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March 14, 2016
Sales  |  4 min read

Are You Looking at the Right Numbers when Cold Calling?

y Skip Miller

We are in a fortunate position as entrepreneurs and sales people. We get to control our income level to a greater degree than in most professions. The success in driving that income up, however, often hinges on a lot of cold calling. Cold calling is actually a numbers game. You may assume that the more prospects you call on, the greater your chances at success. But some numbers are more important than others and require special attention. Below, I have some great cold calling tips.

Are you looking, or are you looking?

Jon, a savvy real estate friend of mine, asks me this all the time. “It’s never the looks of the house that I look at,” Jon states, “Curb appeal, square footage, age of the house. There are so many things to look at when buying a home that it can get confusing. It stayed that way for me until I realized that some numbers are far more important than others.” Instead of examining esthetics, as many buyers tend to do, Jon looks at the size of the lot, comps in the area, and size of the kitchen. If those numbers are working for him, he’ll invest—and usually come out ahead. When those numbers aren’t as good as what he was hoping for, he may still invest, but usually does worse than he thought.

Tip: Some numbers are always worth the extra attention over others.

Examining the numbers

Whether you are an entrepreneur or a sales person for an organization, here are the numbers that successful prospectors look at the most.

Total calls or emails connected

This is the ratio of your number of attempts to connect with a prospect to the number of actual contacts made. For example, if you cold-called or emailed 100 prospects in a day and 10 people emailed or called you back, you would have a 10 percent ratio. A typical ratio in this area is around 2–3 percent.

Tip: Timing is important. Valid responses will come in at 48–72 hours. You’ll know in your line of work what makes the most sense, but do remember that the shorter the time frame, the quicker you can take additional action. If you have not heard a response from your prospect within this time frame, they should be tallied as a non-connect.

Talk time

This is an effective way to measure if you will be doing a lot of phone calls. How long are you on the phone with your prospects? A typical cold call will have a talk time between one and three minutes. A better cold call will be around three to seven minutes. And a great call for a higher end sale can last from 20–30 minutes.

Tip: If you are doing a lot of phone calls, there are computer programs available that can track talk time if you use them to dial out for you.

Next-step calls

Remember the contacts from our No. 1 step? Of those connections, how many of them agreed to take a next step within a timeframe? For example, how many of them agreed to meet with you on a certain day or time in the future. It’s important to get specific with dates and time. “Sometimes”, “Maybes”, and “Down the lines” do not count.

Tip: The connections that agreed to take the next step with you are no longer considered cold calls. They are in the sales process with you. For cold calling, you want to track:

  • If you had a conversation with them
  • If you got them to agree to a next step (with time specifics)
  • If they actually met the commitment

Aim for a success rate of 60–70 percent for people who agree to go to the next step. Remember to not just look, but really LOOK at your prospecting with an eye out for success. Investing in sales training books and courses will not only help you increase connection percentage but increase the likelihood of creating a long-standing relationship with your customers. 

Skip Miller is Founder and President of M3 Learning, a ProActive Sales and Sales Management Training Company based in the heart of Silicon Valley.


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