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Call Leads Quickly — Some Stats and An Argument

We had a grand argument in our marketing department this morning. The debate revolved around the simple question: how quickly should we call leads?

One side (the side I was on) argued that every lead (White Paper downloads, webinar attendees, etc.) should get an immediate phone call–like within 5 minutes–from a sales team member. The other side argued that every lead should simply drop into our marketing automation and email marketing platform and receive nurturing emails until they actually request a demo.

Both sides are viable. Companies like Speak2Leads and Inside Sales argue that leads need to be contacted immediately. Companies like Marketo and HubSpot believe in a long process of lead nurturing.

One side is aggressive. The other is passive. Here are the arguments for both sides (even though I think my side is right and the other one is dumb):

Call Leads Immediately

When someone downloads a White Paper, requests a demo, attends a webinar, or fills out any form on a website, they need an immediate phone call.

The first time you call the lead, don’t launch into a ‘hard’ sales call. In fact, it shouldn’t be a sales call at all. Instead, it should be a ‘did you get the White Paper you just downloaded?’ call, or a ‘curious if you had any questions call.’ This way, the lead is not threatened, and you are still quickly reaching out to them.

The main concern I have — and many have — with simply email nurturing and never calling leads is that the leads just languish. Humans, you see, are lazy. Sometimes I need a sales rep calling me before I will buy.

Suppose we make purchasing decisions based on pain (which we do). In that case, we generally aren’t going to proactively go looking for a product until our pain is very high. However, if our pain is moderate, we’ll probably buy something if the sales professional keeps calling us.

Also, why shouldn’t someone who downloaded a White Paper about your company and what you sell get a phone call? They’re obviously looking for that information for a reason. They didn’t download your content or fill out your form as a fun recreational activity. They filled it out because they are considering buying. They’re somewhat ‘in-market.’

Of course, nurturing has value. But, what I’m arguing is that ‘nurturing’ shouldn’t be limited to emails alone. Can’t a phone call be a part of the nurturing process? Can’t a phone call simply be another touch in the nurture campaign?

Sure it can.

Leads need to receive a phone call. And they should be reached quickly. Even waiting an hour lessens the likelihood several key objectives. For instance:

  • contacting the person
  • converting the lead

Consider some statistics about best practices for calling back prospects.

Call leads within 5 minutes

Calling a prospect within 5 minutes of a form fill versus 60 minutes of a form fill increases conversions by a whopping 341%.
(Source: Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, Speak2Lead)

Call leads within 60 seconds

If you call a lead within 60 seconds of a form fill, you are 500% more likely to convert the lead!
(Source: MIT)

Drop off rate within the first hour

Even within the first 60 minutes, contacting a lead drops by a factor of 10% for every additional 5 minutes you wait.
(Source: MIT)

Be the first business to connect

The first business to speak to a lead on the phone is 238% more likely to get that lead as a customer than the second business to speak to the same person.
(Source: Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, Speak2Lead)

Likelihood of reaching the lead

The odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes are 100x higher verses waiting for 30 minutes.
(Source: Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, Speak2Lead)

Quick responses skyrocket conversion rates

When a marketing or salesperson can connect with a lead in the first 5 minutes, the conversion rate is 21 times higher than waiting for 30 minutes to call the lead.
(Source: Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, Speak2Lead)

Some of these data points are astonishing. Read them again. You are 100x more likely to reach a lead if you call them within 5 minutes of a form fill than you are if you call them 30 minutes after a form fill.

That’s staggering.

So, here’s the argument, to sum up: every lead should be called and called within 5 minutes of filling out a form.

Why? Because calling them quickly improves contact and conversion rates.

Why? Because they are still thinking about the form, they just filled out. They might actually still be on your site. They haven’t moved on to something else.

Call Only ‘Qualified’ Leads – Quick Response Doesn’t Matter

This side’s argument is simple: nurture with emails and content until the lead raises a hand. For example, in our case, a person downloads a White Paper. They receive about an email each week until they finally request a demo. Once they request a demo, they get a phone call from a sales rep.

This method is what HubSpot, Marketo, and other companies espouse. It is the passive selling method.

Because, face it, as good as quickly calling every lead can be, you’re going to, quite often, tick someone off who wasn’t planning on getting a phone call. That will demoralize salespeople and tick off leads. That’s not good.

Some people get really upset when they haven’t requested a phone call, and you call them anyway.

Plus, what good is an email nurture campaign if you don’t let the emails, you know, nurture the lead? Why have an email marketing platform at all if you don’t let it do its job? Good point.

Calling every lead is a waste of a sales professional’s time.

And finally, calling everyone is just too aggressive. You don’t want to get a reputation as the company that harasses people. That’s not a good rap to get.

Conclusion

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for your company. If you’re a hustling startup (like us), aggressively calling leads is probably the solution. If you’re HubSpot and you’re making over $50 million a year, you probably can sit back and wait for people to raise their hands.

The other factor to consider is the type of form the person filled out. Did they fill out a form downloading specific content about your industry, company, or product? Or did they fill out a very generic form requesting vague materials? Or, did they fill out a form requesting a demo, a sales call, or a brochure?

These are all questions important to consider.

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