Understanding and exercising the most effective strategies for managing your critical inbound leads is pretty straightforward. We’ve boiled it down to the 4 Ps: Promptness, Persistence, Personalization and Performance. Let me explain:

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First, promptness. Once a prospect has become apparent, the faster you respond, the better your chance of making a sale. According to InsideSales.com studies, even the difference between 5 minutes and 30 minutes can substantially impact your chance of contacting and qualifying a lead.

Next, persistence. It’s simple: the more times you try, the more likely you are to make contact with a lead. Taking the time to follow up is worth it: a Yesware study confirms that continuing to reach out even all the way to an eighth attempt and beyond will generate a higher response rate.

Is your message personal? The more elements of personalization you can include in an email, the more likely the recipient will open it and click through or respond—up to 137 percent more likely.

Don’t discount performance. If an email ends up in the junk folder—as does nearly half of business email—the rest of your efforts are in vain. Graphics-heavy, link-laden emails won’t get the job done.

The 4 Ps sum up what we know companies should do to engage leads successfully. But how closely do they correspond with what companies actually do?

That’s the question we set out to answer in our 2015 Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-up. We tested 327 companies across nine industries to see what happens when research meets the real world. Our secret shopper sent direct, business-specific inquiries via mail or web form, and for the next 30 days we tracked each company’s response time, response frequency, their level of personalization, and their ability to land in the inbox.

Our most shocking finding was that just over one third of the companies we contacted did not respond at all. Zero. No response. A direct inquiry, a hot prospect asking to be contacted directly, was ignored by 34% of the companies contacted!

Almost as surprising is the fact that only 3% of the companies that did respond were following best practices in all four areas: Promptness, Persistence, Personalization and Performance. On the contrary:

  • 38% took more than a full day to respond
  • 53% made no more than two attempts at contact
  • 30% had no element of personalization in their emails
  • 58% were likely to miss the inbox at least 10 percent of the time

Take a look at a summary of the key findings in the infographic below

Clearly there’s a disconnect here between theory and practice. And that’s, unfortunately, not so surprising. We know that for many businesses keeping up with leads is a perennial struggle. We also know that there’s a better way. A look at the top performers in our study suggests key steps to optimizing inbound leads:

  1. Prioritize promptness: Even when top-rated companies didn’t meet best practice levels, their response time was more than 150 times faster than the survey average. Even a small increase in response time yields a higher contact and conversion rate, so any effort here will pay off.
  1. Don’t give up: The most consistent factor among top-rated companies was their persistence. Every single one of them hit the best practices target of 8 or more attempts at contact—and yet overall, persistence was the weakest category in our study. Many companies that find repeated follow-ups challenging are turning to automation to extend their resources and capture every possible opportunity.
  1. Make it personal: All of the top-rated companies used multiple elements of personalization in their email communication, and all but one of them received the top score for email performance. Here again, marketing automation tools and lead capture forms can make personalization simple. More sophisticated systems can go further, interpreting the details of the inquiry and mimicking a human response.

Take a look at all the findings in the complete 2015 Sales Effectiveness Report: Lead Follow-Up. Download your own copy to see which factors predict high or low performance and learn what steps to take to bring your company’s performance in line with best practices.

The report focuses on the overall results and best practices for improvement, without calling out specific companies as doing well or poorly. But good performance deserves to be recognized, so here we have all the companies that scored an A or B grade in the study, grouped by industry:

Industry Company Overall Grade Industry Company Overall Grade
Automotive Alfa Romeo Fiat of McKinney, TX (Dallas) A Media and Publishers AgriMarketing (Henderson Communications) B
Anderson Subaru of Pensacola, FL A Amerifirst Financial B
Bertera Nissan of Worcester, MA (Boston) A Liberty Home Equity Solutions B
Acura of Peabody, MA B Mortgage Financial of Massachusetts B
Allen Samuels Dodge Chrysler of Waco, TX B Starkey Mortgage of Plano, TX B
Audi Beverly Hills (Fletcher Jones Automotive Group) B Real Estate Chantel Ray Real Estate, Virginia Beach, VA B
AutoNation Honda Fremont, CA B Legacy/ERA Real Estate B
BMW of El Paso, TX (Group 1 Automotive Inc.) B Technology Marketo A
Bob Bell Nissan of Baltimore, MD B Salesforce A
Camelback Kia of Phoenix, AZ B Zend Technologies A
Germain Scion of Columbus, OH B Adobe Systems B
Landmark Ford Lincoln of Tigard, OR B Arena Solutions B
Lexus of Alexandria, VA (Lindsay Automotive Group) B BombBomb B
MINI of Charleston, SC (Hendrick Automotive Group) B CashBack B
Nissan World of Springfield, NJ (World Auto Group) B Cisco Systems B
Rusnak/Pasadena Audi of Pasadena, CA B Daptiv B
Sonic Automotive B Dropbox B
Weikert Ford of Lake Wales, FL B Exact Macola B
Yark Chevrolet of Whitehouse, OH (Yark Auto Group) B Five9 B
Ziegler Chevrolet of Claysburg, PA B Gainsight B
Brokerage Services E*Trade B inContact B
Scottrade B Informatica B
Education Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa A Insidesales.com B
Allied American University of Laguna Hills, CA B KEMP Technologies B
Everglades University of Boca Raton, FL B KnowBe4 B
Harris School of Business in New Jersey B LinkedIn B
Rasmussen College in Maitland, FL B Logikcull B
Spencerian College, Louisville, KY B New Relic B
The College of Westchester, NY B OnBase by Hyland Software B
The Los Angeles Film School B Samsung B
University of the Rockies of Denver, CO B SugarCRM B
Walden University in Minneapolis, MN B Telogis B
Westwood College in Carlsbad, CA B TIBCO Software B
ePremium Insurance B Urban Airship B
GEICO B Workday B
Goji Insurance B Zendesk B
Insureon B Telecom Frontier Communications B
MetLife B
Title365 Company B


Inbound leads are far too valuable—and too expensive—to let languish. Our 2015 Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-up can help you find ways to maximize both your leads and your time.

After reading the report, please share your thoughts in the comments below!


P.S. If you’d like to have your own company’s lead follow-up assessed, please provide your information here. And be sure to subscribe to our blog to stay updated regarding future research on this topic.

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Download a PDF of our infographic summarizing the 2015 Conversica Sales Effectiveness Lead Follow-Up Report

Conversica Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-Up - Download the report and infographic