One of sales reps’ most common questions is, “How many dials does it really take to make contact with a decision-maker, and how do I know when I’ve reached my limit of “pleasant persistence” and am now merely angering the prospect?”
By the numbers, every piece of sales research we’ve ever done indicates that it takes between 6 and 8 call attempts to reach a decision-maker (though this number generally goes down if you’re mixing in other media like email and voice messaging at the same time).
However, our research also shows that most sales reps only make 1.7 call attempts to reach a new prospect (far below the statistical mean to actually make contact), that they overestimate the total number of calls they’ve made (most reps think they’ve made far more call attempts than they really have), and that they rarely combine all three of the major “contactable” media—phone, voice message, and email—to produce the best results.
This last point is crucial, because it’s been proven that combining all three elements is three to five times more effective than doing one alone, and twice as effective as only doing two of the three.
(As a side note, using a dialer is a huge advantage in this regard, because they can help reps double or triple the number of calls in the same amount of time, have precise data on how many call attempts they’ve made, and can mix in voice message and email content at the click of a button for higher response rates.
On a personal process level, however, there are some changes that can be made to how a rep handles their outbound sales follow-ups. The Inside sales expert’s group on LinkedIn discussed this recently, and the advice was solid:
- Set clear expectations about when and through what channel you’re going to make contact. Preparing prospects ahead of time improves the quantity and quality of contacts.
- Set a very clear context about the nature of the conversation. Being vague about “Wishing to speak to you,” or “hoping to have a conversation next week” doesn’t impress, and makes people think “boring, useless sales call.” Have a specific agenda ready when you attempt to contact them, and for when you’re going to contact them again.
- Pay attention to previous signals. If a prospect has appeared interested but isn’t responding to contact attempts, mention this to them. “Based on what I’ve seen, it seems like we should have a conversation. Am I misreading this here?”
- If six or seven call attempts have come and gone without response, acknowledge that you don’t want to waste their time, and let them know you’re going to respectfully move on. “I’m sorry we haven’t talked yet, but it seems like you’re busy and have other things going on right now. I’m going to make one more call attempt, and if I don’t reach you, I wish you the best of luck.”