Shoptalk. That informal exchanging of ideas and information you have with your peers at a conference, networking event, or over a cup of coffee.
This used to happen naturally. But in the era of a pandemic and virtual events, it’s gotten a lot harder.
To help you fill that gap, we’re giving you a peek into your peers’ lead management experiences.
Read on for examples from the financial services, insurance, real estate, content, service, marketing, advertising, data security, gambling, tech/IT, and SaaS industries.
The idea for this article came from a reader’s question. If there are some insights you’re missing these days from not being able to connect with your marketing peers, let us know.
This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.
How long does it take for leads to convert from raw lead to MQL (marketing-qualified lead)? To SQL (sales-qualified lead)? To final sale?
The answer to these questions is maddeningly complex and dependent on factors ranging from your company’s industry to average deal size to how you get your leads. So we can’t answer that question definitively for you. But here’s what we can do. Give you an inside look at your peers’ sales cycle across a diverse range of industries.
First, you’ve got to get the leads. And if you need help generating more leads, check out this free download from MarketingSherpa’s parent organization, MECLABS Institute – Research-based Lead Gen Swipe File: 22 valid marketing experiments to give you ideas for your next A/B test.
Once you’ve generated the leads, read on for insights into your peers’ sales cycle length, how that sales cycle length has changed over the past year, along with tips for your success. To help you quickly find the most applicable examples, we’ve broken them down by B2C or B2B, and then by industry. But I would encourage you to see what you can learn from marketers outside your industry as well.
Out of all the marketers kind enough to share an inside look at their company’s sales cycle, the following group provided the most helpful information.
Financial Services industry
Company: Global Wealth Advisors
Marketer: Pamela Engstrom, M.A., Director of Communications and Public Relations
Industry: Financial services industry, providing financial planning and wealth management.
Raw lead to MQL: While we may receive raw leads from our paid ads or third-party lead gen, we only take on so many new clients each year. Our leads are qualified fairly quickly, often within 24 hours. With access to social media and databases, we determine very quickly if an individual is qualified to move forward in our process.
Raw lead to SQL: Leads are prospect-qualified within two weeks, through our process which includes research, a call or email, and an initial meeting, face-to-face or on Zoom if they prefer.
Raw lead to final sale: Typically it takes us two to four weeks to convert a raw lead to a client, through our meeting process.
Change over past year: Over the past year, with increased market volatility thanks to Covid and the election, we are able to turn leads faster. People have a vested interest in protecting their investments and wealth and are amenable to changing firms, if they feel their needs are not being met. It is during times of volatility, when they often discover their advisor is hiding from them or is not proactively reaching out to them.
Advice for other marketers: For marketers in the financial services industry, my advice is to set yourself apart from competitors by showing authenticity in everything you do. Clients are often scared or confused during times of market volatility. They are looking for someone who understands this and isn't trying to pitch them with salesy content. Ensure your touch points show how your process works and your firm's culture. For them, the relationship is critical.
Company: High Income Protection Insurance Agency
Marketer: Raymer Malone, CFP®, Owner
Industry: Online insurance agency that focuses primarily on disability insurance.
Raw Lead to SQL: We source most of our leads organically through search. On average, a raw lead will become a sales qualified lead within 24 hours. Occasionally we have leads that have a longer timeline but if the consumer isn't responsive immediately, the close percentage drops pretty quickly.
Raw lead to final sale: Once qualified, the final sale timeline varies from a few days to a few weeks, with the average being six days. This is normally due to scheduling availability more than anything else. Our closing call, which involves a full explanation of benefits and completing an e-application, can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes.
Change over past year: Frankly, this timeline hasn't really changed over the last year. We did have leads that were dropped into our drip campaign who suddenly responded. It's pretty unusual for a lead that's one or two months old to re-engage however it is understandable given the circumstances of 2020.
Advice for other marketers: My advice to anyone marketing insurance products online is to be fairly aggressive in contacting your leads immediately. Texts, calls, and emails all need to take place as soon as the lead hits your inbox. Because a lot of consumers enter their information on several sites, being the “first one through the door” is critical. After the first 24 hours, your chances of closing that lead decrease substantially (80%+).
Company: Funeral Funds
Marketer: Randy VanderVaate, President and Owner
Raw lead to MQL: It takes less than one hour to convert raw leads from Facebook ads to marketing-qualified leads. We use Facebook advertising for lead generation. We pre-qualify leads when our raw lead enters our marketing funnel. Those who submit their full information are considered a marketing-qualified lead.
Raw Lead to SQL: It takes one to two days to convert raw leads to a sales-qualified lead. When a raw lead enters our marketing funnel, we pre-qualify them. Those who submit their full information are considered a marketing-qualified lead. A marketing-qualified lead becomes a sales-qualified lead after we verified their information by calling them on the phone.
Raw lead to final sale: It takes one to seven days to convert a raw lead to a final sale. When a raw lead becomes a sales-qualified lead, we call them to conduct a sales presentation over the phone. We close the lead during the sales presentation. A closed lead is now ready for the final step, which is the life insurance application process.
Change over past year: The length of time for converting raw sales into final sales has changed over the past year. The pandemic has shortened the insurance sales process to a minimum of 20 minutes. Many people have already decided to buy life insurance when they call us, and it takes a minimal sales effort on our part.
Advice for other marketers: Pre-qualify leads. Avoid wasting your time on low-quality leads. Concentrate your efforts on high-quality leads that have a higher percentage of conversion.
Company: Smart Watches 4 U
Marketer: Antti Alatalo, CEO & Founder
Industry: Content. A company that reviews and compares the latest smartwatches.
Raw lead to MQL: The phase from raw lead to MQL doesn't take long, usually just a couple of days. This occurs from the time a visitor reads one or more of our smartwatch reviews to either clicking an affiliate link or reaching out to a representative.
Raw Lead to SQL: Going from raw lead to SQL on average takes about four to eight weeks. Readers become a sales hopeful when they click on more than one affiliate link or place an item in the shopping cart but did not finalize the purchase.
Raw lead to final sale: From raw lead to final purchase takes an average eight to 12 weeks. I totally get why readers can hold off on finalizing the purchase. Even with our comprehensive reviews and comparison guides, deciding on a particular smartwatch brand and model can be difficult. After all, this is a purchase costing several hundred dollars and is an item they're going to be using daily for the next two to four years.
Change over past year: I have noticed a slight increase in the sales cycle, though not by much, maybe just by an additional two to three weeks on average over the entire cycle. Even though more people are reading my reviews, I believe they are also more hesitant to spend money on big purchases. This is most likely due to Covid, which has led to furloughs and more people pulling back on non-essential spending.
Advice for other marketers: My advice is to provide long-form content that really covers every possible area. In other words, leave no stones unturned. Site visitors are there because they want industry information. Provide that information as an industry representative while keeping the language layman-friendly. If the reader gets the sense that you know what you're talking about, they'll take that next step.
Real Estate industry
Company: FL Cash Home Buyers, LLC
Marketer: Omer Reiner, co-founder
Industry: We're in the real estate industry, and market directly to homeowners to advertise our homebuying services.
Raw lead to MQL: We've found that it takes an average of 3.22 days for us to qualify a raw lead from the point it comes into our CRM (Customer Relationship Management software), until we know if it's a true marketing-qualified lead. This varies by the source of the incoming lead. Some lead sources such as SEO (search engine optimization), PPC (pay-per-click advertising), and radio, send in more qualified leads, so this average time is less in comparison to leads from other sources, such as cold calling and cold email campaigns.
Raw lead to final sale: For us, in the house buying business, it takes an average of 23.59 days from the time a raw lead comes into our CRM until the final sale, which in our case means signing a contract to purchase their home.
Change over past year: Interestingly enough, our raw-lead-to-the-final-sale time has improved this year compared to last year. This year we're at 23.59 days compared to 38.17 days last year.
Marketer: Cyrus Yung, Director
Industry: Wall painting services in Singapore
Raw lead to MQL: Our average time is five minutes to two days to convert from raw lead to MQL – the lead responding to our phone call or replying to our email or message is the [definition of] MQL.
Raw Lead to SQL: On average, it takes three to seven days to convert from raw lead to SQL, where an appointment with the lead is the SQL.
Raw lead to final sale: On average, it takes five to 14 days to convert from raw leads to the final sale.
Change over past year: The above were pre-Covid times, the post-Covid times are different.
During the “Circuit Breaker” period [stay-at-home order in Singapore in response to COVID-19] from April 7th to June 1st, 2020, more than 4,000 households ordered paint and painting equipment where they painted their home on their own.
It is understandable that it took an additional four to seven days longer to the final sale, in about July 2020.
Advice for other marketers: The faster we respond, the more sales we generated.
Once a lead comes in, do your best to respond within the first five minutes. What we do is call those leads within five minutes, if they did not pick up the phone, we would send a customized templated SMS (short message service, also known as text message) and email to them.
On the next day, we will follow up with the leads who did not respond with a call, then SMS, and email. This has helped us generate lots of sales despite being the more expensive service provider in Singapore.
Company: Wizard Race and Sports
Marketer: Michael Kipness, Founder
Industry: Strategic analysis in thoroughbred horse racing. I serve a B2C audience, consisting of people of all demographics and backgrounds, including part-time hobbyists and those who dive all in in professional sports gambling.
Raw lead to MQL: Raw leads become MQL after signing up for my newsletters and receiving a free horse race pick every Saturday. This phase is relatively easy and takes several days to a few weeks at the most.
Raw lead to SQL: Going from a raw lead to a SQL can take two to three months. These leads will often spend a few months testing the waters by sticking to the free weekly pick they receive from signing up. As their win rate increases, they will reach out with inquiries about some of the paid betting strategies and combo packages. Prospects will usually spend anywhere from four to 12 weeks from the moment they become a subscriber to actively engaging with one of our representatives.
Raw lead to final sale: The entire sales funnel process from raw lead to final sale averages five to six months. A lot of prospects really spend a lot of time just experimenting with their free weekly pick. I don't hurry them and just let them go at their own pace, trusting they'll reach out when ready.
Change over past year: Over time, with more robust marketing initiatives, we received a bigger influx of new signups. However, after signing up, the phase from MQL to SQL and SQL to the final sale remains roughly the same, with the total time from raw lead to final sale lasting five to six months. This is completely understandable; the sports betting industry is one where customers really need time to contemplate their decisions. I'm in no hurry.
Advice for other marketers: Never rush your customers. If they linger in any phase of the sales funnel, just continue to provide high-quality industry content in the form of newsletters and blogs. Give them information of value. This sends the signal to customers that they can take as much time as they need, and we'll be here when they're ready.
Tech / IT industry
Marketer: Ottomatias Peura, CMO
Industry: Tech. Specifically, we develop a real-time speech recognition API.
Raw lead to MQL: In our industry, the path from lead to MQL is rather fast. We know our market very well and – as our approach to speech recognition offers so much to developers that are looking for speech recognition solutions – these developers take action and ask questions almost as soon as they hear about us. I would say within one to two weeks.
Raw Lead to SQL: The much slower process in higher-end B2B products like ours is the shift from MQL to SQL, which makes sense. Many times in business there are numerous decision-makers that need to compare prices and features and calculate the risks and benefits of deploying our system. This could take from many months to even an entire year.
Change over past year: This has not changed since we have been in business. What we’ve been able to do is share our features and benefits throughout the MQL period to constantly engage these potential customers with new and exciting content about our product.
Marketer: Nathan Sebastian, Content Marketer
Industry: IT industry. We at GoodFirms help businesses find the most appropriate software and service providers for their various requirements.
Raw lead to MQL: Initially, we had a narrow focus on the top-of-funnel activities, and as a result, we struggled in generating quality leads. A year and a half ago, we invested more in content marketing efforts, offering excellent blog posts, white papers, research, eBooks, etc. Now we track our sales cycle from the moment a raw lead is created – 72.4% of all raw leads get converted to MQLs in about 40 days, where website leads convert at 35.7%.
Raw lead to SQL: Moving MQLs further down the sales pipeline, separating them into ‘prospects’ and ‘suspects,’ we ensure that marketing and sales messaging are aligned. Our sales representatives communicate a consistent core value proposition, keeping our credibility intact and gaining the qualified leads’ trust. We successfully got 61.7% of MQLs converted into SQLs in about 30 days. This means it takes about 70 days to get 44.7% of the raw leads to convert into SQLs.
Raw lead to final sale: As the leads are hot at this point, we put our best efforts into nurturing them with multiple touch-points. We provide maximum value and offer all the information they need at the right time. GoodFirms recently organized a virtual expo – a series of webinars from the industry experts in October. And it helped us close 6% more deals.
Most than half (59%) of the SQLs generally make a trade (of their software) in about 25 days. And hence 26.4% of the raw leads finally get converted to final sale in around 95 days.
Change over past year: Being a B2B company, our customers’ journey is longer than B2C. What’s more, the economy has really been difficult for the last two quarters. But still, during the previous 12 months, winning sales cycles have become shorter. The time from ‘qualifying a lead to Sales’ has been reduced by almost 21%. It certainly is more difficult to find truly qualified opportunities, but the ones who are genuinely looking for the services are quicker to sign the deal.
Advice for other marketers: Never underestimate the power of customer referrals. Many salespeople are reluctant to ask for referrals, but it only serves to limit their selling potential – 84% of B2B decision-makers initiate the purchasing process because of a referral. Sales leaders also agree that referrals close 70% faster and have a 59% higher lifetime value. Ask your satisfied and engaged clients to give you referrals. It is one of the absolute best ways to get new outbound leads, potential clients, and grow your business exponentially.
SaaS (Software as a Service) Industry
Marketer: Thierry Tremblay, CEO & Founder
Raw lead to MQL: Overall, approximately 20% of our raw leads convert to MQL, and the average time for conversion is 40 days.
Raw Lead to SQL: Overall, approximately 10% of our raw leads convert to SQL, and the average time for conversion is 60 days.
Raw lead to final sale: 80 days on average.
Change over past year: For MQL, it decreased from 45 to 40 days, and for SQL, it dropped from 72 to 60 days.
Advice for other marketers: The B2B sales process is highly complex, and we noticed that some channels deliver consistently more superior performance than others. For us, the winners are customer referrals, our brand website, and social (in our case, LinkedIn).
Outbound channels such as webinars, email campaigns, and lead lists have the lowest performance. As a result, lead conversion depends more on the source of the lead than on the salesmanship. The coordination between sales and marketing is vital for leads progression.
The marketing team needs to implement lead scoring KPIs (key performance indicators) and continuously analyze which channels perform best to ensure that they deliver the best quality leads to sales. The sales team has to use sales cadence and follow up sequences to make the lead progress to the buying stage. For SaaS, it is also essential to offer product demos, walkthroughs, free trials, and other incentives to finally buy the product.
Marketer: Eduard Dziak
Industry: Marketing consultant for Microsoft Partners for ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software.
Raw lead to MQL: We have seen typically three to six weeks.
For us to consider it as an MQL the lead must have this information included within the CRM.
Raw Lead to SQL: Eight to twelve weeks.
For SQL Criteria:
Raw lead to final sale: Five to eight months.
Change over past year: People are keener to digitally transform as COVID-19 disruption helps bring up the urgency. So [raw lead to final sale decreased] from six to 10 months to five to eight months on average.
Advice for other marketers: I think I would advise other marketers something that they might hear many times, but it makes a hell of a difference if it is done correctly and with consistent effort. Building trust.
Everything we do, in every marketing material we create, we always ask ourselves, “Does this increase trust and credibility? ”
Our customers spend a lot of money. And implementing ERP and CRM software is risky for businesses – they do disrupt business operations and many new changes are introduced to operations.
So for us to effectively market, we must show we know what we do, we are experts, we have industry experience, and their ERP or CRM project is in the right hands. They must trust it.
That is what our customers are searching for. So, any rewards, badges, or customer testimonial that shows our expertise is great to speedup the sales cycle and customer journey. Articles are great to attract but do not really create trust, only awareness that we are here. But once the prospect lands on our website, social media, or opens our email, everything from that point is about building trust. This is what is working for us and our prospects and customers are telling us why they choose us.
Data Security industry
Company: White Canyon Software
Marketer: Paul Katzoff, CEO
Industry: Data Security – a cybersecurity software firm that focuses on secure data erasure of IT assets
Raw lead to MQL: We use the MQL term for outbound-based lead gen. For us a raw lead is a potential target, MQL activities are pursued to find out if there is interest and see if they are an SQL. This takes three to six months. Typically our MQLs are using another tool and we are timing our marketing and engagement to capture them at their renewal period.
Raw Lead to SQL: Raw leads that are inbound become SQL in one to two days. After discussing the needs with the client we convert it to an SQL if it meets our internal threshold.
Raw lead to final sale: On average is 28 days but we have outliers that are one year and others that purchase on their initial call.
Change over past year: Due to the pandemic and market slowdowns, we have seen this average push to 40 days but it has almost returned to normal.
Advice for other marketers: Focus on that industry’s needs. If you don't know what they are, contact current clients or reach out to non-clients and bend their ear. Ask them questions about the market and what it needs, find out the pain points and create brochures that speak to it. This will make it easier to engage with others in the industry.
Once you have good marketing material, bundle it with outbound calling. A voicemail or direct call does volumes (no pun intended) to lift you above the SPAM they receive. And if your sales rep is good, he will get a conversation and a relationship going.
Build on the relationship with additional information, software updates, feature rollouts and ask them for what they would like to see in the product. Win them over to your product months or years ahead of when they can switch to you. This makes it easier later.
Ask for referrals if they aren't ready to buy. Send them swag. This is a great way to merge the marketing budget and get your merchandise on their desk. The stronger the relationship, the more guaranteed the deal.
Company: PCS Advisers
Marketer: Paul C. Seegert, Managing Partner
Raw lead to MQL: 50% in 10 weeks, 30% more by 16 weeks, last 20% take up to 26 weeks
Raw lead to SQL: Average is 20 weeks
Raw lead to final sale: Average is 24 weeks
Change over past year: Largely unchanged over the last year in terms of the timeframes, however, with the move to Zoom over in-person meetings, we have been able to increase the total raw leads we market to and are closing more sales.
Advice for other marketers: Acknowledge the current situation in your marketing and communicate why it is the reason to take action now and not a reason to postpone taking action
Take advantage of the current situation to increase your results. Virtual meetings provide a larger potential volume of meetings. Working from home provides different access to prospective clients/mediums (cell phone vs office etc.).
Marketer: Al Black, Production Director
Industry: Voiceover actors, primarily for Advertising
Raw lead to MQL: Our MQLs often take the form of repeated site visits and sign ups to our newsletter. On average it can take around one to two weeks to convert to MQL (or two to three site visits).
Raw Lead to SQL: Most of our SQLs come via online forms on our key landing pages. They may also make a call. We have hundreds of landing pages targeting both organic and PPC (pay-per-click advertising) users. We convert to SQL in less than 24 hours.
Raw lead to final sale: It depends on the size and complexity of the project but a typical lead takes two days to convert to sale. A larger deal with dozens of languages or more services (such as translations, subtitling etc.) may take a couple of weeks or more.
Change over past year: We’ve seen our MQLs drop from around four to six weeks (six or more site visits) when we first launched Voquent.com in 2018 to around one to two weeks (a couple of site visits). We put this down to general brand awareness. Conversation to SQL has always been relatively quick and has stayed consistent.
Advice for other marketers: Don’t be afraid to talk about pricing. One of our key converting pages is all about voice-over rates. People flock to this page because they like to know if they can afford our service before they make an inquiry. This helps our sales team too because the customers who do make an inquiry will already have some idea of the rate they can expect to pay. So many B2B service companies fail to talk about pricing and this can put people off making an inquiry. It’s also super important to post quality (genuinely useful) content to keep subscribers coming back and engaging with your business on social media. This builds trust and we’ve found this combination has increased our conversion to sale by 50%.
Company: Texture Plus
Marketer: Brian Kampe, CEO, Texture Plus
Industry: Manufacturer of a building supply material. Texture Plus manufactures an easy to install faux wall panel that transforms a project using hundreds of designs such as brick, stone, bamboo, wood and more. This appeals to both the B2C DIYer as well as a wide range of B2B industries from hospitality and retailers to construction and sign-makers.
Raw lead to final sale: The length of conversion time can range dramatically. Our leads are primarily coming in as marketing-qualified leads. On the short B2C side, the conversion can happen almost immediately through tactics such as paid ad campaigns but typically average five to six weeks. Once they’ve connected with us, they’re typically ready to buy with a specific project in mind. On the B2B side, conversions can take upwards of a year or longer depending on the complexity of the project.
Change over past year: With the impact of Covid in the past year, the cycle has gone through some crazy gyrations. B2C seems quicker, B2B less so.
Advice for other marketers: Our best advice is to provide as much value as you can along the way in ‘snackable’ ways. Staying short, steady, relevant, and anticipatory of their needs whether through samples, ebooks, newsletters, chats, and videos will build that beneficial relationship.
Be nimble, keep watch on your metrics and stay in close touch with your customers. Covid has changed everything, so listening and staying empathetic to the needs of your customers is more critical than ever.
Advice for other marketers (from Texture Plus’s agency): “My biggest piece of advice that applies to nearly all of our clients is lead follow up. The best way to convert leads to customers at higher rates, and in quicker timelines is from immediate service. When someone fills out a form, picks up the phone, requests a sample, or chats on our website, the single most important thing is to get back to them quickly. The faster we respond and answer questions (add value), the more likely they are to close, and the less likely a competitor is going to get their attention.” – Max DesMarais, Marketing Stategist, Vital Design
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