Effective Lead Response in Sales

sales notes

A new lead comes in—the clock is ticking. How much time do you think you have to respond before your lead falls off the radar?

In today’s competitive world, your response speed is your biggest competitive advantage, and this is particularly true when selling to consumers and small/local businesses.

The longer you take to respond to a fresh, hot lead, the lower the odds are of converting that lead into a customer. The cooling of that opportunity is referred to as Lead Decay. Research shows that chances of converting a lead drop by 21x if you take longer than 5 minutes to respond. This study is so frequently mentioned in some sales circles that it’s known as the “five-minute rule.” So, by simply waiting or delaying before responding to an inbound lead, you’re losing potential business and leaving money on the table.

After reading that, you may not be surprised to find out that 78% of consumers buy from the first company that responds to their inquiry. So, if you’re not the first to contact your prospects, you’re missing out on new business and potential customers. Small tweaks to your follow-up processes and changing your perspective regarding your first outreach can make a significant difference for your business.

Today, 55% of businesses take 5+ days to respond! Unless you’re a big corporation with a well-recognized or beloved brand, you likely aren’t generating most of your inbound leads organically. Paid advertising across different platforms can get very expensive. So, how can anyone let even a single lead sit for a full business week or just slip away entirely?

The good news is that this is fixable! You also don’t need to put in a herculean effort to see immediate improvements and results. Let’s understand how this happens and some things you could be doing today to fix it!

How are leads contacted today?

There is a range of sophistication in the ways businesses respond to leads today. At the high end, there are companies that staff call centers and measure their sales people on how quickly they respond to leads (very expensive). At the low end, there are businesses that just try to respond whenever they get a chance between meetings and appointments (less effective). Some people aren’t even aware of lead decay or that their current processes are hamstringing their progress.

Unpacking both of these processes, we see that businesses are relying on phone calls to respond to leads. However, 76% of people don’t pick up phone calls from numbers they don’t recognize. Then, even when you do end up getting through, the person on the other end is typically unhappy they picked up for a sales person. So, the big question is: how do you meaningfully contact a lead within 5 minutes without calling?

How to Meaningfully Contact a Lead within 5 Minutes without Calling?

Let’s take a look at our options and understand what tools are available to help us reach our prospect as quickly as possible to when they express initial interest.

Email Automation

You’re likely already collecting email addresses from your leads, so try reaching them there. Instead of relying on a human to write an email when a lead comes in, automate an immediate email response. You can set up your lead capture form to trigger an email to get sent upon submission.

    • Emails are inexpensive and easy to set up.
    • You’ll have an immediate touchpoint with your lead and a leave-behind in your prospect’s inbox when they open their mail client.
    • Emails have a 18% (and dropping) open rate.
    • Automated emails do not feel personal and risk feeling like spam.
    • There are a number of factors that could land you in spam filters that prevent you from reaching your lead.

Voicemail Dropping

Including this one since some folks use it, although it’s not the most pleasant experience on the other end. Voicemail dropping is basically planting a pre-recorded voice message into someone’s voicemail. The phone doesn’t ring, but they do receive a notification once you leave a new message. This one is popular amongst the cold-calling crowd; instead of calling dozens of phone numbers, listening to the greeting, and waiting for the voicemail prompt – you can record a personalized message once, choose your recipients, then send it out at once

    • It’s far-reaching, working with both landlines and mobile phones.
    • If you hit a mobile phone, your lead will likely see the voicemail notification.
    • Saves your salespeople time on phone calls.
    • Voicemail dropping is impersonal and, most importantly, feels spammy.
    • You don’t know when your lead will check/listen to their voicemail – or if they will even listen to your message at all vs deleting it immediately.

Website Live Chat

A great opportunity to have that first conversation with your prospect is when they’re live on your website. This gives you a chance to answer questions and persuade a prospect to schedule a meeting or make a purchase.

A live chat tool can help to begin that first point of contact and initiate the qualification process. It’s also one of the easiest ways to reduce the risk of losing a potential customer to a competitor, or due to slow response time. If staffed by humans, they can be great for basic conversations.

    • Immediate access for customers
    • Efficient use of employee time
    • Live customer chat is affordable
    • May feel impersonal
    • May not work on mobile devices
    • Often times they’re just chatbots that are not helpful and, at worst, frustrating

Text Messaging / SMS

Texting is a communication channel that benefits from 98% open rates – think about it, how often do you let your unread count build up for text messages? It’s a channel that consumers are constantly using and checking on their mobile devices that they take with them everywhere and have in their pockets (or in their hands) at all times.

While SMS is very effective, it’s important to be aware of how personal the channel is and to not abuse it.

    • Text messages are delivered in real-time
    • Incredible open rates of 98-99%
    • Highly interactive yet non-intrusive
    • SMS can be both personal and expansive
    • Limited advertising space
    • You can’t use the same content repeatedly
    • Blocks of text feel robotic and spammy


Tape delivers a face-to-face sales pitch directly to a prospect’s mobile phone over SMS, using an immersive no-download video experience that feels like FaceTime meeting Instagram Stories. Face-to-face video feels very personal, which is why Tape can be a great way to engage with your prospects.

Tape allows you to create animated GIF previews with confidence and users feel intrigued to click on the link to see the video. The video player captures analytics and routes them into your CRM while offering a call-to-action button to drive the prospect to the next stage in the sales process.

    • Vertical video by default
    • Animated gif sent in text message to entice prospects to open the video message
    • Multiple videos in “story” format (like Instagram stories) to display multiple products or break your message into digestible chunks
    • Call-to-action buttons to drive customers to take an action
    • Offers detailed analytics (open, view, video interaction tracking at the recipient level)
    • Deep CRM integrations and automation options

You can try a demo from our homepage.

Final Words

Decreasing your response should be one of your primary objectives for 2020, no matter what. Delaying your response to leads often results in lost opportunities (lost money). Fast responses increase the chances of conversion, and your best chances of making a successful contact with a prospect are within 5 minutes.

Your ability to respond to leads quickly is assisted by having the right tools to do so. While speed is critical, relevancy is also important. Make sure to equip your team with tools that allow them to send the right message at the right time quickly.

And keep in mind—every minute counts!

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