Should You or Should You Not Respond to Inbound Leads Immediately?
Believe it or not, this is a real debate going on, and I don’t think the author meant for it to go this far. JaccoVan der Kooij wrote a detailed article called, The SaaS Metrics Blueprint: How to Define, Measure and Display What Actually Matters. I think Jacco knows what he’s talking about, but he’s sparked a debate with a few paragraphs that deserves some clarification. So let’s discuss lead response time and best practices.
Here are the paragraphs being debated:
CASE IN POINT: A client downloads a white paper and is asked for the email to receive it. The organizations categorize this as an inbound lead and follow it up by an MDR who calls up after 5 minutes and asks “how can I help you?”. The client is caught off-guard and did not even read the paper. They do not want to talk to anyone yet and feel intimidated by the aggressive follow-up.
Instead, organizations should direct such a non-time sensitive development towards the outbound sales process. In this case, an SDR uses the download/nurture history as they reach out a few days later following research identifying relevance, present a use-case and an offer to help.
Here are a couple of comments from the post:
Okay, so let’s set the record straight on a few things, as it appears the debate turned to the idea of should you or should you not response to inbound leads immediately.
Respond to High Priority Leads in Under Five Minutes … Unless You’re an Idiot
If someone comes to your website and fills out a form for a ‘contact us’ or a ‘request a demo’ then you sure as hell better respond to them immediately. This is what I mean by high priority leads. Jacco seems to agree to this concept as well in his article.
Inbound: Reactionary to an inbound request (MQL) from a customer who experiences a pain, such as a demo request, trial sign-up, pricing request. The client is often interested to resolve it asap making this very time sensitive requiring a response in <5 minutes.
There is good data to back this concept up, as XANT Labs has done multiple studies that confirm this. See here for more details.
Find the Balance Between Speed and Score
You can’t just say a blanket statement that if someone downloads a white paper, then you should respond in ‘a couple of days.’ I’m sorry, but there are too many situations that require a ‘it depends’ to make that strong of a statement.
Let me take you through a few of these situations:
- I was at a company in Penn. Their best converting leads came from the source “white paper,” so they contacted them immediately.
- Another situation was at a company in New York. They got 10 inbound leads a month and they were struggling for pipeline. They took every lead seriously by responding quickly.
- I was at a company in Los Angeles. They got 35,000 inbound free trials a month. They can’t respond to all of them, so they responded to free trials that had a predictive score attached that labeled them an A or B.
- At a company in Austin, they got 27,000 inbound leads a month. They never got to the white paper leads. Those leads stayed on a nurture track and never came to the SDRs queue.
- I was at a company in SLC, and at one point they decided they should remove their lead response team and stop immediately responding to leads. The solution was to send leads directly to reps as part of an account-based motion – take it slow. Nine months later, they switched after they realized it was a huge mistake.
Know that the data (not experience or intuition) says if you want higher contact rates and qualification rates you will respond to someone quickly.
If ‘white paper’ leads are your best leads then contact them quickly. If you can’t get to your white paper leads then don’t try to follow up in a couple of days, put them on a structured marketing nurture track and wait for them to bubble up again.
The big question is, what does your data say?
Don’t Ever Reach Out and Start Your Conversation With ‘May I Help You’
What happened to the Challenger model of Teach, Tailor, and Take Control? Look, the reason I personally download stuff is because I have a problem.
If you’re an expert at solving problems for the information I downloaded, I want you to tell me what the hell I’m supposed to do.
If I hear an SDR say, “May I help you?” or “Did you get that ebook?” I’m going to throw up.
Know This: People Who Download Your Content Will Most Likely NEVER Read It
People act like it’s a big deal if you contact someone and they didn’t get to read the content they downloaded.
Newsflash… people don’t read.
Even if you give them two days, I promise you the majority will not be waiting for you with detailed questions.
Don’t believe me? Check this article out.
If you don’t like that one, there are thousands more like it.
Prospects Rarely if Ever Want to Talk to a Sales Person
When someone downloads a piece of content they don’t want to talk to anyone yet. . . Are you kidding? Are prospects ever dying to talk to a sales person?
Or are you suggesting prospects will want to talk to a sales rep ‘later’?
I don’t believe that.
Prospects want to talk to a sales person when they ‘call in’ or when they ‘request contact.’ Besides that, I don’t think prospects are anxiously waiting for sales reps to bother them.
Sales is about helping people understand that they NEED you even when they think they don’t.
Prospects Are Impressed with Hustle
I’ve been in the research game a while, and one thing stands out in our lead response studies. It’s really relevant to this conversation: the most common qualitative answer to people responding quickly to leads is “wow”.
Yes, there are people who are going to be bothered.
But know that they are the ‘loud minority’ and remember that sales is not always about making every single person happy.
It’s about doing what brings long term results.
If You’re Going to Reach Out, Do It Immediately-Don’t Wait Multiple Days
Some advocate waiting multiple days to contact your leads, without accounting for prospect’s short attention span.
All the data we have says the longer you wait, the less chance you have of getting a hold of the person and converting them into your pipeline.
I know it feels nicer to wait until ‘the prospect is ready,’ but the data says that’s wrong.
Account-Based Doesn’t Have to Equal Slow Response
Just because you run an account-based model, doesn’t mean you need to respond slow to leads. A lot of people believe that in an account-based model you should send leads directly to account executives and then let them follow up when they can, as part of the larger approach strategy.
You just can’t say that applies to every situation, so be careful. Know what your data says and act accordingly.
I’ve now seen multiple companies get rid of inbound response teams in an account-based model only to regret it 6-12 months later.
The Market Responds to Inbound Leads 38.35 Hours Already
The funny thing is, the market is and has been following Jacco’s advise on lead response time for years so I probably should be writing this. The debate has already been settled. We ran our most recent lead response analysis and found that the average lead response for nearly 5,000 audits was 38.35 hours. That’s pretty close to a couple of days. Just in case you thought you were being different by ‘slowly’ responding to inbound leads you’re not. That’s what everybody does. My advice, actually be different and do what’s best for your customers.
Jacco has a meaty article. He actually says you should respond to important leads quickly and when it comes down to it, I think we’d agree on a lot of things about responding to inbound leads.
So please don’t take his article out of context and assume ZERO inbound leads should be responded to quickly because that could be dangerous to your bottom line.