When it comes to sales calls, it's a fine line between being persistent and being a pest. But how much is enough? And how much is too much? If you or your sales reps have reached out to a prospect three times without connecting, should they keep trying?

Those are some of the things salesforce analytics company InsightSquared looked at when they collected the data from over 21,000 sales calls for their new report. 

The Importance of the First Attempt 

According to this latest research, the first attempt is always your best shot to reach a prospect because connect rates drop 33% after that. A big study by Velocify last year also found 48% percent of prospects that eventually convert are reached on the first attempt. 

Since people are making a judgement about whether we are worth their time and attention in a matter of mere seconds, to lay a solid, sales-forward foundation and earn a prospect's time and attention (and eventually their business), we need to quickly make an emotional connection. 

Because we are on the receiving end of so many marketing messages, around 5,000 each and every day, it's a definite challenge to cut through that clutter.  

So lead with your best stuff, put people on notice right away that what you have to say – or sell – is of value to them, solves a particular pain point or problem, and makes their life better, easier, more productive, etc. 

And don't do it by showering them with "features" and "specs." Too many sales people try to reason their way to a sale. It can't be done. You see, people are powered by emotion, not by reason. And every single buying decision we make is driven by emotion.

Here’s the simple action path. People are busy > We must work hard to earn their time and attention > To do that we must quickly create emotional connections, becoming someone they know, like and trust, because that is ultimately who we do business with.

Try, Try Again 

Many reps assume that if they haven’t connected with a prospect by the fourth or fifth attempt, they never will. But the InsightSquared data tells a different story: Even after 10 attempts, reps were able to connect with their prospects almost 5% of the time. Connect rates decline quickly at first, but level off around the sixth dial. This means there are a lot of potential conversations buried in seemingly unreachable prospects. 

There are some fascinating statistics on this:

  • 60% of all leads receive just a single email
  • 44% of sales people give up after one "no" 
  • 22% give up after two "nos" 
  • 14% give up after three "nos" 
  • 12% give up after four "nos"

So only a small percentage of sales reps are still around and engaging the prospect a fifth time - and beyond.

When you consider how many prospects say no before they say yes, it looks like a small percentage of sales people are getting the vast majority of sales.

Developing A Plan

Remember the old sales Rule of Seven, that stated we must touch a prospect seven times in a particular time frame to have sales success? Maybe that was true at some point back in the day, but I doubt there is any formula today for a magic number of touches. 

Today the sales person isn't always in control of the sales and marketing conversations, prospects often have become experts about you and your competition before they ever have an actual conversation with you and they engage with sales people later in the buying process.  

According to Sirius Decisions, 67 percent of the buying cycle is now conducted online, regardless of sales involvement. That means a prospect could be three-fourths of the way through the buying process before anyone in your organization has “touched” the prospect in any meaningful way.

So the first step in the sales and marketing process, before you ever pick up a phone, should be ensuring that what you - and others - are saying about your company online is what you want to say. 


Now, back to that original question of "how many?" The InsightSquared report finds the number of times reps should call each prospect depends on lead flow. If reps are drowning in leads, it makes more sense to focus on first attempts, where there is a significantly higher connect rate. Conversely, when lead flow is dry, you can always dig into some older leads you haven’t connected with yet. 

InsightSquared recommends following up on accounts when you have contact information for the decision-maker, and then to break it off after six touches. The research shows if it takes you seven or more attempts to reach a prospect, that prospect is 45% less likely to convert than those you reach in six calls or fewer.

There are two things I always have to remind myself about this process; one is to stay unemotional about it and not take "rejection" or a lack of urgency personally, and the second is that it really is a numbers game, in every respect. 

So reach out, repeatedly if necessary, make it clear you are here to provide value, and then know when to back off. 

Tags: Sales training, Sales, InsightSquared, Velocify