Put ’em Back in the Greenhouse

Sales people should minimize the number of people they call. Yes, I said minimize. One of the biggest challenges for sales people is time management. As a sales person you should be calling people who you can convert into customers. You need to focus your efforts on a well-qualified list of people.

In our “real world lab”, which is our own telesales team, we constantly track data to try to answer questions like “how many times should I call a prospect?” (questions with answers I always think should be common knowledge but just don’t seem to be). Here’s some of our latest observations from this “lab”:

Six Calls
I’ve recently written about how sales people need to find a balance in their prospecting between calling too little and calling too much.

Research has shown that many sales people call once or twice but that contacts need to see your name at least 7-8 times before they start to “warm up” to your brand. On the other hand, we have noticed from our own prospecting data that calling over 10 times tends to leave sales people with a list of contacts who have been filtered out to be the ones who are hard to reach (the kind who put their phone constantly on “do not disturb”).

So we’ve come up with our latest “rule of thumb” that six (6) calls is about the right number to make to a cold prospect (someone you have never spoken to). Once we’ve tried six phone calls we will put them back into the “nurturing process”.

Ninety Days
What about people who have shown some interest?

I have also noted in the past that sales people tend to cling onto opportunities/people way too long. They also tend to assign way too high a probability to deals coming out of these prospects in their sales reports.

In our team our latest observation is that a lot of the higher-end products and services we sell have a 90-day sales cycle. What we mean by this is that by going through historical data we noticed that prospects that did turn into clients almost always did so within 90-days of our first conversation with them. Only prospects who never closed kept us coming back for longer than 90-days. So we learned from this that we could pretty much kill off anyone that had been lingering in our pipeline for much more than 90 days.

Put ’em Back in the Greenhouse
So what happens to all these prospects we give up on? We put them back into the “nurturing process”.

And yes, there are a ton of people in the “nurturing process”…and not that many in our true sales process. But that allows our sales people to focus. That means we have a decent chance of calling people when we are supposed to and spending time handling issues that come up.

Meanwhile we use cheaper means like email and mail to stay-in-touch with everyone in the “nurturing process” (sales people are expensive!) We don’t discard people who fit our prospect profile. But we don’t burn sales people’s time on them either. If you have a marketing department, these people become the responsibility of the marketing department. Research shows there’s plenty of future business in this list of people so don’t lose them. These people are your future hot prospects they are just not-ready-to-buy-yet.

Six calls. Ninety days. Or put ’em back in the greenhouse to grow into prospects who are ready-to-buy. What do you think?

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