The phone is, and always will be, an extremely important weapon in any sales person’s arsenal. There is no faster way to identify, qualify and secure opportunity than a personal connection with a prospect. However, since the economic downturn, using the phone has become even more difficult to drum up business.
Every sales person knows the challenges inherent in cold calling: dialing and not connecting with anyone, executives hiding behind their voicemail, administrative assistants who will not help you for anything in the world, and of course getting connected only to find you have been pursuing the wrong person. Sales people continually remind their management that getting connected with the right people is time consuming and a ton of work. Of course, this work also goes by the wayside when deals are in process. What sales people feel every day, but cannot express empirically is the level of effort it truly takes to connect with executives and identify qualified sales opportunity.
At OppSource.com I have been tracking how many calls and conversations are needed to move a prospect to the ‘next step’ of engaging more deeply with our outside sales partners. During good economic times of a couple of years ago it took an average of 120 raw calls – that is to say dialing the phone to your prospect lists and follow-ups – and securing a qualified sales opportunity. Since September of 2008, we have seen these numbers change radically. The average is now 160 calls per qualified sales opportunity with some creeping as high as 200.
So management asks you (the sales person) to spend 15% of your time prospecting. OK. Deal size is shrinking. Uh-oh. Quota is increasing. Double uh-oh. Here’s the bad news for sales: it is now 33% more difficult to prospect over the phone to find a ‘real’ sales opportunity. Alright, let’s bump prospecting time to 20% of your average day. Now, since deal sizes are shrinking (again, by perhaps as much as 33%), we need that many MORE sales cycles to make our goal. Add another 33% to prospecting.
The bottom line is if a sales person is to support themselves and use the phone to help drive sales cycles, they now need to spend 27% – nearly one third – of their sales time prospecting. Sales leaders in organizations are faced with tough choices – try to make your sales reps work that much harder, hire additional help, or turn to an outside partner and tactics that can help drive demand.
13% more prospecting may not seem like a lot, but when you look at the process, dedication, consistency and focus needed it can be a daunting task. That assumes 15% of sales time is spent prospecting in the first place.
A big assumption.