It’s incredibly rare that a prospect responds to a salesperson’s first outreach attempt. This necessitates following up … and following up on your follow ups.

But how many prospecting touchpoints should salespeople make before they call it quits? When should they send these messages? And should they email, call, or reach out in another way? The “how,” “when,” and “what” of following up is important to get right if a rep hopes to snag the buyer’s attention and make a sale.

Here’s a guide that can help you optimize your prospecting process and significantly improve your response and connect rates, even with no changes to the content of your messaging.

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How Many Touchpoints Are the Right Amount?

First, let’s define “touchpoint.” To me, a touchpoint refers to a voicemail, email, or live conversation. I don’t consider interactions through social media or a call with no voicemail to be touchpoints since there’s little or no proofthat these interactions happened.

There’s plenty of evidence that suggests response rates rise with each subsequent outreach attempt. However, when you surpass five touchpoints, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. In other words, a seventh touchpoint is not much more effective than a sixth. With this in mind, I think five touches is a good benchmark.

There are two important caveats to this number. First, every industry and buyer persona is different. While five touches might be the right number for one type of prospect, seven or three might be right for another. This is why you must test the number and observe your response rates over time.

The second caveat is related to the first. In order to see accurate results from touchpoint testing, you must choose a number and stick to it with each and every single prospect you engage. Most reps vary the number of attempts they make based on the particular buyer, but how will you discover the “magic” number for your territory or situation without consistent data? If you decide to work a lead, you must commit to making a set amount of touchpoints.

Reaching out multiple times won't work unless you vary your messaging. Every time you contact a prospect, provide value in a new way. For instance, you might send a short tip in one email and link to a helpful ebook in the second.

When Should I Make My Attempts?

In my experience, connect rates rise as the day, week, and month advances. According to this maxim, here are the ideal times to reach out:

  • Time: 3 p.m. and later local time (call), five minutes before and after the hour (email)
  • Day of week: Thursday and Friday
  • Date: 28th -- 31st

Most salespeople make their prospecting calls early in the morning and early in the week. However, this is precisely the time when buyers are planning out their workload and prioritizing their tasks -- they don’t have time for a sales call.

You’ll have better success when the day is winding down, and the prospect has more bandwidth for an unexpected request.

In terms of email, you can write messages at any point in the day, but be careful not to send them until five minutes before or five minutes after the hour. Since you want your email to be no lower than 12 messages from the top, you’ll need to send it at the precise moment when the buyer opens their inbox. Five minutes before and after the hour is the span of time when buyers walk to and from meetings, and check their email. Hitting “send” in this 10-minute window dramatically increases your chances of getting a response.

Lastly, how should you distribute your touchpoints? Over the span of a month, most reps skew early. They might reach out two times the first day, once a few days later, once a week later, and then one final time a few weeks after that.

But this pattern communicates to the buyer that your request isn’t urgent. To express urgency, I recommend skewing your touchpoints the opposite way. I wait quite a while after making my first attempt to follow up -- maybe 12 days or two weeks. But then I use a half-life rule with each subsequent attempt.

Here’s what this schedule might look like:

  • First attempt: May 1
  • Second attempt: May 13 (12 days later)
  • Third attempt: May 19 (six days later)
  • Fourth attempt: May 22 (three days later)
  • Fifth attempt: May 24 mid-day (one and a half days later)

Now the buyer senses that my message is growing in urgency instead of decreasing.

What Types of Messages Should I Use?

Your prospecting message mix should be just that -- a mix. The specific divide between calls and emails should by determined by you and your manager based on what works best in your industry.

That said, in my experience, leaning on the phone slightly more than email generates the best results. For that reason, I recommend following a three calls / two emails split, but three emails / two calls is also acceptable.

What I don’t recommend is all emails or no calls, or four calls and one email. Keep it as balanced as possible while playing to the preferences of your buyers.

If you can skew your outreach earlier than later, make at least five attempts with each and every prospect, and mix up your approach, I guarantee your connect rate will climb. Also remember to keep a close eye on how different times of day, types of message, and numbers of touchpoints affects your success, and fine tune your strategy accordingly.

Come see Jeff Hoffman speak at INBOUND 2016.

This post was originally published in May 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Originally published Nov 2, 2016 8:30:00 AM, updated February 11 2019


Sales Prospecting