How fast does your company respond to leads and requests for information, especially when it needs to travel from one person to another-or across departments?

The faster and more effectively you can respond to requests or follow up on leads from prospects, the better your chances of getting the sale.

In our experience, some companies continue to act as though it’s not that important. Recently, in two discussions with large companies, we learned that the turnaround time from a trade show lead to getting it in the hands of their sales force is 2-3 weeks.

2… to 3… weeks.

Yes, they have a CRM system and no, it wasn’t something they were addressing as critical. Are they losing sales due to the lag time? I would bet yes.

What about products with longer buying cycles? Is speed really that important?

The buyers’ decision process certainly impacts the actual time to purchase. However, even in information-gathering stages, quicker responses to inquiries make an impression.

Do they need information for a presentation to an interim decision-committee? Or, a colleague just came across another potential vendor, how does your product stack up? They may not be ready to buy but bet on this, they are taking notes on how you respond to their requests.

What about products with shorter sales cycles?

In my mind, speed is even more critical for your sales force if your products fit into this category.

Why is speed so important?

Competitive Pressures
Potential buyers are looking at many different products from different vendors. With all the buying information easily available, it’s not only the norm but expected in B2B purchasing decisions. Even loyal customers will look around to get the best solution.

The faster your sales force can provide the relevant information, the quicker buyers can determine if your product fits their needs.

With the time pressures, many buyers will make choices based on the first product they get that satisfies their needs. Buyers will keep looking if they haven’t found it yet. Take advantage of the opportunity.

The Value of a Resource and a Trusted Advisor
Some feel that the role of sales people is diminishing due to the availability of buying information.

I don’t believe it.

By providing relevant information faster, your sales force increases their personal value to potential buyers. The keyword is RELEVANT. As a buyer, the downside of having so much information available is having to wade through so much product information to pick out what is important.

Have you bought a DVD player lately?

Try to figure out exactly what features you want, what are important, and which players have what you need but not what you don’t. Decide what store has the best price. It is not easy. And that is a relatively inconsequential purchase.

Now, think about your business customers. Their purchases might have an impact on their performance as an employee. Helping them in their decision process is even more valuable now.

Compressed B2B Buying Cycles

Your business customers are having to do more with less. Less time, fewer staff, not as many resources as just a few years ago. The speed at which you respond to customers is an indication to them of how much you understand about the demands placed on them. Responding quickly makes an impression.

An Ounce of Prevention

Do you think your customers have higher expectations from their business vendors than a couple of years ago? If you are like most businesses, the answer is yes. Speed and responsiveness is an expectation these days.

What happens when you make a mistake as a business? In the Facebook era, disgruntled customers can now tell hundreds of acquaintances at one time. Remember this, the web doesn’t forget. The complaint is sitting out there on Walls, Twitter, Comment sections, or Amazon waiting for other buyers to find it.

I’m not so sure that B2B customers are that quick to post public complaints. However, the speed with which your company and your sales force deals with buyer issues that have not yet been carved into digital stone can significantly reduce the chances of the unwanted post.

Companies need an edge these days to be noticed and be on the short lists of buyers. Speed is a competitive advantage and can be achieved without new products and without more customers. That’s another bonus of being fast.

What steps has your company taken to move faster in responding to potential buyers?