Is inside sales the key to better response rates?

 

It’s all about responding quickly. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, two researchers drew on some work across over 1,000 businesses and what they reported back on was how quickly businesses responded to online leads. Again, there is context, it was about specifically online leads and it was an American study but I believe it holds true for most countries. 

What they found is that 37% of companies responded within an hour. Now, that’s pretty good. Responding within an hour I think is good, and 37% of them doing it within that window, likewise, very good. At the other end of the spectrum 23% of businesses didn’t respond at all. That’s possibly not a good idea.

So that was one study and they really were looking there at how quickly businesses did respond and their conclusion was businesses are not responding fast enough, because whilst 37% is good, it’s not 100%. So why aren’t all businesses responding quickly? 

And to dive into that second point, or that question a little further we need to look at another study by these same two researchers. What they looked at in the other study, which was across some 1 million sales leads from about 42 companies, 13 of which were B2B. What the second study looked at was the effect of responding quickly, and what they found is that businesses that responded within one hour of the lead coming in, online leads, those that responded within one hour were seven times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with the buyer than those who responded somewhere between an hour and 24 hours later. So one hour versus one day, if you like. Seven times higher throughput or better response rate, more likely to convert that into a meaningful conversation and therefore a lead and therefore a sale.

Now, comparing those companies that responded within in an hour to those who responded more than a day later, the uplift was 60 times, 6,000 times. It all comes down to responding quickly.

‘Shortly, we’ll show you how to do this in Funnel Plan, but before that we’re going to do two things, share with you our conclusions and invite you to receive other blogs like this. Let’s get to the conclusion first.’

Before I get to the conclusion, why do you get such monumental achievements or such great improvements in the response rate? I think it’s really simple. The prospect is in the office and in the mood. An hour later they’re probably in neither of those modes, they’re not in the office and they’re not in the mood. There’s probably a third reason as well, it’s that if you get them quickly they haven’t yet spoken to your competition. It’s pretty basic stuff, but a strong, compelling argument for responding quickly.

So I’ve got four recommendations and they won’t surprise you. Firstly, respond quickly. We know that responding within an hour is much better; I’m going to suggest that you set the target at five minutes. Make it a near immediate response. That’s my first recommendation.

The second recommendation is to make your response consistent with what the buyer’s expecting. If your lead form says, “Enter your details to chat now, or to talk about this now, or to speak to a consultant.” Then it’s kind of easy, “I’m ringing up because I’m the consultant and I’m going to talk to you.” That’s very easy. But if your response form said, “Enter your details here to get this free…” and then insert your lead bait here, then it’s silly to have that same conversation.

In fact, the silly conversation that we have all the time is, “Hi, I was just wondering how you found that report.” Well, that’s a silly conversation to have five minutes later, because I haven’t read it yet. And so we wait for a day or two or three later and then we wonder why we get such poor response rates. So ring up immediately. “Hi John, thanks so much for downloading the paper. Hey, I know you haven’t read it yet; I need to give you some time to do that, would you like to make a time, maybe a few days from now, for us to have a chat and see how you found the report and talk about its findings? When would suit?”

You might be able to craft that better than I just did on the fly, but you take my point. Make the response relevant given where the buyer’s at when they just filled in the form. Think about the buyer’s journey, where are they up to, what are they ready for next?

Recommendation number three: Consider sequencing your emails so that you can respond. Now, I know that some of your online leads are not generated by emails, but some are. For those that are, consider sequencing your emails or your ads, whatever the mechanism is that you’re using to trigger these responses in the first place, consider sequencing them so that you can respond quickly. Don’t run an ad at 10:00 o’clock at night if you can’t ring at 10:00 o’clock at night, for example. Don’t send your email out at 10:00 o’clock at night if you can’t ring at 10:00 o’clock at night.

Equally, maybe even within the day stagger your emails, so that you can afford to keep up with the calls, when you get an inbound inquiry from an email that you can afford to respond quickly to it. So rather than sending them all out at a certain time in the morning, stagger them. Now, I know that you’ve got data that says that it’s better to send an email at a certain time of the morning or the afternoon for your business. That’s great, but I will guarantee that the improvements that you’re enjoying by choosing time of day carefully fade into insignificance compared to the sort of improvements that we’re talking about now. So I suggest stagger your email sends and your ads and whatever else you’re doing to trigger leads so that you can respond quickly.

My fourth recommendation is hinted at by the title of today’s show, and that is consider inside sales as a sales resource to make those calls. If you’re field sales people can afford to call back really quickly, consistently do that, happy days. But for most businesses that’s not the case, so consider employing an inside sales force whose job it is to make those calls on behalf of field sales so that they can respond quickly. The improvements are worth the effort.

‘If you enjoyed this blog than likely you will enjoy others. If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to receive this log by visiting align.me.com/blog or by visiting our YouTube channel. If you have a colleague who may be interested, we would be so grateful if you invited them to subscribe. Why don’t you do that now and when you come back we’ll show you how we do that in Funnel Plan.’

As you know, a Funnel Plan is a great way of consolidating your go to market plan that sales and marketing are going to follow together. It describes the objectives, the strategy, the velocity and the tactics that marketing and sales are going to use together to generate that rate of velocity to meet those objectives.

Let’s take a look in Funnel Plan itself. The plan that we’re going to take a look at today is the blogging video that I normally use. Now, I really only want to draw your attention to two things here. Let’s start with the funnel velocity. Now, in this plan we’ve assumed that we’ve got a 13-week cycle top to bottom. We lose 50% of our leads, don’t become proposals, and 50% of our proposals don’t become sales. Clearly we’re trying to fix this top ratio. How can we get more of our leads to get to the proposal stage?

Now, in this case, the 50% is manifested as different rates of leakage at three stages, between ‘Interest’ and ‘Gap’, ‘Gap’ and ‘Need’, ‘Need’ and ‘Offer’. So we’re really only troubled right now about the leakage between ‘Interest’ and ‘Gap’. I’m not getting enough of my prospects to the gap acknowledge stage, and that’s probably because I’m not even getting to have a conversation with them, and that’s the one that we can fix.

So take a look at this. In order to get our 140 sales in this plan’s example, we need 753 prospects. So if we’re at 753 prospects we’re really only looking to make an improvement in this one stage that is between ‘Interest’ and ‘Gap’, that’s currently sitting at 21%. If we can make an improvement to get that down, only from let’s say 21% to get the leakage down to 10%, that’s only a 50% improvement, and yet I’ve just mounted an argument that you can get up to a 6,000% improvement. It’s small beer. 

To make that one small improvement let’s go down to the tactics, take a look at the actual tactics in use, and you’ll see in the tactics that there’s a follow up tactic in here already. That’s pretty normal in any plan, that after a lead is generated we’re going to follow it up. So let’s take a look at the actual tactic we want to change. So we’re going to go through into the second page, because the tactic that we want is an ‘interest established’ which comes after positioning. So here’s ‘interest established’. We’ve got ‘follow up call’, ‘gap acknowledged’. It’s as simple as this. We’re simply going to have the follow up call within five minutes using inside sales.

Now, I know that that was a long wait for a ridiculously simple change, but I wanted to make the point that the tactic is a ridiculously simple change. Making it in the plan is not difficult, making it in the business, obviously a little more difficult, but well worth the effort.

In next week’s show I want to review a book by Geoffrey Moore called ‘Escape Velocity’. Until then, may your funnel be full and always flowing.

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