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The Short Shelf Life Of Sales Leads: How To Respond Quickly

The Short Shelf Life Of Sales Leads: How To Respond Quickly

Every day grocery stores throw out good produce that has spoiled. It really is a shame. Farmers worked hard to grow the plants and harvest the fruit. Truckers worked to deliver the produce to market. But once a bunch of bananas gets delivered to the grocery store, it has a limited shelf life. If the bananas are not bought and consumed within a short window, they will go bad. All of the work will have been for nothing.

Most companies have invested in search engine placement. Many are active on social media. Some have built calls-to-action. The vast majority are missing the piece we’re about to explore. They fail to respond quickly to leads. By the time sales reps get the leads, they are rotten. At that point, the reps complain that the leads are no good.

Like produce at a grocery store, leads have a short shelf life. Every hour you delay follow up, the lower the quality of the lead.

The Harvard Business Review published research where 2,241 companies were surveyed about how quickly they follow upon leads. They discovered that 37% responded to their lead within an hour, 16% responded within one to 24 hours, and 24% took more than 24 hours. 23% of the companies never responded at all! In that same article the authors cite research that showed companies that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which they defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.

You must respond to leads quickly. In today’s world, the average business person is exposed to dozens of phone calls, hundreds of emails, and thousands of ads each day. Within minutes of coming to your website and filling out a form, they are on to the next thing. Plus, your slow response (or non-response) early in their buying cycle sends out a message that you don’t offer good support. Ouch!


I recommend companies have a person dedicated to responding to inbound leads. This doesn’t need to be their only role at the company, but it does need to be their primary role. They need to be able to drop everything and respond to a lead. They don’t need to be stuck in meetings or heads down in a project.

This person could be a Sales Development Representative (SDR) that has the sole responsibility of generating appointments. In addition to outbound prospecting which we’ll explore in the next chapter, they can be watching for form completions and instant chats on the website.

If you don’t have an SDR program, you might consider assigning this task to your receptionist. They answer the phones. Let them answer the incoming digital messages as well. If you do this, make sure to train your receptionists how to handle leads.

In addition to following up on incoming leads and chats, the lead response manager should also invest time panning for gold. They do this by analyzing who is coming to your website or social media pages and seeing what they’re viewing.

Many companies have visitor ID services that shows you the companies that come to your website. It can also track the pages they visit. This can give you clues as to what person might be visiting the site and what their interests might be. For example, let’s say you sell phone systems. The visitor is from a local law firm and they have read three blog articles with titles like, “Why IT Managers Love Unified Communication.” It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that the best person to call at that law firm might be the IT manager.

Similarly, the Lead Response Manager can also reply to social messages. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn have message centers. More and more prospects reach out through these channels. The problem is that in most companies, no one is listening. Not responding to a request through Facebook is similar to not answering the phone. Whether you like these platforms or not, the reality is that social is the way we communicate. You need to have someone from your company watching for and replying to messages.

Whether the lead comes in from a form completion, chat session, or social media, your Lead Response Manager needs to respond quickly with one goal: getting an appointment. As we’ll talk about in the next section on outbound prospecting, the goal is not to sell a product, the goal is to get an appointment. Your Lead Response Manager’s role is to sell appointments.

While we don’t have enough space here to fully coach a Lead Response Manager, I do want to offer some important tips.


First, be polite. Thank the person for requesting information. Welcome them warmly. The average Chick-fil-a location generates more revenue than a McDonalds, Starbucks, and Subway location combined. Why? Simply because they are polite. Make sure to respond first with gratitude.


Second, answer their question if you can. If you go straight for the appointment, the buyer feels pressure instead of trust. Provide information if you can. Share an answer or a link to an article.


Next, shift to selling the appointment. Whether you are responding by email, chat, or phone, you might say something like, “As we work with other local clients we’ve found that they had some important questions about how this would fit into their business and align with their goals. Might I suggest that you speak with one of our experts that can share time to understand your specific goals and make a customized recommendation? I have our team’s calendar in front of me. When would be a good time for a meeting?”

If they say yes to your offer, hand the opportunity off to a sales rep. Make sure to include as much information about the conversation as possible. You might share details your conversation and chat along with a list of the web pages that person visited on your site. You could also include any social media information so the rep can connect with the buyer before the meeting.

If they say no to your offer for a meeting, you can do one of two things. If you believe the opportunity is urgent, hand it off to a sales rep to pursue. If the opportunity is not urgent, drop the prospect into a drip sequence to nurture the lead.

Learn more about my book Revenue Growth Engine and get copy HERE.


Darrell Amy is a growth architect, with a unique perspective on how to grow revenue. Most books are written from the perspective of either sales or marketing. Darrell brings both together to help companies develop and implement strategies to grow.

Darrell’s passion is to make the world a better place. Serving on the board of several non-profits, he has a front row seat to see the impact of financial gifts from successful businesses. Out of this, he helped launch the Grow4Good movement with the goal of helping 10,000 great businesses double revenue so they can grow employment while also giving back to their communities.

Over the past 25 years, Darrell has been deeply involved in both sales and marketing.  He has worked with hundreds of companies ranging from Fortune 100 organizations to local family-owned businesses. During that time, he’s trained thousands of sales people, most recently creating solutions sales training for a global technology company. He’s started several digital marketing agencies, helping companies implement inbound marketing strategies.

You may also contact Darrell at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.

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