Generally speaking, the marketing department and the sales team of any business are two distinct entities. Though their duties are inextricably linked, the grey area between a lead being generated and it being converted into a sale has been uncharted territory, with companies relying on their experience and know-how to feel in the dark rather than cold, hard facts.

However, a study undertaken by Professor James Oldroyd and published in the Harvard Business Review has shone some light on this opacity. After accruing mountains of data over three years, 100,000 call attempts and 15,000 unique leads, Professor Oldroyd has been able to provide some answers to the vital questions when it comes to lead response management. Here are the takeaway titbits of information from his travails that you need to know:

1. Contact EVERYONE

This might sound overly obvious, but a staggering 23% of companies contacted never responded to an online enquiry at all. That’s almost a quarter of your competition turning away business! Don’t be like them – make sure you follow up on every single lead you receive.

2. Time is of the essence

One of the most interesting pieces of info unearthed by Professor Oldroyd’s study was that companies had a 400% higher chance of speaking to a lead if they responded to an enquiry within five minutes – as opposed to within ten minutes. As the hours fly by, those odds drop even more dramatically; a company that waits days before getting in touch will have a likelihood of sealing the deal that is thousands of times lower than if they’d acted expeditiously.

3. The mighty midweek

Research shows that Wednesday and Thursday are more conducive towards contacting, qualifying and converting a lead than other days of the week, especially Friday (which was the worst). Of course, it’s more important to respond promptly than on a particular day, but it can’t hurt to know when your leads are ripe for conversion.

4. Afternoon trumps morning

The hour between 4pm and 5pm was the best window for contacting potential customers, with 8am to 9am the second best slot available. As above, a prompt response is paramount, but for second, third or additional follow-ups, these times are ideal.

5. Mix up your methods of contact

Not getting a response by telephone? Try email. Especially when it comes to online enquiries, there are some consumers who simply prefer to communicate indirectly. Mix up your methods of contact to make sure all bases are covered.

6. Personalise to impress

It’s vital that your points of interaction with the lead come across as human rather than automated, or you’ll risk alienating the consumer and losing their business. When leaving phone messages or writing emails, be sure to include information specific to their circumstances to pique their interest and reassure them that their custom is valued.

7. If at first you don’t succeed…

With many of us leading such hectic lives and the widespread availability of screen-shielding technology, it’s unsurprising that less than 40% of initial contact attempts hit their mark. However, don’t let an initial failure to get hold of your lead put you off, since that percentage is guaranteed to rise the more times you try.

8. Persistence pays off in the end

Indeed, Professor Oldroyd’s study shows that sales reps who make six attempts to reach out to a customer have a 90% chance of achieving contact. With most of your competition giving up after three or four tries, you can stand out from the crowd with your persistence and catch the business which falls between the cracks.

9. Know your own abilities

It’s impossible for you to improve your lead response management practices if you don’t know how well you’re currently performing. Consider mystery shopping your own website in order to see how quickly your lead is followed up and how often – this will give you a rough idea on where you can improve.

10. A new online era

Finally, it’s important to remember that the explosion of the internet has led us into a brave new cyberworld. Consumers have more information at their fingertips than ever before, allowing them to conduct hours of online research before ever contacting your sales team. This means that on occasion, up to 57% of the sales process has been done away with – making your job both easier and harder. On the one hand, it’s likely they’ll know what they want; on the other, you’ll have less time to persuade them you’re the company who can provide it. Make sure you use that time well.