of course that is one reason why some marketers and sales people just hammer us with emails.

Tamara BurkettGlobal expert Tamara Burkett joined me on an episode of the podcast and shared even more tips.

As Tamara shared on the Business Storytelling Podcast just 3% of prospects at any given time are actually ready to buy. That of course is 3% of relevant prospects. So if I build a large audience that has nothing to do with my business that 3% doesn’t come off of that number but the qualified prospects.

Read next: Demo: Use Google Optimize to convert more people

We discussed automation and best practices to build relevant relationships and experiences with your prospects.

What’s a good follow up?

What a good follow up is depends on who you’re talking to. What are the problems they’re trying to solve and how can you help them and where are they in the funnel? Make sure you’re addressing their needs and their challenges. Of course, if you follow up quickly those items might be top of mind for them.

Where is that fine line between being helpful and being annoying?

It comes back to what are their pain points and how can you address them at the right time. Sometimes knowing when the right time is is harder than it sounds. A quick lead response time can help here as they just signaled their interest in your product.

For example, I often go to websites of conferences and reach out to sponsors to offer them my event coverage package.

Sometimes people reply and say they were so upset that I emailed them out of the blue. Other times people reply and say that sounds like a great idea let’s discuss it. Sometimes the timing was right and sometimes it was wrong. Of course it can be hard to figure out where their mindset is.

Another strategy is to focus the discussion around asking about what their current goals and needs are.

Again this can work with some people but doesn’t work with other people. For example, when somebody calls me and asked me what my current goals or needs are I often disqualify that call as an immediate sales call that I don’t have time for. But if somebody calls me and says “hey do you need help with X” and I currently need to ask I might be open to consider furthering that discussion.

Sometimes it might be OK to send somebody a coupon and sometimes it might not be the right time for that.

How you can use content in your follow ups?

This is where teams can partner and find a way to use content that has already been created in new situations with new prospects. This is very similar to the email strategy of cadences and reusing content that I have previously mentioned here. The marketing ops team should also be able to help here. We discussed that topic here. 

Sharing valuable information can help prospects become a more educated buyer. Of course as a company we want them to buy our stuff but we also want to build that relationship to get and keep them as a long-term customer. That is easier said than done and I have seen an increase in self-serving content out there.

Of course, sales people and even marketers in a content performance culture have more and more pressure to hit their numbers today. That comes down to knowing your numbers, building that long-term funnel and understanding that a small percentage – 3% – of your qualified audience is ready to buy at any time.

You need to plan ahead. If you’re reaching 100 people just three people of those will be ready to buy. Of course if the marketing team can help automate reaching 100 people and qualifying them it’s easier to be more targeted about reaching out to the correct three people or maybe six people of which three are ready to buy. And once those three raise their hand, of course it’s important to reach out right away.

Of course remember that the other 97 are still prospective buyers but not today maybe not tomorrow. So they need to be nurtured along to some kind of relevant and timely follow-up.

Is it a numbers game?

Certainly you don’t want to spray and pray but it is a numbers game and you do have to reach a good amount of relevant people to make a sale.

How to get timing right?

When it’s a one on one conversation ask the person when a good time for follow up is and what that follow up might look like. It’s a little harder when it comes to messages to the masses. Or messages on a cadence even when everyone gets their own personalized cadence.

In those cases make sure you’re looking at the numbers. How are people responding? Are they looking at the message multiple times? I once got a deal after somebody read my email about 10 times. And I could tell that they opened it 10 times. they certainly were interested. And that also was confirmed when they finally replied.

Make sure the conversation focuses on them and their needs. And keep in mind that it’s not always about the sale at every stage in the conversation.

But of course when somebody is ready to buy make sure you help them finalize the purchase quickly.

How to pick the right channels for communication

Experiment. See how people react on different channels and also ask them. For example, I will tell anybody that I do not want voicemails, please. Text me, email me send me a direct message on Twitter.

As much as I don’t like voice messages and I know others feel the same way voice messages on LinkedIn seemed to have worked well for me.

Text messages can work well for reminders.

Read next: When and how to use a Slack channel to communicate with people

Email works but can also be overwhelming.

How about automation?

Automation can increase productivity and efficiency. It is a tricky balancing act of what do you automate and you want the automation to work and what don’t you automate.

Potentially an easy way to start automation is what are some standard communications that always happen. Examples include:

    Scheduling a meeting
    Reminder for the meeting
    Follow up after the meeting

Scheduling meetings certainly can be automated. Some task in onboarding also can be.

Somethings can be semi automated by setting up triggers.

Keep in mind that you do want it to be smooth and frictionless for the prospect of a customer. And don’t lose the human touch completely and try to integrate humanness into your automation.

How about CRMs?

There’s a wide spectrum of client relationship management systems that can be used. some CRMs certainly can’t be used and are not affordable for smaller businesses.

Salesforce is expensive and you really need internal support to use it so it’s pretty much mostly useful for larger businesses.

There are other systems that exist for smaller companies – like a three-person company.

Before picking a system consider: What are your challenges?

For example, if you’re struggling with the follow up consider a system that will prompt you to follow up.

On the other hand if you need a system that tracks your sales process more you need a software tool that is more sales focused.

Syncing CRMs across all platforms

Conversation happen in so many places today that it is becoming more and more important that your CRM syncs everything across all the different platforms – including email, phone calls and social media.

 that didn’t used to be a standard feature but it’s becoming more and more important. Make sure you consider all the channels were communications happen as you’re picking a CRM.


Relationship and follow up matter to build an audience and drive business. That includes the speed at which we respond. Pick the right medium, the right intervals and the right level of authentic human interaction to move your relationship forward.

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