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Businesses in the UK losing out on vital sources of revenue by taking too long to respond to leads, or not responding to them at all, according to new research.

The study, conducted by InsideSales, found that it takes businesses an average 31 hours and 37 minutes to respond to a lead, up from 24 hours and 13 minutes last year.

But worryingly, an overwhelming majority of 85% of those surveyed said they didn't make contact at all within a four day timeframe. And while businesses are taking longer to respond to leads, they're all making less of an effort, making an average 1.9 attempts to make contact, down from 2.39 in 2015.

Martin Moran, EMEA vice president and general manager of InsideSales, said: “With the current economic uncertainty surrounding Britain’s position in the European Union, and consistent problems with lagging productivity in the UK, it’s certainly worrying that businesses aren’t responding to inbound leads. Online sales leads have a very short shelf life – and businesses are spending more and more money on online marketing, but they don’t have the sales processes or technologies in place to convert those leads. By taking too long to attempt initial contact or by never attempting to contact a new lead, much of this investment is lost."

Separate research shows that companies have very little time before a lead goes cold. In fact, the chances of successfully converting a lead into a customer is 100x greater when contact is made within five minutes of a query, compared with 30 minutes.

Mr Moran added: "Speed is of the essence when it comes to following up leads, in every single industry, and telephone is the most successful form of contact. It’s vital that businesses look to communicate with the right prospects at the right time, in order to maximise sales.”