In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten share some tips on how to optimize the time to respond to inquiries.

In the startup world, it is important to not only respond to customer’s inquiry in a positive way but quickly as this will start the communication that should lead to a successful sale. However, this can be a tricky thing to pull off, especially if you’re very busy.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why it’s important to respond to customer inquiries quickly and they share some tips, tricks, and tools that founders can use to get better at shortening their turnaround time.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:39 Why it’s important to have a quick turnaround time in today’s world.

01:55 How to deal with inquiries on the personal side of things.

02:58 How a quick turnaround time can be a good thing for your brand.

03:45 Factors that can affect your response time.

04:42 Times when responding quickly can be a negative thing.

05:53 Two major factors that affect your response time.

09:08 Why the turnaround time is everything.

11:10 Tips and tools that help improve your turnaround time.

11:20 Why you should and how can monitor your response time.

11:57  How automating some tasks can improve response time.

3 Key Points:

  • The turnaround time is everything.
  • Monitor your response time.
  • Your mindset of what your what your trigger is when you receive an inquiry determines the way you respond.



Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat, what we want to talk about is we want to share some tips on how to optimize the time to respond, right? So first, let’s talk about why it’s really important to have a quick turnaround time, especially in today’s world. This is people email you, people pinging you on social media, but probably even more importantly, people that come to you and are interested in your product or service and want to start up communication or a conversation with you, why it’s important to get back to them really really quickly, and then let’s share some tips and tricks on tools and methodologies that startups can use and founders can use to become better at shortening the turnaround time.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. Man, like I’m probably the worst at this in a weird way where like, I have a need to just respond as fast as I possibly can to everybody.



Steli Efti: You’re crazy.



Hiten Shah: And so, this might be a little bit of therapy for me. So, you tell me how people should be thinking about this. But, for me, if I get a customer support message, or if someone wants to buy something from me, or if I get even an email, my typical response is to try to answer it as soon as I possibly can, within seconds if I can. One of the things that’s worse for me is that the positive feedback I get on my response time, makes me want to keep doing that and it’s horrible, so. This is probably therapy. I’d love to hear what your take is on this.



Steli Efti: Okay. Well, I’m thinking right now. Maybe we should start on the like the personal inbox level and then work our way to the company-wide level. And so, on the personal side, I know intimately about your issues with this because we do have a little bit of a shared inbox for The Startup Chat, right? We love to hear from people. People email us all the time with their questions, with their challenges, sometimes with their praise. You can always get in touch with us steli@ In the early days of this podcast, I was even trying to attempt to compete with you on response rate and losing consistently and then eventually, I just gave up and I was like, all right, you know if somebody emails us, nine out of ten times, I won’t be able to compete with Hiten’s turnaround time. In case that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, I’ll chime in or if I have to add something to, you know, whatever your response is, I’ll do that. I remember talking to you about this and I remember the thing that stuck with me was you saying that a quick turnaround time is kind of, you’re first way or one way of how you create a brand and how you stand out because people are not used to hearing back very quickly in general. But they’re even less to it and less expecting of it when they email people that are in high demand, quote-unquote, or that seem to be getting lots and lots of email. So, when you, as somebody that’s in such high demand, somebody that people admire, and look up to, when you reply or respond within a short period of time and always very thoughtfully and with great advice, or at least a very helpful stance, it blows people’s minds away and creates a very strong and emotional impression on them. I remember hearing you say that and thinking, oh my God, this makes so much sense. I shall also try to get better at this. But, I have to admit that I’m, you know, that I personally, the way that I do it, is because I don’t like doing email on my phone and because I’ve de-installed email on my phone because I do a terrible job at responding on my phone, I try to be really good at responding to people when I’m at my laptop. But, I also kind of made my peace with it that at times where I’m not at work, I’m just going to be with my … I’m not going to be having these like insane turnaround time on at least on personal email or emails that go into my inbox. But, I’ve always been so impressed with you. I’ve been impressed with some other people as well. You know, it’s been a few years, but I remember Seth Godin or Mark Cuban, have been people I’ve emailed with that I was blown away back then. This now, you know, eight years ago, nine years ago, but I remember still almost a decade later how impressed I was that these people are responding to me within like minutes. And so, I admire that, but I can’t compete. I’ve not attempted to do that myself, but I can highly recommend, if you can. But, I don’t know if it’s always advisable, dude, because you said you have an issue with it. Are there times a day where you wish you didn’t have that, like, need to respond really quickly?



Hiten Shah: Yeah, of course. Like, and I’ve gotten better at it, but then I swing the other way and I have emails that I haven’t respond to in too long, right?



Steli Efti: Yeah. Yeah.



Hiten Shah: So, I think it just has a lot to do with time management, to be honest. And so, there’s a few concepts. Time management and context switching. I think those are the two most important things that it has to do with. And most things that people say or believe, I usually don’t believe. So, like people say that it’s bad if you’re context switching, and it takes you time to ramp up to the new things. So, if you’re working, let’s say I’m writing a blog post, for example, and then I for some reason decide to go check my email. It takes me longer to come back to a blog post then if I would have not just checked my email ever and just finished the blog post. I think there’s a lot of science and theories that say that’s how it works, right? That it takes longer for you to come back to something after you get away from it for the use case of it, distraction. So, in that context, I’m like yeah, maybe that’s true, right? Like, I should manage my time better, so I don’t get distracted by these random things coming in. Not random, but you know, email or things that I feel the need to be on top of. Whether it’s, for me right now, it would be email and support, right? Coming in, or a slack message with someone with a massive need, right, or like a need for something from me. So, those are the three places that I get pulled into these days on the whim. I found that for myself, I’m very good at context switching and then switching back. I have a lot of practice with it. What I’ve always learned is that most people are not very good at that. So, and they do lose some amount of energy as they’re switching back and forth for the thing that they were doing that they need to come back too. So, if you are one of those people, which I think is the most common case, where context switching is very damaging to your time management, then don’t do it. I think it’s horrible. I think it’s a bad idea. Check your email every two hours, every three hours. Set a schedule for it. Be more structured, if you can, or just turn it off and check it when you feel like it, not when you’re doing something else. So, I think that’s important. To me though, I’m very much like a people person, for lack of a better way to say it. And also, an introvert, at the same time, or can be, where I want my own time and space. And so, if I’m a people person, I want to please people, make them happy. To me, that’s the mental model that makes me want to respond to them. So, you know, as with many things we would talk about here, in The Startup Chat, one of the biggest things for this is like, just know yourself and make sure you understand the reason why you either are lagging on a response or are like me and wanting to respond really fast. For me, I’m a people person. I want to please them, so I will respond because it makes them happy, right, which has little to do with me and my time management, and it probably is detrimental. While other folks, when they see an email come in, they take it as an emotional drain, or when they see something come in, they take it personally. They take it as emotional drain, they take it in a much different way than I do and I’ve seen that with people I work with where they get a support ticket in and they’re like, “Oh, crap. I have to answer, I have to answer.” And for me, it’s like, oh, I get to make someone happy today, right? And I think that mindset of what your response is, what your trigger is when you receive something, really determines what you’re … How you frame the response to it. And I’m not saying is either good or bad, I’ve just seen reactions to things like this that lead to certain behavior that then affect your time.



Steli Efti: I love that. All right. So, let’s switch from person to business, right?



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: And I mean, the two things for people like us are kind of almost the same.



Hiten Shah: But, not for everyone.



Steli Efti: But, not for everyone.



Hiten Shah: Yeah.



Steli Efti: And still not quite, right, but let’s go from the individual to kind of a team and the perspective of that. I’ll throw out a claim and that is that, you know, what I have learned in my life, as an entrepreneur, and both in any kind of capacity of doing sales, is that the time to respond when there’s incoming interest, a prospect, a lead, a signup, a trial, somebody wanting to get in touch with you because they’re curious, they have questions, or their interested in your services or your product, in any way shape or form possible, the turnaround time from them reaching out to you and you getting back to them, that turnaround time is everything. And it’s everything both from a branding and having an opportunity to wow and create an impression perspective. But, it’s also everything from actually having a chance to convert that interest into business, right? From a real business perspective because what I always teach founders is that there’s no such thing as an old and hot lead, right? There’s such thing does not exist. Somebody that came to your site a year ago and requested a demo, is as cold of a contact as somebody that’s never heard of you and you’re reaching out to present something. Both, you would think, well, that person a year ago came to us, so they’re probably more qualified. They probably remember us. They probably still may be somewhat interested in the conversation, but the results, the numbers, prove that you’re going to get the same response if you email a list of leads that are over a year old, although they were inbound and maybe warm or hot, versus, when you cold email a highly qualified list of people, right? You’re going to get the same open rates, the same response rates, the same kind of results because once intended time really matters. Google has shown that with their business model and the amount of money that they’re worth, made that, you know, I might be a potential customer to you in life, but the timing truly truly matters. So, if you get back to me very quickly, both the chances of you now getting to get another response from me and get the communication conversation started, dramatically increased and the chance that I’m not going to be somebody that’s going to turn into a real prospect, but eventually and hopefully into a customer, dramatically increase. So, from a business perspective, your company should optimize the hell out of turnaround time when it comes to communication, especially with prospects and do anything and everything possible to get in touch with people really quickly once they show interest. It breaks my heart how many startups today, today, not like 20 years ago, today, with all the tools, all the technologies, everything that’s available for them to automate some of this and to make this feasible and possible at scale, how many startups? You could go to their website and fill out a form that you want to demo or some kind of a contact and it takes days, sometimes a week or two until they get back to you. It’s insanity. So, that, throwing that out of the way, maybe we could just for the last few minutes of the podcast, give teams that agree with this and want to improve on it, give them some tools, some hacks, some ways of doing it and really decreasing the time to respond in their company in the next week or two.



Hiten Shah: Yeah. You know, I don’t see enough people monitoring their response time. How about that?



Steli Efti: Yeah. Yeah.



Hiten Shah: I’m just going to start with that one. Monitor your response time. Know how fast you are or slow you are.



Steli Efti: Beautiful. Yeah. I would agree with that 1,000%. Most people don’t know. Time to find out. Maybe find out right now. If you have a team, sign up with an alias email account and see what happens and a phone number and see what happens, right?



Hiten Shah: Oh, yeah. Test your team. That’s great.



Steli Efti: Test your team. Secret shopper your team, right? Even if you think you know the process, even if you put the process in place yesterday, do it anyways and see what happens and time it, right? Time it. All right. That’s beautiful. Okay. So, my advice is look for ways to automate this. So, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a habit or a, you know, almost nobody’s going to be as good as you as terms of their personal time management, so try to create automation, right? So, what does that mean? That means use email tools, drip email tools, email automation tools, and set things in process so when somebody signs up with an email or downloads a white paper, or piece of contact, or requests a demo, anything. The first response is both individual, in terms of from what email it comes and what the email looks like, but it’s automated, so people get a response that starts immediately. Saying, let’s say somebody signs up for a demo, a response happens, and says, “Hey, you know, I saw your demo request come through. That’s exciting. Here’s a link to schedule a time to get the demo going.” Or, “Here’s the number one question most people have.” And answer and, “Please hit reply and let me know .” Whatever the next step is. But, write up the first email in a way that’s automated when you can or if you can. Or, when you do phone calls, like we do. We call our incoming trial sign-ups and what we’ll do is, we’ll actually use a little bit of automation to make sure that when somebody fills out their form and puts in their phone number that our sales reps get that phone number into their system and call that lead within … When possible, within the first five minutes during their working hours. When it’s outside the normal working hours, we make sure that it’s kind of the first person they contact the next day when they start their day and start calling. But, use a bit of automation. The software is out there. You know, it’s widely available. Is a tool that I’ll selfishly, but there’s so many tools out there that can help you automate that first response, so the conversation can start and you can get in touch with people much faster.



Hiten Shah: That’s awesome. Yeah. That’s great. Automate it. You know, make it easier. Make it easier to respond. One more.



Steli Efti: One more.



Hiten Shah: Cool. See the impact of the response time. So, once you know your response time, the next step is to figure out is there any impact on speed or slowness or whatever? Is there a certain amount of feedback you get when you’re faster or slower? Are people responded back because if your speed? A lot of times in sales, speed dictates the response, whether you get a response or not.



Steli Efti: I love that. That’s a perfect way to conclude this episode. Start measuring, put some tools in place to improve it, and then measure the impact once you’ve made headway’s on decreasing the time to respond. Beautiful. We want to hear from you. If you’d go through these three steps, good, bad, ugly, you know, exciting, or depressing, get in touch with us. Steli@ Let us know what the results are, your lessons learned, and we’ll share it with the community. Until next time, that’s it from us.



Hiten Shah: See ya.