Speed to Lead: 3 Problems Slowing Sales Down (And How to Solve Them)

Speed to lead is a huge indicator of sales team performance and overall revenue growth. Here's how to fix your lead response times in Salesforce.

In the B2B world, the company with the fastest sales team is in the best position to engage and ultimately win inbound sales leads. In other words: speed to lead is a huge indicator of sales team performance and the impact they have on growth.

But too many sales teams aren’t maximizing speed to lead. They’re settling for slower lead response times and, ultimately, lost leads.

We want to change that.

What is speed to lead?

Speed to lead is a measurement of how much time passes between when a prospect becomes a lead and when your sales team responds by contacting them.

That transition point when someone becomes a new lead varies from one company to another, but it’s often marked when they fill out and submit a demo request or contact form on your website.


Why does speed to lead matter?

Simply put: the faster your reps respond to inbound leads, the more likely they are to move them forward toward a sale. Savvy sales and revenue pros know, when it comes to speed to lead, every minute makes a difference.

When you respond to leads in 5 minutes or less, reps are 100 times more likely to make the initial contact (versus a speed to lead of 30 minutes). The likelihood of converting leads into opportunities is 21 times higher within 5 minutes—and even reducing your lead response time in Salesforce from 10 minutes down to 5 quadruples your odds of qualifying.


What’s slowing your lead response time and how to fix it

The vast majority of sales teams struggle to keep pace with best practices for lead response management and the expectations of leads (and the numbers we mentioned above).

In fact, data from Harvard Business Review shows 64% of companies take more than an hour to respond to inbound leads—and the average speed to lead was 42 hours. Only 26% of companies in the study secured speed to lead of 5 minutes or less.

In our experience working with hundreds of startups and B2B sales pros, delays sprout up from three main problems:

  • Knowing who your leads are
  • Routing and assigning them quickly and efficiently
  • Tracking SLAs and motivating reps to follow them

Problem #1: You don’t know who your leads are

For B2B companies, responding to inbound leads appropriately means reps need access to all the account-level context you already have in Salesforce. Without it, you can end up with reps:

  • Wasting time on accounts already assigned to someone else
  • Spending too much time on back-and-forth to get the details they need
  • Harming the customer experience with unorganized and redundant communications

Solving those problems has only gotten more important and complicated as many B2B companies shift toward account-based marketing (ABM) strategies.

The solution to this is to match all incoming leads with accounts already in Salesforce. But too many operations and sales teams do this cross-referencing manually. That slows down the process of getting inbound leads to reps, leaves room for human error, and wastes time.


  • Mishandling leads can be costly both in terms of customer experience and in wasted time for SDRs.
  • Lead data coming in from inbound sources or lists is often low quality and may include partial or incomplete data. That makes it harder and slower to get these leads to the right salesperson to reach out.
  • Without a matching tool in place, it’s nearly impossible to run account-based marketing and sales strategies effectively.

How to fix it

If you use Salesforce, you can build out some automation around matching leads to accounts within the app itself. The feature is no-code, and you’ll set up match rules to automatically determine whether inbound leads map to an existing account. Rules can reference any standard or custom field within Salesforce, use fuzzy logic operators, and provide a match score.

But here’s the thing: you still have to manually manage the trigger to begin the matching process and Salesforce can’t handle failures or re-try scenarios on its own.

At a certain point in your company’s growth, you need a tool to automate this entire process as a part of overall lead management. That’s when a designated lead-to-account matching and routing tool comes in handy.

With a matching solution built for Salesforce:

  • Matching incoming data to to existing data gets a whole lot faster, easier, and more accurate
  • You can automatically enrich lead data in real-time (before it goes to the rep)
  • Reps have all the information they need to respond quickly and competently to inbound leads

Problem #2: You’re doing routing and assignment manually

Understanding who your leads are and which accounts they map to is the starting point. Next, you need to quickly and accurately assign those Salesforce records to the right people, and let them know they have a new inbound lead.

For smaller teams, routing may still be pretty simple. But as your company grows, lead volume goes up and so does the complexity of your lead routing. You need to be able to route leads—quickly and accurately—based on a number of factors like:

  • Territory and location
  • Rep availability
  • Lead score
  • Industry
  • Use case or buyer persona
  • Lead value or potential deal size

Without a solution to manage routing at that scale, the process is completely manual. Your team has to run through long lists of routing decisions before a lead makes their way to the right rep

That’s when speed to lead spikes. Plus, some leads may fall through the cracks entirely—Forbes estimates as many as 73% are never contacted at all.

How to fix it

When your sales team is still small, you can use the criteria-based lead assignment rules native within Salesforce to automatically assign leads based on criteria like geography, industry, or product interest.

As your sales team doubles or triples in size, having a complete lead routing tool in place—to automate even complex routing decisions—is crucial. You need a tool that works within Salesforce, automatically and in real-time, and one you can customize based on your business needs (like your territories, account-based models, and more).

A good lead routing tool will enable you to go from lead capture to routing in a matter of a few minutes, going a long way in helping drop speed to lead.

Plus, with a good solution, you can manage users dynamically to account for absences, vacations, business hours, and promotions—meaning every incoming lead makes their way to a rep who’s present and available.


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Problem #3: You aren’t tracking your SLA in Salesforce

Service-level agreements (SLAs) between marketing and sales are a good starting point for reducing speed to lead. They provide a benchmark to help the sales team contextualize their performance and assure the marketing team their leads are being handled quickly.

But in our experience, SLAs tend to be more theoretical than practical. The sales team may agree to respond to new inbound leads within 5 minutes, but do they actually measure or track that?

With speed to lead, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Plus, without tracking in place, sales managers can’t identify reps who aren’t holding fast to the benchmarks set out in your SLA—you can’t break down performance across reps without a lot of manual work.

How to fix it

Properly tracking your SLA and speed to lead is the most crucial step here. That means you need an SLA solution that measures speed to lead and incentivizes reps to move more quickly.

With our SLA tool for Salesforce, we set a ticking clock that begins to count as soon as a lead gets assigned to a rep. From there, the tool follows a set of automated actions based on your custom process.

You can automate Lane Four SLAs to measure speed to lead by rep, for example, and to re-assign leads to a new rep after a set amount of time. That means you can:

  • Motivate reps to act fast (or risk losing the lead to another rep)
  • Unlock in-depth reporting on speed to lead and see how it measures up to your SLA
  • Improve speed to lead

Speed up your sales team

Once an inbound lead contacts your startup, every minute counts.

Sales teams that can efficiently and accurately match and route leads have a big advantage over those who allow manual lead matching, routing, and assignment to slow them down.

How will you speed up your team and accelerate your growth?



About the Author

Kiera Abbamonte is a content writer who works with B2B SaaS companies. Catch up with her on Twitter @Kieraabbamonte or KieraAbbamonte.com