The One Metric That Matters For SaaS Sales

August 26, 2015 Sam Laber

There is one metric so important, that if you only have time to focus on one thing – then this is the metric to focus on.

But before we begin, ask your VP of sales this question: “How long does it take for a rep to respond to a lead?”

If your VP doesn’t answer with: “Let me pull that up in my dashboard right now” or know that number off the top of their head, then you have a serious problem. (Or, a really great opportunity to go after depending on your personality type).

The duration of time between the moment a fresh lead enters your CRM system to the moment a rep engages that lead is super critical to your company’s success.

Consider these two alarming statistics:

  • 30% to 50% of sales are awarded to the first company that responds to an interested prospect.
  • When a lead is contacted within the hour it originated, that lead ends up being 700% more likely to have a meaningful conversation with key decision makers.

Source: The Data Behind What Makes an Effective Sales Process

The unfortunate truth is most SaaS companies don’t track this metric or have any idea on how to get this number. But with such amazing implications, wouldn’t most SaaS sales teams make it a priority to improve this metric?

Get Everyone Focused On This Metric

When we mean everyone, we mean your sales team, your developers, your Salesforce consultants – put this objective on the wall in your office.

Several companies have found that putting up team objectives around the office or on important company-wide dashboards to be very beneficial. SumoMe has their most important metrics projected on the wall (a process that rubbed off on Noah Kagan from his days at Facebook). Results.com has several clients that use a similar employee motivating approach that works quite well.

If this is your company’s first time at digging up a non-default metric from your CRM, then you’re finally engaged in the real work that it takes to become successful. Don’t look at this as arduous work that should be avoided because you expect your CRM to do it out of the box. More importantly, don’t fear the challenge. Congratulate yourself on this new journey and get excited!

Tracking The Metric

Depending on what CRM your company uses, it can take a bit of technical know-how to track this metric. Here are some solutions for various CRMs:

  • Salesforce – This article entitled: Calculating Lead Response Times for Salesforce Professional and Group Edition, cuts right to the chase.
  • Infusionsoft – They can set up a report for you that will track lead response time per the time increment of your choice. This actually isn’t a bad solution if you’re just starting out. You can also hire an Infusionsoft partner to build a custom report if you’re looking for more advanced functionality.
  • SugarCRM – SugarCRM has several automated processed documented in their Workflows documentation. Again, with time-stamping functionality and/or the help of a consultant, you should be able to generate this number at will.

If for whatever reason your CRM doesn’t have an easy plugin, addon or solution to generate lead response time, all the data you need should be available in your CRM. You’ll just need to export your data to Excel or .CSV to get started. With a bit of spreadsheet gusto, someone on your team should be able to come up with this number every month.

What Kills The Ability For Sales Teams To Improve This Metric?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Even if your company is set up to respond to leads as quickly as possible, there is one little issue that usually gets in the way of really moving the needle. And that is:

Leads that come in after hours.

No matter how well you can respond to leads during normal business hours, if you don’t have a system to deal with leads coming in during off hours – you’ll quickly hit a plateau in your lead response performance.

There are a couple of things you can do to solve this problem:

  • Automate personal responses from reps. You can route leads and set up autoresponders to email responses like: “Hi this is Jim with Acme Co. I just saw your inquiry come in. When would be a good time to discuss your needs further?” In this case providing appointment-setting functionality in the response would probably be a wise idea.
  • Consider hiring a few offshore SDRs or support personnel. You might be able to get away with just one person if you can find someone in the perfect time zone. Additionally, someone available to answer phone calls during off hours can do wonders for your business in more areas than just one.

By tackling this issue head on, you’ll solve a bigger problem – the fact that you don’t have an active sales team (or process) from 5 pm to 8 am, not to mention weekends. Think about how much downtime your operation currently has. How much potential can be gained by covering these days and hours?

The Importance of Lead Nurturing

Getting to a lead quickly is important, but nurturing the lead is just as important. We all know a lead isn’t always ready to “buy” the second it comes in. Having a system in place to keep the lead engaged with your brand should be a part of your overall sales and marketing strategy.

Now lead nurturing doesn’t mean just throw their email into your MailChimp list and include them on every blast from the daily blog post to the monthly newsletter. It’s about nurturing. That means:

  • Find out what problems they are currently having and send them helpful content. It doesn’t have to be content from your company either. Sending the lead helpful content from other industry authorities appears more genuine and helpful. This is a great way to build trust with your leads.
  • If you are going to send them regular content, make sure it’s tailored to their currents issues they are trying to solve. Go further and make sure it matches their role or position.
  • Touch up with them regularly, but in a helpful way. Become more of a coach or a consultant, rather than a pressuring sales person. You’ll earn their trust and more opportunities will arise through continued conversations.

Although much of this sounds like the job of marketing, as a sales professional you can keep your conversations fresh with your prospects by helping them solve immediate problems with helpful content and careful listening. The idea is to move the lead from an electronic, faceless CRM entry into a real human relationship.

What If You Know This Isn’t Your Most Important Metric?

Now it’s possible that for a seasoned sales team that has ironed out its sales process over several years – this metric might not be as important as other metrics. In that case, I must applaud you!

That means you’re a metrics driven organization and you’ve done your due diligence to figure out what metrics actually make a difference. A lot of companies have a very difficult time doing this. So, Bravo! And keep up the great work!

However, if you still have unknowns in your sales process (meaning you’re not sure what part of your sales process has the biggest effect on business) – then improving your lead response time is certainly the first part of your sales funnel that you want to optimize.

You may find after a while, that spending a lot of time and energy improving this metric doesn’t yield the same results as it once did. And that’s fine! The important thing is you’re being data driven and you know what moves the needle. So continue to detect what does move the needle and go after the biggest wins sitting in your sales funnel.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves!

About the Author: Alan Reyes is a marketing associate for Judicious, Inc.

About the Author

Sam Laber

Sam is the director of marketing at Datanyze. He's a big John Hughes fan who occasionally fills the DZ office with the sweet sweet sounds of 90s rock giant, Creed.

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