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The Importance of Call Volume for Execs

First, let me say I always appreciate the courtesy of a phone call, even when it's disappointing news. I think people deserve the call back. When I don't want to buy something from someone who calls repeatedly, I call back or email back to let them know they should move on. Courtesy is easy and always good for business. I don't always get that same courtesy, and I notice. Moving along...

At two of my companies we had sales teams in smile and dial mode. Leads were plentiful from word of mouth, buzz, and partners, so the calls were always to largely qualified leads.

This week (already) I was reminded of how important call volume is for anyone in "sales" mode. Whether you're a startup exec, a salesperson, or advocate, your success isn't going to just show up one day--you have to work for it. That means you have to make a certain number of contacts to get results. Same for fundraising for startups--you only need 1 of the 100 VC you'll talk with to fund you. Hopefully it's someone in the first 20, saving you the hassle of presenting over and over, but eat your spinach, it's good for you. (Don't raise money if you can at all avoid it).

Let's say you have 400 leads with phone numbers and you need appointments with each person. That's a lot of phone calls--intimidating. Start calling! Try this for a week: make 10 calls an hour, giving yourself 2 5-minute breaks. After 8 hours, you will have made 80 calls. Only 320 more calls to go--still sounds daunting. But it's really only 4 more days.

Of course you won't connect with all of those the first time, so you'll need to call back, and that takes time. Let's be generous and say you only have to make 3 calls on average to reach the person. So your 5 days of calling has now extended to 15 days or 3 business weeks, and you've made 1500 calls. That's not easy--it's work to make that many calls and have crisp enough conversations to land the meeting.

Last night I drove 1.5 hours to and from Harrisburg for a meetup to show some new software, and didn't take my cell phone. That's another way of saying my time wasn't effectively applied--I could have been making calls (to the chagrin of the legislature, which is considering a ban on calls while driving).

For me, I need to get on the phone for about 6 hours each day, every other day, for the next 8 weeks (to March). It's hard work, but I'm working on building a consulting practice to advice startups, which means I need to get out there. If I had made enough calls prior to today, I would have had several meetings scheduled in Harrisburg instead of just one.

My point is that if you don't make the calls, you don't get the results you need. A scenario for you nonprofit and business folks:

80 calls a day
20 connects
1 sale/donation for every 10 connects
= 10% close rate of connects (maybe higher/lower depending on how good the leads are)
= 2 closes per 20 connects
= 2.5% close rate of all calls
= 42 closes per month, based on 21 business days monthly

Your close rate will vary widely depending on what you're selling. But if you're selling appointments to learn about a new bill, you'll get about 80% of your goal. If it's a $5,000 item for which you get 5% commission, 2.5% of your call volume is about right and you'll end up with 42 * $250, or $10,500. Not bad at all. TIP: Measure everything. Rate each call. Analyze everything. You'll improve dramatically over time.

Now you just have to find a $5,000 something and enough qualified leads ;) Get crackin...


  1. [...] seems to make folks less likely to return your calls). After reading Charlie Chrystle’s post about the importance of cold calling, I did a quick search on Twitter for terms relating to [...]


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