Ever wonder why your customers behave a certain way? What makes them choose your company over a competitor? And how exactly does lead response time impact your inbound conversion rate?
That’s why we developed Chili Insights — a data-driven series to help us, and you, understand more about what is going on in the B2B world.
In our first edition of Chili Insights, we’re looking at average B2B vendor response times. This guide is designed to give you the information and takeaways you need to stay ahead of the curve and improve your inbound conversion rates — no matter what industry you’re in or the size of your organization.
We took a deep dive into average B2B vendor response times — from the moment a prospect submitted a request for a demo to when they received a response, paying close attention to the type of lead capture they used and the overall user experience.
While vendor response time was the primary goal of the research, lead capture type and experience were equally vital in our understanding of the impact on inbound conversions.
After selecting our target categories and company sizes, we manually filled out demo requests on the selected companies’ websites — via form, chatbot, or both.
Our research and findings are based on businesses across various software categories and company sizes.
Note: For this study, we defined instant as less than 60 seconds and no response as greater than 7 business days.
Note: Companies in the 10000+ range only represented 1.4% of companies in this research.
The term “speed to lead” has been around for years, yet it is still talked about as if it is an elusive aspiration.
How many companies are still struggling to connect with leads in a timely manner? And what’s stopping them from increasing that critical moment of conversion?
This is what we wanted to uncover. We set out with the objective of understanding what average response times are for B2B companies and how it impacts their inbound conversion rates.
Often, who a prospect chooses comes down to a matter of seconds. We know from previous research that 78% of people buy from the first company to contact them after a demo request has been submitted.
Even though the technology to automate these processes exists, over 80% of companies in our findings took more than five minutes to respond or didn’t respond at all.
Over 80% of companies in our findings took more than five minutes to respond or didn’t respond at all.
Speed matters — we believe it can, and should, take seconds.
Curious to see what your response time could look like with Chili Piper’s Form Concierge? See how we can help increase your speed to lead on your site with this preview.
Ready to see how you stack up to industry averages? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
The data concluded that the most common amount of time between demo request submitted and company follow-up fell between one and twenty-four hours.
What’s more, 80% of companies took longer than five minutes to respond — falling short of even outdated standards for a “good” response time (previous industry standards marked five minutes as the golden window of response times).
Approximately 55% of companies took longer than an hour to respond, and alarmingly, nearly 30% of companies never responded at all.
Only 7% of companies responded instantly.
These numbers are concerning. Despite the well-known importance of speed to lead, prospects often find themselves waiting for responses that either never come or take hours.
Interestingly, there were no companies in our study who responded to our request for a demo within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. If they didn’t respond within one day, they didn’t respond at all.
All in all, the average response time across all company sizes and categories was four hours and fifty minutes — not including companies that didn’t reply.
So, do a few minutes really matter? The answer is a resounding yes.
Those minutes could be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars of losses in business and revenue.
If you’re taking hours or days to respond, chances are the prospect has already begun speaking to someone else. If you want to win their business back, you now face an uphill battle.
Responding quickly shows you value them as a customer, you’re reliable, responsive, and easy to work with. All things prospects take into consideration when choosing a company to work with.
Let’s look at the average response time per company size.
While many of the data points in this section are interesting, we find it necessary to highlight companies in the 101-250 range. This group also represents the largest percentage of companies in our data set. At this size, they should be able to respond quickly so it's troubling that the majority are taking up to 24 hours.
Only 13% of companies of this size responded within five minutes, and none of those responses were instant.
26.1% responded between five and 60 minutes
39.2% took between one and 24 hours to respond
And 21.7% offered no response at all
All in all, these are less than ideal averages for companies that should have the resources available to respond quickly.
And yet we’re seeing an average response time of three hours and forty-two minutes (note: this average only includes companies who responded within two days — it does not include “no response”).
What is happening?
We spoke with one of our own sales reps for perspective and identified a few reasons we might be seeing these lackluster numbers:
These companies are at just the right size where their sales reps have enough healthy pipeline and can choose to be pickier in who they follow up with
Reps may think they have enough leads in their pipeline and responding to new demo requests is not a top priority. They also might assume someone else will take the lead, or are unsure who the lead should belong to, and in the end, no one ends up responding.
These companies are usually growing quickly but their processes might not have scaled with them
Leads at companies of this size tend to fall through the cracks more frequently than smaller or larger organizations. It’s likely that companies in this range have grown rapidly but have not yet scaled properly in rules of engagement. Many haven’t figured out lead qualification, routing rules, or distribution yet.
Often, there’s a disconnect between sales managers and reps — sales managers are not clear with their team on what constitutes an appropriate response time and there is no real urgency for reps to contact a lead immediately
These small and mid-sized companies are at a critical point in their growth and not generating sufficient leads or revenue at this stage could prove detrimental. This group must prioritize speed to lead in order to increase inbound conversions.
They have a huge area of opportunity to generate more business. But to do so they need to invest in technology to ensure demos are scheduled, leads make it into the pipeline, and they’re providing a good experience.
Before we get into response times among various software categories, we have a few other honorable mentions to consider:
These groups were neck in neck for the best overall response rate, however, we still expected to see better:
Only 33.4% of 51-100 sized companies responded within five minutes. And only 11.2% of those responses were instant.
Companies with 501-1000 employees had a 33.3% response rate within five minutes. However, none of those were instant, and 33.3% never responded at all.
These were the only groups with average response times under an hour.
The 1-10 range had an average response time of six minutes.
The 501-1000 range had an average response time of 19 minutes.
Note: While our data shows companies with 10,000+ employees had a 100% no response rate, it’s important to mention that not enough companies in this range were included in our research for this to be a meaningful statistic.
We also considered how average response times varied across software categories.
The software category with the best overall response times was “marketing automation” with 37.5% of companies responding to demo requests within five minutes. On the flip side, they only had a “no response” rate of 12.5%.
This makes sense since marketing professionals in that industry are likely well aware of the importance of speed to lead and actively make it a priority.
Similarly, the category with the second-best overall response time was “time tracking” with 28.6% of companies responding within five minutes.
Companies in the time tracking category had the highest percentage of instant responses at 28.6%, and only 14.3% offered no response at all.
Interestingly, companies in the “live chat” category had a 0% instant response rate and over 85% of their responses to demo requests came after five minutes.
Also curious were sales intelligence platforms. Of the companies surveyed, there were no responses under five minutes. And 43% didn’t respond at all.
Software categories with a slower response time may be due to a lack of process around qualifying and routing, or a general lack of urgency among inbound sales reps. If they are unsure who a lead should go to it may take some time to route it to the right rep.
Of the companies referenced in our research, the majority were using forms as their lead capture type. The second most popular lead capture was form + chat.
Chat by itself was the least used lead capture type.
When looking at which lead capture types resulted in the best response times, companies using form + chat had a clear advantage.
The most common response time for form + chat fell between five minutes and one hour — 31.5% of companies responded in this time frame. An additional 15.8% responded in less than five minutes, and 10.5% of responses were instant.
Interestingly, response times with chat alone were evenly distributed between instant (33.3%), one to twenty-four hours (33.3%), and no response (33.3%).
While the percentage of instant responses was high for chat, the percentage of no response was just as high – based on our data, companies might not want to rely on chat alone for capturing leads.
How did the type of lead capture used impact the overall experience?
Throughout our study, we rated our experience from poor to excellent. The rating was based on the following criteria:
1. Time and effort – how long did it take to submit a demo request? How many fields were required? Was the form difficult to find?
2. Ease of use – if using a chatbot, was it intuitive? How easy was it to schedule a demo? How much back and forth was required?
3. Clear follow-up – was there an automated response indicating the next step or providing additional information? Even better, was there an option to immediately schedule a time as part of the demo request process?
Here are the results:
The most significant piece of data we gleaned was that there were zero reports of a poor experience with form + chat. Furthermore, 73.7% of form + chat experiences were rated as excellent.
What impacted the experience for the worse or better?
Here are some of the comments our researcher left after a poor experience:
“The live chat link is broken — it redirects to the contact page.”
“The request a demo button is in the footer and hard to spot.”
“I’m not able to book a meeting. It says the time is no longer available and to select another time.”
“The form has multiple pages when it can just be one.”
“I requested a demo but they sent me a video instead. The UI is very confusing. You have to scroll down to schedule a call with a Success Manager.”
If there’s anything we can take away from these comments it’s that UI and ease of use are a big deal. Excellent experience referenced the ease of use as a big factor in their positive experience.
If you want to provide a truly superb all-around experience, you must make sure your demo request page is functional, intuitive, and easy to use.
Here are some additional tips for better inbound conversions:
Understand who your customers are and how they want to buy. This will help inform your decision on the type of lead capture to use. If you can, offer both a form and chat for demo requests. Companies that had multiple ways to get in touch ranked higher in customer satisfaction.
Make sure your CTAs are clearly visible, intuitive, and are working properly. If you can’t respond immediately, send an automated email with general information to keep the momentum going until you can reply.
Instead, let your prospects book a call immediately when they request a demo. This is preferable to sales reps as well — rather than getting a request they have to respond to via email, they’ll get a meeting automatically scheduled on their calendar with a qualified lead.
Another thing to note about the perceived experience: Companies who sent both a meeting time confirmation and a vendor response as a follow-up were regarded more highly than companies who just sent one or the other.
Our takeaway? The type of lead capture you use matters. Not only does form + chat generate the fastest response times, but it also leads to the highest customer satisfaction and conversion rate.
Chris Walker, CEO at Refine Labs, highly recommends automating the booking process with technology that includes the calendar booking link within with demo request workflow. Here’s an excerpt from a recent podcast [edited for clarity]:
“When companies take hot leads and move them into a cadence, the acceptance rate is high, right? But what’s the conversion rate into an actual meeting? Typically what we’re gonna see is somewhere between 35 and 50 percent. Which means that half of the people who say “I wanna talk to your sales rep” never get to have that conversation. What we found is that by implementing some automated form of calendar booking, you can increase that to above 80 percent. Ours currently sits at 99 percent first meeting ‘show’ for qualified leads. I’ve been encouraging companies to think about 1) the added business value — you spend no more money on marketing and maybe double your pipeline and 2) you also create a better buying experience — you get the buyer into a sales conversation significantly faster so you can keep the momentum going. We often have buyers that book time to talk with our sales team the same day that they convert. Which is almost impossible with an email follow up flow. If somebody comes to our website and they’re on our ‘book a strategy call’ and they complete the form, right away a calendar link pops up. And they can actually book time directly with a rep. That’s where we get that 99 percent show rate. There’s no email needed and there’s no delay — you get it booked right there. We’ve found it’s very effective to get someone to basically commit to the next step when they’re ready to convert by opening up the available calendar times. It creates a massive efficiency.”
Speed to lead is one of the most well-known marketing terms around. Yet, based on our research, it seems people fail to understand just how much it matters.
But the fact remains — people are more likely to work with the first company that gets back to them. With only 7% of companies in our research responding instantly, there’s a huge opportunity to capture more leads.
In the past, marketers at leading organizations such as Hubspot and Vendasta have preached five minutes to two hours as the sweet spot for follow-up.
We however disagree.
In this day and age, responses should be instant. And there’s absolutely no reason they can’t be. If you’re not responding immediately, you’re losing out on a significant amount of revenue.
While having reps glued to their desk at all hours of the day, waiting for a demo request to come in is unrealistic, taking hours or days to respond is not an option.
What’s the solution?
A tool that automatically qualifies, routes, and schedules meetings.
We believe in a straight-to-meeting imperative at Chili Piper. Rather than having prospects send a demo request into the void and wait for a response, they should be able to schedule a call on their own terms — immediately.
Not only does a scheduling and routing tool eliminate the back and forth of follow-ups, calendar coordination, and rep availability, it also provides a great experience for the customer.
If you’re unable to invest in a tool at this moment, you should still aim for immediate contact to keep the momentum going.
Here are some ways to initiate a quick response:
Send an automated email with general information and a message saying you’ll be in touch shortly to schedule a call. Better yet, provide a specific time frame that you'll reach out with next steps, making it as exact as possible
Include a short video demo of the product the prospect is requesting information about on the landing page
Figure out a realistic response time that is agreed on by all parties involved — sales managers, reps, and marketers. Reps who consistently respond to inquiries faster can be put higher in your routing cue so as to encourage them to follow your ideal response times
If you want to increase your inbound conversions, work with your marketing team and sales leaders to establish SLAs around response times. And invest in tools that will allow you to achieve this objective.
Ready to join the straight-to-meeting revolution? Schedule a call today.