September 06, 2007

Exclusive New Data: What’s the Best Day & Time to Follow Up on Leads?

SUMMARY: If you think you know the best day or time to follow up on a Web-generated lead, you’re probably wrong. New research that will be revealed exclusively at MarketingSherpa’s B-to-B Demand Generation Summit next month may help rewrite the rules on when marketers should activate their sales team to get the best results.

We’re giving you a sneak peek at one marketer’s results from the study, and we guarantee that you’ll be surprised. Includes answers to:
- How many hours to wait before calling
- What time of day gets the best conversion rates
- Which day gets the most completed calls
Like most marketers who dread letting hot leads go cold, Steve Fitzgerald and Steve Heath of FranklinCovey rely on a telemarketing team to contact Web users who abandon online shopping carts for their time management-training workshops.

Heath, who manages the call center, tried placing follow-up calls 15-30 minutes after prospects bailed out of the online registration forms. But the results were terrible. Not only did they fail to convert leads into sales, they offended their customers.

“To get to the payment screen, you have to put in your contact info, but many customers don’t finish the process because they didn’t want to put in their credit card information. When you’re spending $299-$1,500, you typically need approval from a manager or the finance department before making that type of purchase,” said Fitzgerald, Director Public Programs.

Heath and Fitzgerald realized that an immediate follow-up call didn’t give prospects enough time to get necessary approvals, but they knew they needed to move quickly enough to make sure buyers remained motivated.

To get answers, they pored through nearly 18 months of call center data. Their analysis determined the optimum time frame for follow-up calls and what times of the day and days of the week produced the best results. From this, their team developed three strategies that have optimized their call center operations:

-> Strategy #1. Follow up on abandoned shopping cart leads within 24 hours

The first question they wanted answered was how long to wait before placing the first follow-up call. Based on the data analysis, they found:

- The highest rates of completed phone calls -- leaving a message or setting an appointment to discuss options -- and sales conversions occurred when calls were placed the day after visitors abandoned their shopping carts.

- Call production dropped off rapidly by the second day, with sales reps recording:
o Four times fewer conversions
o Roughly six times fewer completed contacts

As a result, Health and Fitzgerald implemented a new policy with incentives for sales reps that requires them to follow up on all abandoned shopping cart leads within 24 hours. Indeed, following up on abandoned shopping cart leads is the top priority each day. Managers review the reps' performances weekly and award bonuses if they meet the goal of calling all of those contacts within the 24-hour time frame.

-> Strategy #2. Schedule phone calls for 3-6 p.m.

Next, Heath and Fitzgerald wanted to know if certain times of the day yielded better results for follow-up calls. Analysis of the calling records revealed:

- The best conversion rates occurred between 3:30 and 4:25 in the afternoon, with conversions rapidly declining for calls placed after 4:45 p.m. Anecdotal reports from the sales team confirmed that they saw good conversion rates in the late afternoon but that very few contacts were willing to complete a transaction after 5 p.m.

- However, the rate of completed contacts gradually rose in the late afternoon, peaking between 5:15 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. So while calls made after 5 p.m. were not likely to result in a sale, it was still a good time to try to leave a message or set an appointment to follow up about workshop registration.

Based on this data, Heath and Fitzgerald replaced one full-time position on their telesales team with two part-time positions to take advantage of the high contact and conversion rates in the late afternoons. They also had full-time sales reps shift their daily schedules to concentrate the majority of their calls between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

-> Strategy #3. Focus on Friday calls for the best contact rates

A third analysis of the call center data focused on determining whether certain days of the week offered better contact rates. The answer:

- Contacts increased each day of the week, with the highest rates coming on Friday. Friday calls resulted in 241% more contacts than Monday calls.

This data surprised Heath and Fitzgerald who, like many marketers, assumed that Friday was a low-impact day for B-to-B calls with prospects already out of the office or in *weekend mode* and unlikely to speak with a telesales rep. What’s more, many of the full-time call center reps were taking Fridays off because they had already worked their quota of hours for the week.

As a result, they further shuffled the sales teams’ schedules, making sure part-time reps worked Fridays and encouraging full-time workers to take off Mondays instead of Fridays. “We recognized that Friday afternoon was an untapped goldmine, so we changed the way we scheduled our calls,” Fitzgerald says.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from FranklinCovey’s Telemarketing Analysis: - powers FranklinCovey’s call center operation and performed the data analysis:


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