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Speed to Lead: The potential to 100x conversion rates

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Speed to Lead: How Quickly Should You Contact Inbound Leads?

Spoiler alert - speed to lead is important. There are a number of articles on this topic that regurgitate the same thesis - faster is better.

Of course speed is important. But if you’re a business person worth your salt, you know that business is about tradeoffs. In this article, we'll answer
(1) Which businesses should prioritize speed to lead?
(2) How to achieve near instantaneous response times.

What are Inbound Leads?

Inbound leads are leads who have shown interest in your product or service and have reached out to you. We distinguish inbound leads from outbound leads that we had to reach out to cold. Inbound leads are highly valuable - who doesn’t love when people come banging down your door to buy your product?

Inbound leads come from a variety of sources: word of mouth, SEO, and paid ads to name a few.

No matter where they come from, inbound leads land on our website ready to learn more. And most of them will encounter something like this:

Demo Form

If you're like me, this book a demo form sends a shiver down your spine. There's nothing inherently wrong with a book a demo form, it's what happens next that's frustrating. In a study done on the top 100 SAAS companies, it takes an average of 2 days to hear back and 35% of companies will never reach out.

While frustrating for buyers - other companies's complacency around inbound leads is a huge opportunity for us as sellers.

What is Speed to Lead?

Speed to lead is the time it takes for you to contact an inbound lead after they've expressed interest. The quicker you reach out to them, the more likely you are to convert them into a customer.

Research done by MIT Sloan and shows there’s a 100x drop off in responding to leads within 5 minutes vs 30 minutes of filling out your form. Simply put, speedy companies close more deals. And as we demonstrated earlier, most companies are really bad at this!

Intuitively, the importance of speed should come as a surprise to no one. When a lead contacts you, they’re at their moment of highest intent. They’ve just finished reading one of your articles or learning about your product from another customer. Your value proposition is clear in their mind and solves a need pressing enough that they took the time to come to your website.

As they wait to hear from you, their interest wanes. They may forget why they reached out in the first place. Or if their need is pressing, they may research and find an alternative before talking to you.

In general, businesses that nail speed to lead close more revenue and create strong, lasting impressions with customers that they care about their business.

How to know if your business should focus on speed to lead

If you're firm meets all or most of the following criteria, then you should prioritize speed to lead:

  • Competitive industry: If you're operating in a highly competitive industry, relatively commoditized industry, then providing high quality service is essential. When your prospects can be just as well serviced by a competitor (or at least led to believe they can be just as well serviced by a competitor) then it's essential to respond quickly.
  • Deadline oriented product: If your prospects are reaching out for help with an imposing deadline (i.e. filing taxes, closing the books for the month, getting a security audit to close an enterprise deal) then they will shop other vendors if you're slow.
  • Ready to pitch: Responding quickly is only useful if you're giving a prospect the information they need. If your staff can't provide quality answers without doing specific preparation before each call, then there's only so much you can do to minimize response time.

Some industries that benefit from optimizing speed to lead are SMB/Mid Market SAAS firms, Accounting & Bookkeeping services, Security Auditing, Insurance, and HR & Payroll management companies.

What does it mean to “contact” an inbound lead?

Existing content tends to fall short on this point. Many people argue that contacting a lead quickly is important - but what does it mean to contact a lead?

The simplest, yet arguably pointless, way to contact an inbound lead is to send them an automated email as soon as they fill out your website form letting them know that you’ll reach out to them soon. These follow up emails accomplish almost nothing. We should all endeavor to do better than this.

Better yet, some companies let inbound leads schedule a demo with your revenue team right away - using a platform like ChiliPiper or Calendly. Having an inbound lead schedule their demo at their moment of highest intent significantly increases your booked demo rates. ChiliPiper shared that they were able to increase lead to demo conversion 400% over B2B standards with this method.

The problem is that getting a lead to book a demo is only part of the story. You still need to ensure that your lead shows up to the demo and that you close the deal. As the days roll on leading up to the demo, your lead may cool off or talk to a competitor first! And around 20% of prospects no show booked demos today.

The final, and most aggressive, lead contact strategy is to connect your inbound lead with a member of your revenue team instantly. We call this instant lead resolution.

How to achieve instant lead resolution

There are several ways to achieve instant lead routing, and not all are created equal.

First, you can put a phone number on your website that routes to your sales team. This used to be the norm and can still work wonders for some businesses. Whether you’ve got a team staffed in the office, or you’re out on the go, you can answer calls as they come in. The drawbacks are that (1) many younger buyers are less likely to make phone calls (2) it’s impossible to demo a visual interface over the phone (3) you can’t achieve the same personal connection on the phone that you can with video conferencing.

Another increasingly popular option is to put a chatbot pop up on your website. Hubspot, Drift, Intercom, all offer out of the box solutions that let website visitors chat with your team (or AI bots) directly. Chatbots can be used in conjunction with other solutions and can work for both sales and customer success use cases. Unfortunately some browsers, like Arc, block chatbot popups. Moreover, 77% of people prefer talking to a human than a chat bot.

Finally, you can leverage an instant inbound video platform like Cuda. Cuda lets leads launch an instant video call with your sales team when someone’s online. The team gets notified in slack and the first available rep can take the call and provide immediate resolution for the lead. Cuda can be embedded as a widget or included as a hyperlink making it easy to leverage throughout all of your content.


In summary, responding to inbound leads quickly can dramatically improve close rates for the right businesses. By responding quickly, you can show that you value the lead's time and interest, stand out from the competition, and increase your chances of converting the lead into a customer. The benefits of instant response times tend to outweigh the operational overhead the most for companies in highly competitive industries with a sales force that knows the product inside and out.