It’s Not the Calls You Take, But the Calls You Make

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 4.11.38 PMWe recently worked with a client’s sales development team to increase the number of new opportunities they cultivated. During the week of our rollout, we noticed that one of their reps set 10 appointments in one day. That was incredible, considering the team was averaging fewer than two appointments per rep.

Amazed by her productivity, I wanted to know her secret to getting clients on the phone and moving deals along. Surprisingly, she didn’t think she had a secret. In fact, she thought she followed the exact same process as all her peers. However, when we dug deeper, we found a critical difference in her approach.

“This lead, I called him so many times this past week that the secretary knows me,” she said. “I knew the lead would convert, and once I got ahold of him, it did.”

This was in stark contrast to some of her peers, who felt apprehensive about calling a lead more than once a day, and who would hang up on gatekeepers to avoid angering them.

An aggressive call cadence

Many sales development reps are understandably skeptical about implementing a more aggressive call cadence. Although they may fear angry rejections from gatekeepers — or worse, busy executives — they are primarily worried about coming off as pushy, losing trust and losing the deal.

These fears, however, need to be resolved with reason and data.

First, depending on who your buyer is, it may actually make more sense, both for the rep and the customer’s sake, to call more. If you’re trying to get ahold of an employee at the bottom of the org chart, they’ll probably answer on the first call. But if you try to contact a vice president, you have to call multiple times for her to know you’ve reached out.

Second, the data has proven that, on average, reps are not nearly as persistent as they need to be. In a study published by the Harvard Business Review, it was found that less than 20% of sales reps call a lead more than twice. That same study found that the optimal number of calls in order to achieve the highest contact rate was six.


Be assertive and persistent

The answer is not to be overbearing, but it may be to have a more assertive and persistent approach, combined with more creative workarounds when running into obstacles.

In speaking with clients, I’ve noticed that many sales development reps are uncomfortable speaking with gatekeepers.

They’ll often quickly end a phone call by asking to leave a message or saying they’ll call back.

A better approach would be to ask if the gatekeeper keeps the executive’s schedule and set up a specific appointment for a later conversation.

The consequences of inadequate follow-up

Consider the consequences of inadequate follow-up. Marketing Insider Group estimates that sales leads in the tech space can cost up to $43 per lead. There’s also the obvious opportunity cost for hand-raising leads who were never called but would convert if contacted. In a ResponseAudit study conducted by XANT, it was found that 36% of leads never received a single response in a two-week period.

You might not be getting the most out of your leads and you might not be aware of the costs associated with the failure to follow up.

At a seminar I attended while I was a student at Stanford, prominent Silicon Valley VC Kathryn Gould shared one of her mottos when it comes to sales. Speaking about overcoming the fear and challenge of cold calling, she said, “It’s not the calls you take. It’s the calls you make.”

I’ve seen this to be true in life as well as business. Working with people who make hundreds of calls every month, and after speaking with the SDR who set 10 appointments in a day, I’ve seen firsthand that it’s all about “the calls you make.”

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