So, you’ve invested time and resources into cutting through the noise and managed to reach your potential customers and get their attention. That’s awesome, but another critical factor decides whether you’ll ultimately close a deal — speed to lead. 

Let’s say a prospect has filled out a form on your website for a killer piece of content or signed up to attend a powerful webinar you’ve scheduled. Maybe somebody responded to an email campaign or a social media post asking for more information. The worst thing you can do is rest on your laurels, believing these leads are a safe bet and not acting immediately. 

If you don’t reach out to them while they’re still hot and their interest is at its peak, your competitors will snag them right in front of your nose. 

In this article, we’ll cover the importance of speed to lead and discuss some best practices for improving this essential metric.

What Is Speed to Lead?

Speed to lead, also known as “lead response time,” refers to how quickly you respond to a new lead entering your system and expressing interest in your business. For example, if a lead books a demo and your sales rep reaches up to them 2 hours later, then your speed to lead is 2 hours — and it’s not exactly a result that could be described as speed per se. 

In some competitive industries such as insurance, even 5 minutes is an eternity since the first sales rep who contacts a hot lead will secure the deal. So, it’s evident that we’re talking about a matter of seconds. 

Here are some stats to better illustrate why speed to lead makes a world of difference:

  • 78% of B2B customers purchase from the vendor that responds first
  • Following up within five minutes is 21 times more effective than following up after 30 minutes
  • Responding within the first minute increases lead conversions by 391%
speed to lead

And yet, despite knowing this, it seems that we’re doing anything but responding quickly. A survey by Drift indicated that 55% of companies didn’t respond within 5 business days.  

However, this doesn’t mean you should reach out to every single lead generated within 5 minutes or less — it’s a myth that has to be debunked. 

And that’s what we did by teaming up with the Telfer School of Management, part of the University of Ottawa, on a series of studies they were undertaking. We provided them with over 50,000,000 anonymous call records, including over 25,000,000 sales leads and over 2,500,000 web leads. They followed the web leads through the sales process, at five-minute intervals, from time to first contact, watching to see which leads resulted in a positive outcome, such as a request for more information or a booked appointment.

Here are the facts:

  • The first hour is the most crucial time for lead follow-up. It’s critical to your success.
  • Engaging leads within the first hour — 38% engagement success
  • Engaging leads within twenty-four hours — 8% engagement success
  • Engaging leads beyond twenty-four hours — 5% engagement success

According to Telfer’s analysis, if you respond within five minutes, you only achieve an 18% rate of positive outcomes. The data actually seems to indicate that the initial sales engagement cadence should happen between 10-60 minutes after capturing the lead. 

If you’re wondering how the claim about the insurance industry and its speed to lead adds up, the answer is that you should research the benchmarks for your industry and consider different types of leads. 

For example, a lead from a trade show requires a much swifter response time than one who downloaded your ebook or attended your webinar. Also, the type of follow-up won’t be the same. The tradeshow lead is probably sales or at least negotiation-ready, so they expect a call from your sales rep. On the other hand, someone engaged at the top-of-the-funnel level needs more nurturing before they get a direct offer, but an email with useful resources will keep them interested. 

The bottom line is that these potential customers are experiencing a pain point or a pressing challenge and are actively trying to find a solution. 

By turning a deaf ear to their inquiry and letting them wait, you’re practically doing yourself a disservice and a huge favor to your competitors.  

The key takeaway is that the faster your sales reps respond, the higher the odds of converting a lead. 

What Are the Common Reasons for Poor Speed to Lead?

In the previous section, we learned that even though companies eagerly wait for their prospects to take action and respond to their marketing efforts when that finally happens, most of them aren’t ready for the next step. 

There’s obviously a disconnect within the sales process responsible for such sluggishness. Before you can fix this and speed things up, you must identify the roadblocks preventing your sales reps from reaching out to hot leads at the right moment. Some of the most common are: 

  • Sales and marketing misalignment. When these two departments don’t communicate and share information about leads regularly, some valuable insights will be lost, and the entire lead nurturing process will suffer. With no timely feedback from the marketing side, the sales team won’t be able to reach out to the hottest leads within the critical timeframe. 
  • Lack of proper tech stack. Your marketing and sales teams won’t have much success if they don’t have the right tools to assist them — a powerful multi-channel engagement platform that integrates with your CRM  is a must.
  • No clear expectations. These stats show us that the one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t apply when reaching out to leads from different sources. So, if your sales reps don’t have official guidelines about the exact timeframes for contacting various types of leads, they won’t be sure whom to call and when.   

How to Improve Your Speed to Lead

The first step in the process is to analyze your speed-to-lead time and see whether it needs improving. If your results are lackluster, don’t panic — a couple of tactics will boost your sales team’s performance in no time. 

  1. Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams 

When sales and marketing teams share data and feedback, they can better identify and prioritize the most promising leads. 

For example, marketing can use lead scoring and lead nurturing tools to rank leads based on their level of interest and engagement.  Sales can use CRM software and email templates to track their interactions and responses. 

This way, both teams can ensure they reach out to the right leads at the right time with the right message. Marketing can provide sales with relevant content and collateral that address the leads’ pain points and challenges, and sales can provide marketing with insights and feedback that inform their campaigns and offers. 

  1. Set Expectations 

When sales and marketing teams clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, they can avoid confusion and duplication of efforts. 

For example, it’s essential to decide what constitutes a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and a sales-qualified lead (SQL) and have an agreement on how to follow up with them. This way, both teams can focus on their strengths and add value to the leads at each stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s also important to define the response timeframes. 

To avoid contacting your leads too soon or too late, your sales team needs to know the exact response times for different types of leads and have this information easily accessible. Make sure to define what channels should be used for each step of the funnel.   

  1. Invest in the Right Tools

A comprehensive sales engagement platform like VanillaSoft will help your sales and marketing teams have timely and meaningful interactions with potential customers at scale. So, the trick is to automate your entire sales cycle without sacrificing personalization. 

Here are the features with which you can boost speed to lead:

  • Lead routing. Instead of forcing your sales reps to compare leads and determine the hottest ones, it’s much easier and more efficient to let the software do that. This feature will prioritize leads based on how likely they are to convert and send them to your team accordingly. 
  • Progressive dialing. You also don’t want your sales reps to waste time punching numbers. Progressive dialing is an effective way to make list-based calls as it eliminates delays between calls and, paired with lead routing, serves your sales reps the best and hottest leads only. It’s important to mention that this type of auto-dialing has another huge benefit — you won’t have to worry about dropped calls, one of the biggest problems of predictive auto-dialing. 
  • Logical branch scripting. Calling potential customers isn’t easy. Your sales reps need to have all the available information about every prospect they reach out to in front of them. And sometimes even that’s not enough to deal with sales objections. Logical branch scripting is a feature that will give your sales reps a sense of direction and help them have engaging conversations with leads. It’s a dynamic flow of different sales objections and tried-and-true responses, accessible in just a few clicks. 
  • Email automation. Email is indispensable to every sales cadence, but only if done right. Autoklose’s Automate Actions and Decision Tree are the features you need to improve speed to lead. You can predefine If — triggers and When — follow-up actions so that every time a lead performs an action, such as opening your email, downloading an ebook, register for a webinar or anything else you predefine, they get a personalized message that will keep them engaged and take them to the next step.     


As you can see, speed to lead is a crucial metric for measuring the effectiveness of your sales process. It shows how quickly you respond to new leads and how well you engage them before they lose interest or move on to your competitors. The faster you contact your leads, the higher your chances of converting them into customers.

To improve your speed to lead, you need to optimize your lead generation and management systems. You can use tools like VanillaSoft that automate and streamline your outreach and follow-up activities. It can also help your sales reps prioritize and qualify leads based on their behavior and intent.

By improving your speed to lead, you can boost your sales performance and revenue growth.

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