‘When can I stop calling this lead that never picks up?’
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‘When can I stop calling this lead that never picks up?’

Here’s a question nearly every salespeople has asked themselves or their manager: How many times should I try to reach a lead before giving up and moving on?

Well, in some cases — in sectors where prospects are few and deal sizes are large — you might have to keep it up until you connect or get a definite no. In most sales organizations, though, there comes a point of diminishing returns: At some point, the odds of reaching leads, much less selling them something, become so low that it’s not worth your time to keep chasing them.

But what is that point?

A large research study conducted a few years ago that speaks to just this question. The Sales Optimization Study, based on an analysis of 3.5 million leads across more than 400 sales organizations and many industries, looked at how many calls it took to reach people who ended up buying.

The first attempt reached 48% of buyers. By the second call, that number went up 70%. By the sixth call, it was 93%. Now, that didn’t mean that salespeople had reached 93% of ALL leads by the sixth call. They’d reached 93% of leads who ended up buying. Three more attempts turned up only another 4% of buyers. Which is why, the researchers concluded, the sweet spot that maximized time and effort was about six calls.

Those are average figures, based on millions of leads. The number may be different for your business.

Finding the number

But the deeper insight from the study is that there IS a number. And it’s important to figure out what that number is for your business, because it will help you make the most of your time by knowing when your  follow-up efforts stop being cost-effective. To do that, you’ll want to start systematically tracking your follow-up attempts.

Bonus: When you track your follow-up calls, it’s likely you’ll start making more of them. In another study, researchers found that most salespeople stop following up after only one or two attempts – yet believe that they follow up much more aggressively than they actually do. Set yourself a target — either the number of attempts found in the study, which was six, or a higher or lower number derived from your tracking — and give yourself permission to give up only when you’ve reached that target.

Follow-up insights

The optimization study yields three more important insights about follow-up:

1. The sooner it happens, the better.

For inbound inquiries, an immediate response – within the first minute  – boosted the conversion rate by an astounding 156%.  If that call wasn’t successful, a second call between 30 and 60 minutes later boosted conversion rates by 58%. The best time for a third attempt was another hour or two after that. To be sure, your organization may or may not be set up to respond to inquiries that quickly. But the general lesson is clear: Early follow-up greatly increases the chances that you’ll connect.

2. If the initial attempts are unsuccessful, don’t give up.

You’ll still find interested prospects days or even weeks after the initial attempt. But you might want to space out the attempts. In fact, after day one, the best days for additional follow-up calls were Days 5, 14 and 15, the study found. Some buyers need time to evaluate their options before they’re ready to talk to a salesperson.

3. E-mail helps, to a point.

The study found that e-mails sent on the first day, followed up on days 4 and 8, 15 and 22, boosted conversion rates. That’s a total of five e-mail attempts. Beyond that, additional e-mails actually made prospects 36% less likely to convert.

This blog entry is adapted from the Rapid Learning module “Lead follow-up: How much is enough?” If you’re a Rapid Learning customer, you can watch the video here. If you’re not, but would like to see this video (or any of our other programs), request a demo and we’ll get you access.

The blog post and Rapid Learning video module are based on the Sales Optimization Study from CSO Insights.


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