Recently, I saw a post from the CEO of a company on LinkedIn that got my attention. It contained a picture showing some numbers about cold call performance of his sales reps. Reading the text, he was very proud of those “great” statistics, basically stating how everyone was wrong about saying that cold calls are death and showing those “good numbers” as a proof of it. He couldn’t be more wrong.
These were his numbers:
I did cold calls. Many of them. Too many. I even did cold door sales. Being left on a street at 10 am wearing a suit and holding a suitcase. Ready to knock every door I could find. Trying to get in into people places to sell books to them. Being picked up at 10 pm from the same street and brought to a bar where the team had to meet to say to the manager if we sold something that day or not.
Yes, I did that many years ago. I sold a lot of stuff. I didn’t like it. Nobody does. Nobody keeps doing this for that long. People basically quit and the company is constantly hiring young and inexperienced guys to keep the machine going. Nobody likes to cold call neither.
If you follow sales trends a bit, you probably have seen many articles in the last couple of years about cold calling. Most of them like the great article on LinkedIn from Graham Hawkins, with that clear message saying that cold calls are just a bad idea and proposing a better way to approach prospects based on a combination of industry knowledge, research and consulting skills. Many sales experts believe that how people buy from companies has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. This mostly happened thanks to an increase of the solutions offered in the market, the amount of information and the resources available to everyone today. Nowadays, the best way to differentiate yourself, it is by being perceived as an expert that can solve problems for the customer, rather than a guy who wants to sell something to them.
So, I saw this post, read it carefully, looked at the numbers and I couldn’t contain myself from adding a comment there.
I like numbers. I like data. As a member of a team I managed once said about my own performance as a manager, I am “data driven”. I am still not sure if the person who said that thought this was a positive or a negative thing about my management style. I prefer to believe it was a very positive comment though.
Obviously, you don’t need to be an expert in mathematics just to work on those numbers a bit and get to some conclusions. I had to do it several times though as I wasn’t sure what I was seeing was true. This is what I got to:
- 259 calls per rep per hour.
- 5.8 conversations per rep per hour.
- 10 minutes average per conversation.
- 11,405 calls to get 18 meetings.
Well, is that really something to be proud of? This is my take on it:
- No meaningful conversations: if you are trying to sell something very simple, 10 minutes might be ok, but I bet in 10 minutes you don’t really get to know into much detail what are the challenges your prospect is facing to be able to know if you can help him with your solution.
- Many people annoyed: from all the people that didn’t want to talk to you, some of them will talk (bad) about you and your company to others.
- Killing your sales reps: 259 calls or dials per hour. I remember when I was doing around 50 per day including when I got voicemails and I was quite tired after that. 259! How long are those sales reps going to stay working this way?
- Not sustainable: this model of trying to get the most of both employees and customers as fast a possible doesn’t work anymore in the mid-term. Why? Because there are many other companies that don’t do it and treat people with respect, giving them a better quality of work and an environment where they can learn and develop themselves. Here you don’t have time to learn anything, you need to call people all the time!
Maybe worth to do it differently?
- Qualify, qualify & qualify: marketing could do a much better job by reducing the number of leads while improving their quality, so reps spend time trying to contact only people who is worth to talk to and would be more receptive.
- Prepare, prepare & prepare: having more time to prepare those selective calls will improve the quality of the research you do before calling and the ability to tailor the message to that specific person you are talking to, making the chance to get positive results much bigger.
- Differentiate yourself: be an expert in your field rather than a stalker. Be prepared before every call or meeting, understand the challenges that industry is facing and being perceive as an advisor willing to help rather that someone who only wants to sell. This will translate into significant results for a long term and sustainable type of business.
Maybe you are curious about the comment I left there? Here it is:
“5.8 conversations per rep per hour. That’s with 259 calls/dials per rep per hour. 259! Four good insights here: 1) Those conversations weren’t much meaningful based on the time they spent on each one. 2) Your efficiency basically sucks. 3) I bet you could’ve had 2 too much better conversations per hour doing it differently without annoying the whole world. 4) Would be nice to calculate how long your sales reps will be working for you… Cold calling still works, but there are better ways to sell in 2017”
Cold calls may work still but today you have a bigger change to annoy people rather than to sell to them. It would be great to hear how do you approach prospects and what works best for you. Please leave your comments and let the discussion begin!
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