Quite often, I hear: “Cold calling is a numbers game. When I was a salesperson, it took me X number of calls to get an appointment.” I suppose that’s possible, but I suspect that, most times, these anecdotes are not quite accurate. For the most part, salespeople don’t keep accurate records and tend to forget quickly what actually happened. They tend to remember the happy accidents in which they called and uncovered what is typically known as “low-hanging fruit.” It’s also rare (in my experience) to find salespeople who have actually made prospecting calls consistently, day in and day out. And even if they did, they cherry picked the prospects.
Yes, many choose to think that tele-prospecting/cold calling/telemarketing is a numbers game. The theory is if you make X number of calls, and speak to Y number of decision makers, you will get Z number of leads/appointments.
Nothing in life is quite that simple. Certainly not in the realm of complex B2B Sales Lead Generation. If a “numbers game” exists at all in sales, it’s most often when there’s a commodity involved.
Consider some of the following variables:
- Who are you calling? (Who’s on your targeted prospect list?)
- What’s the message?
- Is there a compelling story?
- Are you selling a commodity?
- Are you just dialing for dollars?
- How is your company/solution positioned in the marketplace?
- If you’re selling a search solution, for instance, then it’s a lot easier to get someone’s attention if you’re calling from a brand leader (like Google) versus a company no one has ever heard of.
- Who’s making the calls?
- Good salespeople, for the most part, make poor telephone salespeople.
- Are you employing a call center in the Philippines that has no comprehension of American Corporate culture and how to navigate its enterprises…or deploying inexperienced youngsters new to the workforce?
- Do you know the name of the key contacts/decision makers? And do you have good contact information – their personal telephone numbers (direct dials), email addresses, etc.?
- Do you have a prior or existing business relationship (or not)?
- Is your target list well defined? If you’re selling ice from Florida to Eskimos in Alaska it doesn’t matter how many calls you make. Maybe you’re selling a multimillion dollar solution to a smaller organization that may need your solution but definitely cannot afford it.
- Is this a blitz or part of a concerted, ongoing relationship and sales lead pipeline development effort?
Some factors that can impact conversion ratios:
- Prospect lists – by as much as a 400% increase
- Messaging – by about 100%
- The quality of the Business Developer can have a marked impact. I’ve seen results improved by several hundred percent.
- Branding – not so easily quantified, but it can have a significant impact.
Consider the following scenarios:
- One lead in 20 meaningful contacts (5% conversion), and each prospect is worth $10k;
- One lead in 100 meaningful contacts (1% conversion) – but this prospect is worth $10 million.
Which is potentially more lucrative? You bet – scenario no. 2. But that one also takes a lot more effort, time and investment.
So just looking at the number of calls, in and of itself, is not that useful a metric. Ultimately the only key element that matters is $'s in the Pipeline, $'s generated – and at what cost.