Speed to Lead: What Is It and Is It Really Outdated?

Carlos Silva

Plenty of research says the faster you respond to a lead, the more likely you are to qualify that lead and convert them into a paying customer. 

Seems logical, right?

Well, studies also show that less than 1% of B2B organizations contact inbound leads within 5 minutes. Less than 1%!

And only 31% try calling their leads at any point in time. 

How can this be? What’s going on? 

This whole situation has led to the birth and rise of the term “speed to lead” — very similar to lead response time

I want us to take a moment and learn what speed to lead is, how you should think about what’s being optimized, and the whole “speed to lead is outdated” debate. 

Let’s roll.


Speed to lead is still important and more relevant than ever, but the 5 minute response time “golden window” is still too slow and should no longer be your north star.

The new north star is instant routing and booking. Instant speed to lead. 

What is speed to lead?

Speed to lead is the elapsed time between a prospect expressing interest in your business and your sales rep’s earliest response. This interest can vary by organization but, generally speaking, we’re talking about a contact form or demo request. The second they hit submit, the clock starts ticking.

One thing worth bearing in mind: Speed to lead doesn’t prioritize any method of communication over another. It accounts for how quickly you respond to a lead, be it by phone, email, text, etc. 

While speed to lead may seem like a straightforward metric, there’s actually a little more nuance to it. 

Why does speed to lead matter so much?

When a prospect is eager enough to request a demo or hop on a call, their purchase intent is at an all-time high. 

They’re pumped up. They’re ready to talk. Heck, they might be ready to buy outright.

But every moment that passes between that initial outreach and your response, their interest starts to wane. 

“Do I really need this? Maybe I’ll sleep on it. I wonder if I could get it somewhere else?”

Imagine an in-person scenario where you were standing at a deserted sales counter with no help in sight. 

How long would you stick around? 30 seconds? A minute? Maybe five if you were absolutely desperate?

Such a situation sounds ridiculous, but that’s basically what businesses today are putting their prospects through. Not exactly a customer experience to write home about.

But, is all of this just theoretical?


Here are a few speed to lead facts that underline why response times are so critical:

Each of these statistics underscores the same point ad nauseam. Speed to lead matters. 

The point isn’t to memorize all these numbers. The point is to take these aggregate statistics to remember the central point I’m trying to make — prioritize speed to lead to improve conversions

What should your speed to lead be?

As we learned above, if you can get your speed to lead down to one minute, on average, you’ll see about a 391% conversion rate improvement. 

Old-school marketers will tell you there’s this idea of a speed to lead "golden window" — and that’s five minutes. 

And, they’re not wrong. The ability to connect with a lead drops dramatically the longer you wait. 

In fact, after five minutes your odds drop off a cliff and decrease by a heart-stopping 80%!

But, in this day and age, the truth is five minutes is still too slow. That “golden window” should no longer be your north star. 

Your new north star should be contacting leads instantly. Instant speed to lead. 

How to improve your speed to lead in 5 steps

Now that we’ve driven home just how much it matters, here are 5 steps to help you improve your speed to lead and getting down to as instant as possible.

1. Design your landing pages to engage prospects immediately

This is all about conversion rate optimization, and your landing pages are valuable real estate. 

Ask yourself, am I doing everything I can to engage prospects as soon as they land on my site? 

Consider every opportunity to engage with leads from the get-go. 

Think about things like:

  • Live chat and chatbots
  • Demo requests
  • Booking a call
  • Popup calls to action

The idea is to immediately make yourself as accessible and responsive as possible. This also means reducing friction. 

Let’s use Gong as an example, in the GIF below. They’re not taking you to a second landing page to fill out the form. They use Chili Piper to open up a calendar and let you schedule right then and there. 

Gong is reducing their speed to lead to seconds, and I love them for it. 

Want to see how Chili Piper can help you too? Request a demo

2. Save your sales reps time via lead enrichment and capture forms

What I mean is, asking the right questions and getting the key information. 

One of the biggest bottlenecks when it comes to speed to lead is your reps themselves — the time it takes for them to reach out and connect. 

Reps always need to do research. They need to know specific information about a company to decide if they’re going to reach out to them, and this research takes time. 

It’s different for every organization, but it could mean asking about company size, budget, CRM, technographic tools, etc.

Obviously, you also want to keep your forms pretty tight and short — you don’t want them to be too long.

But my point is, think about the information that matters the most, and ask it in your forms. It’s really important because it gives your sales rep that info instantly so they don’t have to waste any time finding it. 

Another option is to use third-party lead enrichment tools and platforms like Clearbit, ZoomInfo, MadKudu, or InsideView

We use enrichment tools at Chili Piper and it allows us to keep our forms nice and short and we can backfill in the background and supplement a lot of that information that our sales team needs. 

3. Score your leads and prioritize who to call first

Regardless of how you score leads, the key here is prioritizing who to call first.

And for that, you need to have the right data — whether it’s asking the questions in your forms or capturing it using lead enrichment. 

Everyone scores leads in different ways. I’m not going to tell you how to score leads. Heck, we stopped scoring leads at Chili Piper.

But the idea is to come up with some type of hierarchy in terms of how you prioritize your leads and know which leads are more important than others. 

You’re then going to pull all of your resources to be able to have a speed to lead as instant as possible with your best leads. 

For example, you can give your most qualified leads the ability to start a call right away after filling in a form.

For a lead who is not as qualified, you might give them the ability to just schedule a meeting.

Or if someone is not qualified at all, why waste time by giving them the option to talk to a sales rep? 

You’re better off just explaining to them why they’re not a great fit, and then adding them to a cadence or sending them to a pre-recorded demo landing page with an easy CTA.

4. Automatically route your leads to the right reps

Another huge bottleneck is assigning leads to reps. 

One of the things we know today is, if someone submits a demo request form it’s up to a Marketing Ops Manager or an SDR Manager to go about the process of assigning leads based on territory, round-robin, company size, etc. 

Many companies use spreadsheets to manage this.

And all these different things just add time to how long it takes to assign a lead to a rep. 

That being said, one of the things you should work towards achieving is an instant routing of leads

There are great lead distribution platforms that integrate with your CRM, automatically route leads, and send notifications — but what we do with Chili Piper is take that one step further. 

If a lead isn’t qualified to schedule a meeting instantly or start a live call, you can create rules and set criteria to ensure every inbound lead is instantly assigned to the appropriate rep for follow-up. 

This means no lead is lost in the system and you never miss another sales opportunity. 

5. Monitor your speed to lead to identify drop-off points and lag time

As with any key metric, one of the most important things is just to monitor your speed to lead so you can identify ways to improve it. 

How you go about measuring it is really up to you. 

I came across this interesting document from André Pimentel, VP of Customer Success at Shop-Ware, where he shares his process for calculating his speed to lead — or in his case, Lead Attack Time. 

It comes down to using a simple equation to calculate the time between when your lead was created and when you first reached out. 

But, what’s really important is knowing what that number is and keeping tabs on it.

You can use it to benchmark across past performance, average it out over your sales team, or know how fast different reps are — and then look for ways to continuously improve it.   

Is speed to lead really outdated?

Some marketers claim speed to lead is outdated, but I don’t think so. It’s not outdated. It’s still relevant. It’s still important. 

The thing is, speed to lead can now be instantaneous. 

What is outdated is the 5-minute “golden window” north star.

What is outdated is the strategy where all marketing was responsible for was collecting a bunch of MQLs and passing them over for sales to chase after. 

But this isn’t how marketing works anymore. 

We must rethink marketing completely. We must rethink what our goal is. We must forget about vanity metrics. 

Leads that convert and fill out a form are telling you they want to talk to sales. It’s what we internally call the “straight to meeting imperative.” 

Why should they have to wait for an email with a booking link? Why do you need an SDR to call them first?

Why not let them book a meeting with the appropriate rep directly on the form? 

With businesses like Chili Piper, speed to lead is reduced to mere seconds. Someone can fill out a form and immediately hop on a live call. 

Speed to lead is not outdated. But it’s up to you and how you approach it. 

Cutting a long story short

Your speed to lead might be amazing. You might even be qualifying a ton of leads.

But the harsh truth is that you’re probably not fast enough. 

Speed to lead statistics consistently prove that the faster you can respond to a lead, the more likely you are to qualify and process that lead.

If you wait even a little bit, there’s a good chance you’ll lose that lead forever.

This is a frightening prospect, and it’s not something to take lightly. You need to have a rock-solid game plan.

There are a few things I’d love for you to keep in mind. 

One, instead of focusing on routing leads, focus on routing meetings. This will reduce your speed to lead down to seconds. Look to book meetings instantly with prospects that want to talk to you. 

Two, optimize your routing for less qualified leads. You’ll still massively reduce your speed to lead and increase your conversion rates. 

And lastly, don’t add complexity to a very simple task. Don’t create friction before your relationship with your lead even starts. 

Want to see how Chili Piper can help? Request a demo






About the author
Carlos Silva

Carlos Silva is an SEO Content Manager at Chili Piper. He's passionate about the craft of writing and the power of storytelling. You might find him trail running through the mountains of Valencia, Spain, or writing in his journal at home, but you'll always find him reading something new!

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