equal_scaleI just left a voice mail for a prospect. When should I try them again?

How many times should I call a prospect before I give up?

How many prospects should be in my call list at any given time?

As we grew the HubSpot sales team, I thought a lot about these questions. With 100+ sales people and thousands of calls happening a day, the stakes were high. As a result, we spent quite a few cycles in the HubSpot Sales Lab studying these questions and optimizing our prospecting process accordingly.

Today, I will share some if the analysis, specifically around the second question: “How many times should I call a prospect before I give up?” Here are the three tactics we took:

Use science to guide your prospecting cadence.

The data never lies. We started by analyzing the prospecting patterns and corresponding outcomes on 30,000 leads. The first time we did this analysis was in 2008, when we only had about a dozen sales people. The results are shown below.


The X-axis on the chart shows the number of calls the sales person made against the lead. Some of the leads, for whatever reason, were only called once. Others were called 12 times. Obviously, the more you call a lead, the higher the likelihood of connecting with them. However, the cost in doing so goes up.

The Y-axis illustrates the Lifetime-Value-to- Customer-Acquisition-Cost ratio, a profitability metric often utilized in SaaS businesses like HubSpot. The higher the score, the more profitable it is to follow that prospecting cadence. The Yellow line shows the results for all leads analyzed. This line reaches its maximum profitability at 10 call attempts. Therefore, sales reps should try the leads 10 times before giving up.

We also studied whether the right answer varied by the type of lead we were calling. This particular analysis studied how the answer changed according to the size of the company we were prospecting to. For example, the blue line analyzes prospecting calls made to small businesses. This line reaches its maximum profitability at 6 call attempts. Therefore, the ideal number of times to call a small business in our funnel was 6. The result makes sense. Small businesses owners tend to pick up the phone sooner, make decisions faster, and spend less on software than larger companies. All of these factors result in a lower ideal call cadence.

Am I suggesting this is the ideal call cadence for you? No. It’s not even the right answer for us today. This was the ideal prospecting cadence for HubSpot given the market conditions and our product offering in 2008. We re-evaluate the analysis at least annually and adjust our call cadence accordingly.

Automate the call sequence into the CRM.

Once we had these insights, we made it really easy for sales people to follow the ideal cadence by automating prospecting into our CRM. I recall that the out-of-the-box process for prospecting in our CRM was not very user friendly. It took something like 15 clicks just to note that you left a voice mail, sent an email, and to schedule a time to follow up. Imagine doing that 100 times a day!

We adopted the principles of sales automation -- making it easier for salespeople to do more in less time -- and customized our CRM so that process only took 3 clicks. It also allowed us to program in the ideal prospecting cadence for the sales person. The lead disappears from the sales person’s prospecting queue and re-appears at the ideal time it should be called again.

Salespeople love this process. They do not want to think about when they should call their lead again. They want to think about how they will break the ice if the person picks up the phone, how they can help the company with their problems, etc. The process maximizes prospecting efficiency. The process also maximizes CRM adoption because the streamlined process helps the sales person do their job faster and more effectively.

Automate monitoring of the prospecting cadence.

Finally, we created an “Overdue Dashboard” that was sent out every night to the entire team. The dashboard was simple. If your name appeared on the dashboard, you have a lead that was not prospected to according to the ideal cadence. Believe it or not, a lot of sales eople valued the dashboard. They feared that some of their leads were slipping through the cracks. The dashboard alerted them if this was in fact happening.

Hopefully our process inspires ideas on how to increase prospecting efficiency. I would love to hear how other people are thinking about enhancing prospecting efficiency. Here are a few people that have done great work in the area:

Ken Krogue @ InsideSales.com

Aaron Ross @ Predictable Revenue

Jeff Hoffman @ MJ Hoffman and Associates

Bill Johnson @ Salesvue

Originally published Jan 20, 2014 11:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Sales Automation