Sales Best Practices - Speed To Lead

If you want to increase sales, one of the quickest and most effective strategies is to speak with every prospect within one minute of them making an inquiry.


Bill Arnold

1/18/20247 min read

sales best practices speed to lead
sales best practices speed to lead

Having the best possible Marketing team is important, and having the very best Sales department is critical. You can have the most advanced product, and the best marketing, but if your Sales department is not closing the deal, all is lost. There is no lack of information on how to improve sales. The volumes of books on the subject would take a lifetime to read.

I imagine that you don’t have that much time to turn around what is the most important function in your company, the Sales department. After all, “Nothing happens until someone sells something” (Henry Ford). We begin our series sharing the top six ways that you can improve your Sales department performance. Every company, that needs sales personnel to help convince and close a sale, can benefit from these programs.

In a world where every organization is unique, and there are literally thousands of different ways to improve sales performance, why did we decide to present these six methods? Quite simply, they work; and EVERY company we have worked with could improve their results with these simple, but effective, fixes.

Today, we discuss the single most important change that any company can make to improve their chances of success. The best part about it is that it will not cost you anything to implement. The secret sauce that can help you break all sales projections is simple, SPEED TO LEAD.

It's Not Me It's YOU!

Before we drill down and discuss the importance of speed to lead, we need to address the elephant in the room. Why are we blaming Sales for what they would claim is the poor quality of leads to work with? We are not, there is enough blame to go around.

It is inevitable, that when there are no sales, there will be finger-pointing. Marketing points their finger at Sales and says they simply do not know how to sell. Sales, of course, points right back and says all the leads they have received are bad and nobody could sell to them. As a CEO of a company, how do you determine who is right and what to fix? Well, you fix both sides of the equation. You implement a growth enablement program to ensure that both sides are talking and communicating.

Marketing – You start by making sure that Marketing has a well-defined buyer persona for your ideal customers. You verify that the leads that are being sent to Sales are from that group, and they have been properly nurtured. You ensure that the Marketing team is providing information about the pain points of each lead and collateral support that the Sales department can utilize.

Quantity of Leads - If your Marketing department is using a scorecard that shows their performance, you will get a high-level view of whether they are generating enough activity to sustain your Sales team.

Sales Pipeline
Sales Pipeline

Quality of Leads – The true test, as to the quality of a lead, is whether it results in a sale. If you doubt the performance of your Sales team, that cannot be used as a measure of success. Instead, have a weekly meeting with the heads of each department where EVERY lead that was presented to Sales is reviewed. The Marketing department is up first, and they need to present a prima facie case that the lead presented was a sales-qualified lead. IF they can pass that test, then Sales are up to defend what steps they took and how they interacted with the prospect. The actions are then critiqued for improvement.

Two things will flow from this approach: The first is that neither department will like being reviewed, scrutinized, and corrected by the CEO. So don’t be surprised to see that they begin working together to fix any areas before the meeting. The second is the feedback, that the review process provides, will improve the overall performance.

Between this self-examination, and the feedback they are getting for each lead, you will begin to identify ways to improve the entire marketing and sales process.

Speed To Lead

This article is about how speed to lead can be used to improve Sales' performance. If your Sales team derives all, or some, of their income from commissions, they will want to adopt these changes as it will increase their income.

Speed to lead is the time between a prospect asking for information, a demo, or a salesperson contacting them and when that actually happens. Once a prospect makes such an inquiry, it is imperative that you speak to them immediately. It is at that moment they are open to a conversation and willing to listen. In most cases, they are making similar inquiries to your competitors. They will most likely only bother with the first person who connects with them.

We have found clients who believe that if they get back to the prospect within 24 hours that is an acceptable turnaround time. Nothing can be further from the truth. The response time should be measured in minutes, if not seconds.

At one point, the acceptable gold standard of response was the five-minute rule. This meant that whenever a bottom-of-the-funnel inquiry was made, the Sales team had five minutes to respond. This is NO LONGER the gold standard. Now, if you want to be the first company to reach out to the client, you need to be calling them back in the first minute. The ONLY activity that should take place before picking up the phone to call the prospect is a quick check of the CRM to learn what activity they have engaged in before the call. If you have a CRM like HubSpot, you should be able to see what pages they visited and what articles they have downloaded. This will help you prepare for the call. This process can be done in less than one minute. Do not take the time to grab a cup of coffee or check your emails. Call NOW! Yes, actually picking up the phone, dialing their number, and speaking to them. (We will discuss call sequence in a subsequent article). If you don’t, your competitor will, and they will have the greatest likelihood of landing the sale.

The Proof – We always provide third-party evidence when we are trying to demonstrate a point. Here is the proof about the importance of responding to a prospect in the first few minutes after they make an inquiry. The shocking truth is that the average B2B sales professional takes 42 hours to get back to a prospect's inquiry (HubSpot)! Then, they wonder why Marketing is not delivering them good leads. All leads have an expiration date, and theirs have all gone stale.

  • Calling a Lead in the first-minute boosts conversions by 391% (Convoso).

  • Calling a lead with a two-minute delay drops the conversion rates to 120% (Convoso).

  • Customers purchase from the first vendor who contacts them 78% of the time (Vendasta).

  • Responding in the first five minutes is 21 times more effective than after 30 minutes (LeadSimple).

  • After five minutes, the odds of qualifying a lead drop by 80% (Vendasta).

How to Improve Speed To Lead

If you want to have a chance to call the prospect in the first minute after their inquiry, you will need to set your systems up to ensure that it is possible. Here are a few ideas:

Immediate Notification – No matter the source of the lead (e.g. landing pages, chatbot, website form, etc.) the appropriate salesperson needs to be notified immediately. There cannot be any screening process or scrubbing of the lead for quality. It needs to be sent as soon as the inquiry action is completed.

Route Leads by Geography – One of the major reasons that delays can happen is the person responsible for calling the lead is located in a different time zone. The time difference contributes to poor response, because the call often comes at an inconvenient time.

Properly Staff – You can’t blame a person for a slow response time if they were already on a call with a prospect. This means during the period they are to be responsible for prospect inquiries, they can’t be doing demos or other client-facing duties. They have to be free to drop whatever they are working on to jump on a call immediately.

Track All Response Times – You can fix something if you are not tracking performance and results. Track each individual’s performance, and where they missed the mark, and identify why. If it is a system process reason, fix it. If it is because the salesperson simply failed to act, let compensation dictate behavior.

Compensation Controls – It should be enough incentive for a salesperson to call immediately knowing that the possibility of landing the sale is greatest in the first minute. Unfortunately, it often is not enough. Therefore, consider a carrot-and-stick approach to drive the required behavior. We have set up systems that reward a salesperson for responding in the first three minutes and penalize them if they wait.

For example, if their normal commission is 20% for every sale, we modified the commission rates as follows:

  • Responds in 1st minute – 24% commission paid out.

  • Responded in 2nd minute – 22% commission paid out.

  • Responded in 3rd minute – 20% commission paid out.

  • Responded in 4th minute – 19% commission paid out.

  • Responded in 5th minute – 18% commission is paid out.

  • The commission rate decreases thereafter by 2% for every five minutes.

Since compensation drives behavior, you will find that 85% of all inquiries are returned in the first two minutes. The next 10% in minute three.

We raised the commission rate for the top performance, so the Sales team would not think they were being punished. They have the opportunity to make more if they perform better.


One of the most impactful strategies, to boost sales, is promptly reaching out to prospects once they express interest. The importance of a timely response cannot be overstated as any delay can result in missed opportunities.

When a prospect inquires, they are actively seeking information and are likely to be considering purchasing your product or service. By promptly contacting them, you show them that you value their interest and are eager to assist them in their decision-making process. This immediate response not only increases the chances of converting the prospect into a customer but also helps establish a positive impression of your brand.

On the other hand, a delayed response may leave the prospect feeling unimportant or neglected, causing them to turn to your competitors instead. Therefore, by prioritizing quick and efficient communication with inquiries, you can significantly enhance your sales performance.

The best part about making this one simple change is that it is free. It will not cost you any more to establish a firm requirement that all leads are contacted within one minute after the inquiry. Well, it may cost you more in sales commissions. I bet that is a price you are willing to pay for more sales.