How Many Phone Calls Does it Take to Make the Sale?

If you’re like me, you stand 6′ even, are married with two kids, play video games and enjoy wearing irreverent t-shirts. Also, you track all your sales calls and emails in a CRM like Highrise. That gives you a quick overview of how many unanswered emails and voicemails you’ve left.

So here’s my question: when do you give up/move on/let them call you?

When I used to do medical sales years and years ago, I had no limit. I didn’t mind not getting calls back. I would start to leave messages like,

This is the tenacious Rich Brooks calling. If you’re impressed by how often I call now, imagine what life will be like when I’m working for you.

Or:

This is Rich Brooks from Ultra Care Services. Since I haven’t received a cease and desist letter from your lawyers, I’m guessing it’s OK to keep leaving voice mails for you.

It didn’t always work. In fact, I’d say it didn’t work on the majority of people. However, occasionally I’d catch them at their desk and they would finally relent and meet with me. Some of those people turned out to be great customers, since they rarely saw sales people I had little competition as long as my company did a good job.

Yes, occasionally I’d piss someone off. But, if you’re not pissing off someone it means you’re not working/selling/marketing hard enough.

These days I don’t do any cold calling; most of my outgoing calls are to people who have first reached out to us. However, they are often difficult to reach and won’t return phone calls. Generally I’ll make 3 – 7 attempts, depending on how interesting the job seems, then I’ll send an email along the lines of:

Hope everything’s going well. I was hoping on following up on that email/phone call/contact form you sent me, but I’ve had difficulty reaching you. I don’t want to be a noodge [from the Yiddish], so I’ll hold off and let you contact me.

It’s amazing how often this gets someone to respond. I think it’s because often we see those incoming emails, we can’t deal with them, so we just wait until they come back again at us. By stopping that cycle (and letting the person know we are stopping them) we force them into making a decision of whether they want to continue or not. This is no guarantee of work; just that we’ll have to send more emails or leave more voicemails. At some point every sales person may have to decide that the return on investment just isn’t worth it.

Anyone else have any tips for getting email or voicemail responses, or rules on how many unreturned messages they’ll leave before moving on?

Rich Brooks
Tenacious

202 Responses to “How Many Phone Calls Does it Take to Make the Sale?”

  1. Dan

    Obviously, you're talking about two different animals here. If you are calling someone in reply to a form/call/email I think you should try back until you get a reply. I don't think I'd call every hour, but repeated tries should be acceptable. I think I might give up after 2-weeks of no reply. As for cold-calling…well, that's different. Scott Simmonds (who blogs on MaineBusiness) has a rather sour take on it (http://ybmb.blogspot.com/2008/05/cold-calling.html). I don't agree with him (often don't), but I do think cold calling sucks. I think for cold calling, I try reaching the prospect 4 or 5 times before leaving a VM. After that I think I'd leave 2 VMs and move on. BTW, I like your VM and email strategies…I might have to experiment with them 😀

    Dan

  2. Dan

    Obviously, you're talking about two different animals here. If you are calling someone in reply to a form/call/email I think you should try back until you get a reply. I don't think I'd call every hour, but repeated tries should be acceptable. I think I might give up after 2-weeks of no reply. As for cold-calling…well, that's different. Scott Simmonds (who blogs on MaineBusiness) has a rather sour take on it (http://ybmb.blogspot.com/2008/05/cold-calling.html). I don't agree with him (often don't), but I do think cold calling sucks. I think for cold calling, I try reaching the prospect 4 or 5 times before leaving a VM. After that I think I'd leave 2 VMs and move on. BTW, I like your VM and email strategies…I might have to experiment with them 😀

    Dan

  3. Mazda

    i totally understand what you're going through. Just how much is considered over the limit? i think it varies from customers to customers. able to tell by their response towards your call to them will show their interest and whether they are willing to entertain you. if the person sounds interested, i'll prolly call to keep reminding the customer until a deal is sealed! if not, i'll continue for 1 week or 2 then stop.

  4. Mazda

    i totally understand what you're going through. Just how much is considered over the limit? i think it varies from customers to customers. able to tell by their response towards your call to them will show their interest and whether they are willing to entertain you. if the person sounds interested, i'll prolly call to keep reminding the customer until a deal is sealed! if not, i'll continue for 1 week or 2 then stop.

  5. Vin Subrajmanan

    I worked for a few months in a call center for a Credit Repair Organization. The big thing for me was simply making contact. Once I had them on the phone I could talk to them, feel their situation, and then help them decide if the service was right for them or not. To me, the central focus had to be contact, and my personal flair of customer service that I could provide for them. In any service industry, and especially phone sales, your own customer service is key. I read this book by the President of Mindshare that is all about this concept, taking old customer service ideas and bringing them into the 21st century with your own unique addition. deliverandmeasure.com

  6. Vin Subrajmanan

    I worked for a few months in a call center for a Credit Repair Organization. The big thing for me was simply making contact. Once I had them on the phone I could talk to them, feel their situation, and then help them decide if the service was right for them or not. To me, the central focus had to be contact, and my personal flair of customer service that I could provide for them. In any service industry, and especially phone sales, your own customer service is key. I read this book by the President of Mindshare that is all about this concept, taking old customer service ideas and bringing them into the 21st century with your own unique addition. deliverandmeasure.com

  7. Scott

    I think your persistence pays off in the long run. Look at our business relationship – it took 3 years, but I eventually hired Flyte to handle the design and set up of my new blog.

    With my customers, calling is best. Most are drowning in email and the last thing they need is anotheremail one from me.

  8. Scott

    I think your persistence pays off in the long run. Look at our business relationship – it took 3 years, but I eventually hired Flyte to handle the design and set up of my new blog.

    With my customers, calling is best. Most are drowning in email and the last thing they need is anotheremail one from me.

  9. Christien

    Oh, I work in advertising and ad agencies are notorious for having full VM boxes. I'd leave a VM knowing that no one will pick up, then send an email confirming that they received my VM along with my question. I'd put that around a 90% success rate.

  10. Christien

    Oh, I work in advertising and ad agencies are notorious for having full VM boxes. I'd leave a VM knowing that no one will pick up, then send an email confirming that they received my VM along with my question. I'd put that around a 90% success rate.

  11. Luciya Helan

    This is a true art work, which will be a success story.There’s usually a good bunch of talent nominated- they just don’t usually win.Once I had them on the phone I could talk to them, feel their situation, and then help them decide if the service was right for them or not. To me, the central focus had to be contact, and my personal flair of customer service that I could provide for them. In any service industry, and especially phone sales, your own customer service is key.

  12. Luciya Helan

    This is a true art work, which will be a success story.There’s usually a good bunch of talent nominated- they just don’t usually win.Once I had them on the phone I could talk to them, feel their situation, and then help them decide if the service was right for them or not. To me, the central focus had to be contact, and my personal flair of customer service that I could provide for them. In any service industry, and especially phone sales, your own customer service is key.

  13. Dr. Stan Fine

     The above average salesperson makes 20 calls a day.
    o 8 hours of nothing else but calling
     That means 100 calls a week = 16 VOICE MAIL CALLS
    o This means 80 CALLS FROM LAST WEEK + 20 NEW CALLS THIS WEEK
     You will talk with 16 potential prospects a week
    o 3 will become an appointment where you leave your desk and go visit.
    o A single appointment will cut your days calling in half to 10
     1 will become a sale!
    o Usually after 2-4 contacts e.g. Telephone Call, 1st live visit-survey, demo and proposal-close

  14. Dr. Stan Fine

     The above average salesperson makes 20 calls a day.
    o 8 hours of nothing else but calling
     That means 100 calls a week = 16 VOICE MAIL CALLS
    o This means 80 CALLS FROM LAST WEEK + 20 NEW CALLS THIS WEEK
     You will talk with 16 potential prospects a week
    o 3 will become an appointment where you leave your desk and go visit.
    o A single appointment will cut your days calling in half to 10
     1 will become a sale!
    o Usually after 2-4 contacts e.g. Telephone Call, 1st live visit-survey, demo and proposal-close