Leads: every sales person wants more of them and every marketing professional feels pressured to produce them. Not just any leads though. The good leads. The qualified ones. As Jack Lemmon would have put it, the Glengarry leads.

According to recent research from MarketingSherpa, 78% of marketers place “generating high-quality leads” as their top priority. So, what makes a lead good? Well, the potential buyer has to have a problem you can solve or a need you can satisfy, and the money or authority to buy.

Lead Response Time is CriticalBut the lead also has to be hot. That makes reaction time critical. A high-quality lead is a bit like a fine cut of beef: when served hot, it’s marvelous. Allowed to cool off–well–not quite as good. Left sitting for a couple of weeks…best thrown to the dogs.

Research from the Kellogg School of Management and MIT quantified the effect of response time on the value of web-generated sales leads. The study sampled responses from almost 500 companies across 40 different industries. Among the findings:

  • Delayed responses correlate with lower lead qualification and close ratios.
  • Many companies don’t track response time, and are thus unaware of these correlations.
  • Companies often “have no idea what is the best time or optimal timeliness to call leads back.”
  • The odds of calling to contact a lead decrease by over 10 times in the 1st hour. The odds of calling to qualify a lead decrease by over 6 times in the 1st hour.
  • The odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 100 times. The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times.
  • Immediacy of response far overshadows both time of day and day of week in its effect on contact and qualification ratios.
  • Waiting too long and continuing to push for contact unsuccessfully actually hurts your ability to ever make contact and qualify a lead.
  • People search the Internet because they want things now. Interest and need wane quickly. A few days later they may not even remember they submitted a lead.
  • Immediacy of response hits the respondent at their highest point of interest or need.

The study authors conclude,” Sales representatives who respond in real-time often experience the ‘Wow effect:’ the respondent quite often reacts with, ‘Wow, that was fast! You are impressive.’ They feel that the sales representative must be really on top of things, and that is the kind of person and company they want servicing their account. First impressions continue to have a strong influence on trust and relationships.”

Leads are seldom hotter than when a prospect is visiting your site and has a specific question. At this point, a standard web contact form or “info@” email address virtually guarantees a delay in reaction time. However, a customer engagement platform enables the visitor to easily find not just content, but an available, live company representative to interact with. Faster time to response results in higher contact, qualification and, ultimately, close rates. And there’s nothing faster than “Now!”