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Harvard Business Review: Responding to Leads Within an Hour Generates 7x the Conversations


There was an interesting stat out of Harvard Business Review on the importance of timely responses when it comes to following up with online leads.  The data originally came from a study of  2,241 U.S. firms led by a researcher at South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University. According to the report:

“Companies that try to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving queries are nearly 7 times as likely to have meaningful conversations with key decision makers as firms that try to contact prospects even an hour later. Yet only 37% of companies respond to queries within an hour.”

It’s incredible.  That’s how fast customers move.  How fleeting the attention span is. So how do you make sure that you’re getting back to customers within that rapidly closing window?


Get Your Sales Team an Espresso Machine

The best point of contact is a personal one.  Whenever possible someone from your team should be on top of providing that first welcome to your company or product.  How you handle that interaction is also critically important.   Reaching out to customers when the subject is most relevant is key, but you don’t want to rush or pressure anyone.  Make sure that that introductory touch point is a positive and informed one.  (Incidentally, there was an interesting discussion in the comments section of the HBR article about this).


Set Up Alerts Tied to Given Customer Actions

Part of responding to leads quickly is having the right tools to do so.  There are two things here that are important.  Speed and Relevancy. Some activities are the equivalent of a customer hand-raise. When that “hand-raise” happens you need to be at the ready to respond. Do you know when a potential customer has viewed your pricing page?   How quickly does your team find out about customer inquiries?

Speed is critical, but a rapid call-back without context can be a harsh experience for customers.   The best way to make that first conversation a positive one for the customer is to make it relevant. Make sure you have the analytics set up to show you what pages a customer viewed before requesting a quote.  In addition, your understanding of that customer experience prior to inquiring should span beyond the boundaries of your website.  Did they receive a targeted email from you? Have they ever requested assistance from your help desk?  What led them to this point?


Automate Tailored Responses

An auto-responder can be a good back-up when an immediate personal response isn’t possible, but only if it’s not a canned response.  Make sure your auto-responders are personalized and reflective of the experience your customer has had up to this point. You could segment customers by the information they provide in the inquiry form or by their past purchase behavior.  With HubSpot's new behavior-driven communications tool, you can also take it further by triggering tailored emails and notifications based on the pages customers have visited on your site or specific actions they have taken across channels, including social media, email, mobile etc.

I’m curious to hear about your perspectives on the Sungkyunkwan study.  When do you think is the best time to call a lead after he or she has expressed an interest in your company?  What information is important to know prior to making that call?

Tags: 700, Conversations, Generates, Hour, Lead, More, One, Percent, Response

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

Now that's what I'm talking about!!!!!

In my view, technology can not sell, only people can. While technology tools can help facilitate better communications with prospects, nothing replaces a phone call and that personal, one-on-one interaction. Unfortunately, most dealerships feel the sales rep should function in too many roles and not maintain focus on what should be their primary goal - selling cars to people.

Great article.  Prompt response to a prospect inquiry has always been important, but technology has changed the definition of 'prompt'.  The ability to access information and communicate instantly from anywhere has raised prospects' expectations about the quality and timeliness of a response.


This is something for dealerships to consider as they embark on social media marketing programs or other online communications.  A few years ago, next-day response to an email was considered acceptable; now it says you're not really interested.  Not monitoring your Facebook page and Twitter account is like not answering the phone -- except a lot more people get to see how unresponsive you are.


The only legitimate reason for a delayed response is the need to get more info for the prospect.  "I'm looking for an Imperial Blue BMW 535i with Sport Transmission" might take a couple hours to run down.  The auto-responder is a good idea (particularly with some context) -- most importantly it should say when you'll be getting back to them with the info requested (best to be conservative in estimating this) to re-set expectations.


But nothing beats an immediate callback, even if you don't have all the info.  It gives you a chance to engage the prospect, find out more about what they're looking for, and impress them with your responsiveness.  You don't want to be the 2nd or 3rd dealer to return their call.




One way to help meet this expectation and reply to the potential buyer within a one hour time frame is by taking advantage of automated text message notifications. Our customers have the option to set up these auto-text messages so that when they receive a lead from their website or craigslist ad the dealer/salesperson instantaneously receives a text message on their phone notifying them of a new lead. The feedback we have received from the dealerships using this service backs up the information presented in this article.


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