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When Should My Sales Team Reach Out to an Inbound Lead?

When Should My Sales Team Reach Out to an Inbound Lead?

Inbound leads are warmer by nature. After all, they’ve come to you. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to make a purchase right away, and you definitely don’t want to scare them off. So when should your sales team reach out? A rapid response is critical. The real question is whether they’re ready for sales, or better suited to lead nurturing from the marketing department.

A visitor comes to your website and fills out a contact form. When should you reach out? The right answer is immediately. It’s never too soon to connect with an inbound lead — you’ve got to leap into action right away before a competitor can get there first.

At HubSpot’s Inbound Conference in 2016, Josh Harcus led a session called “The Art of the Five Minute Response Time.” If five minutes sounds like a pipe dream, Josh would say it’s more like a dream come true. His company launched a strategy around maximum speed to lead and saw crazy results:

  • They experienced 6x revenue growth within a year
  • The sales cycle was 9x shorter
  • The team rapidly expanded to 5x its original size

Josh learned that the number of opportunities companies are wasting with delayed responses is stupendous. One look at the data could set a sales squad’s hair on fire:

The bottom line is that the best results come when you reach out to inbound leads within minutes of their conversion action. This chart from the Lead Response Management Study shows the steep drop-off in lead qualification after the 5-minute mark:

Lead Response Management Study

(Source: Lead Response Management Study)

Okay, so instant response is critical to sales success. But should that response always come from sales? Should it always be a call? That depends.


When Should My Sales Team Reach Out to an Inbound Lead?
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Prioritize and Score Your Inbound Leads

A lead might convert on a piece of website content (with a blog subscription, for example), but this doesn’t always mean they’re hot and ready to buy. Inbound leads are more likely to close than cold calls, sure. But there’s still a difference between a lukewarm lead and a sales qualified lead.  

A rapid response in some form is essential, so who should reach out? The highest priority leads should get the fastest contact from sales. However, in many cases the first point of contact should actually be marketing, with lead nurturing material. Instant outreach from a salesperson can seem overly aggressive and scare off leads who aren’t primed and ready to close.

Also — unless you’re dealing with a relatively small number of contacts — you might not have the time or resources to reach out to every single inbound lead manually.

This is where lead scoring comes in.

Your digital conversion actions should be tied into analytics that track all sorts of demographic information and purchase intent indicators. These metrics can score your leads and tell you whether or not they’re sales-ready. If they qualify on the first touchpoint (by clicking a “contact a sales rep” CTA, for example), then all bombs away.

If not:

  • Put the lead in a marketing drip campaign
  • Segment the lead into a workflow that suits the info you have so far
  • Offer additional value over time
  • Gradually profile the lead further
  • Prep them for a qualifying action
  • Get the sales team involved as soon as they convert

The sales team should be involved as soon as a lead has taken steps that show they’re serious. This could be the first action or a year after that first contact.

How and When to Follow Up

You’ve got to meet your inbound lead where they’re at in your sales funnel.

The research has shown that, on average, customers are 57% of the way through the sales process before they engage with a sales rep.


(Source: HubSpot)

When this is the case, the buyer has already done their homework, warmed up, and they’re ready to talk. Sales should get on the horn and continue to show persistence if they don’t make contact on the first attempt. You can decrease your lead response time with sales enablement tools like:

  • Live Chats: A chat offer can pop up as soon as the inbound lead takes a conversion action, or even just when they linger on a page for a few minutes or scroll down a good way. HubSpot’s live chat tool even lets you set your availability. The best part about live chat is that the prospect wants to talk with you.
  • Instant Contact Software: There are plenty of plugins out there that can instantly connect inbound leads with a sales rep as soon as they take a triggering action (like the WordPress plugin CrankWheel, for example).

Set Your Sales Outreach Tempo

HubSpot gives this timeline for the first 3 days after a qualified inbound lead connects with you:

  • Day 1
    • Call within 5 minutes
    • No contact? Leave a voicemail, then send an email and LinkedIn request
    • 2 more calls without voicemail later in the day
  • Days 2-3
    • Morning call with a voicemail, email
    • Call again at noon and in the late afternoon
  • After that, send 1-2 emails each week.

There’s no golden rule on the precise number of follow-up attempts, or the tempo. But here are three tips to help you increase your chances:

  • Try at least 7 times. Tons of research has shown that it can take 7 (or more) touches, even with a qualified inbound lead, to connect.
  • Use multiple channels. Phone calls and email are the standbys, but try connecting with the prospect on LinkedIn, sending a text drip campaign, or other ways to get their attention.
  • Be persistent, but don’t overwhelm. The first few days can be more active, but taper off after that. An email every single day is a surefire way to get an unsubscribe. You want your lead to have a positive experience until they’re ready to engage further.

If the lead goes cold, or if they weren’t qualified enough to merit a call from sales in the first place, it’s the marketing team’s turn.

Lead Nurture With Marketing Workflows

An inbound lead might have signed up for a monthly newsletter (a relatively low-qualifying action, from a sales standpoint). Instant response still matters, but in this case, it should be immediate enrollment into an automated workflow. 

This could kick off right away with a personalized welcome email, and perhaps an offer of a blog subscription with links to your latest stuff. Every few days after that, the prospect gets another personalized email with a new value offer (like a relevant upcoming webinar, new eBook, infographic, or how-to video). Within a few weeks, these shift into offers for in-person meetings or consultation calls.  

The inbound lead is in control and can opt-in to direct engagement from sales through a qualifying conversion action. HubSpot suggests using these 7 straightforward inbound lead nurturing guidelines to fine-tune your process:

  • Targeted Content: Segment the lead into a workflow with content that’s most relevant to their role, needs, and demographic profile. This can boost sales opportunities by more than 20%.
  • Multi-Channel Lead Nurturing: Email, social, text, and direct mail are all viable channels.
  • Multiple Touches: It takes an average of 10 touches from the top of the funnel to the sale.
  • Timely Follow Ups: Whether it’s a phone call (sales qualified) or just an automated welcome email with a blog link, instant response time is essential. Speed to lead is the name of the game.
  • Personalized Emails: They generate 6 times more revenue than generic ones.
  • Sales and Marketing Alignment: A smooth handoff between marketing and sales lead nurturing efforts increases sales opportunities for almost 90% of companies.
  • Lead Scoring: Nothing improves the revenue contribution of inbound lead nurturing more than effective lead scoring.

It’s Never Too Soon

Jeffrey Russo, a Product Marketing Manager at HubSpot, once explained that you don’t need to wait until a prospect has expressed purchase intent to connect. Inbound lead nurturing can begin as soon as a prospect shows any interest in your company — even if it’s just your blog.

The digital space is full of valuable, quantifiable indicators. Score your inbound leads and meet them where they’re at in the funnel. If they’re scorching hot, get sales on the phone. If not, enroll them in an inbound lead nurturing campaign. Either way, the crucial thing is to take action on every inbound lead. Right now.

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