Studies conducted between 2008 and 2010 by lead-management firm Insidesales.com discovered that the average response time to an inbound inquiry ranged from 40 to 54 minutes. The average time was 44 minutes. Unbelievably, 43 percent of all web inquiries received no response at all.

Your ability to reach the person making the inquiry drops significantly beginning five minutes after the inquiry is made. At the 30-minute mark, the rate of successful contact drops by a factor of 21, making it almost worthless to expend the effort at that point.

Persistence is another variable that pays off handsomely. The research showed that the number of attempts to contact a prospect after an inquiry ranged from 1.07 to 2.6 attempts, with an average of 1.29 attempts. And the number of contact attempts correlated closely with sales closed. At one attempt, the close rate was 37 percent, while at two attempts, the rate jumped to 61 percent. At six attempts, the rate was 90 percent. For inquiries made on the web, 78 percent of sales go to the first company to respond.

Being first to call and the last to quit is a winning combination.

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Dan Hudson is the co-founder and president of 3forward and has a B2B sales and sales leadership background of more than 30 years. He can be reached at dan.hudson@3forward.com.