How Many Contact Attempts are Too Many?

Michele Warg
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There is no concrete rule governing the appropriate number of contact attempts for a salesperson to make to a potential client. You need to find the balance between driving a potential customer crazy with too much attention and letting him forget about you altogether due to inattention. An effective salesperson needs to learn to negotiate that middle terrain and effectively gauge the value of repeat contact attempts.

The appropriate number of contact attempts to a potential client depends on a variety of factors: the type of lead, the decision-making authority of the contact and the size of the potential sale. One important factor is whether the potential relationship began with a cold call or as a response to someone who expressed interest in your products or services. If the former, you first need to make sure you are targeting the right person. Your time is best spent on someone authorized to make deals. Ideally, you want to expend the minimum effort necessary to make a sale, so maximize your time by talking to decision-makers.

If the first contact attempt is not cold call, however, but a response to an inquiry, the person you start with is likely to be a lower-level employee. Regardless, a proactive information-seeker is probably worth your time, because even if he himself does not make the purchasing decision, you know that there is interest in your products or services. Try to leverage that contact into a meeting with a superior.

When calculating the effort-to-benefit ratio, make sure that you understand the company. If it’s a very small company and the resulting sale would therefore be proportionally small, it may not be worth your time. Also, make sure that the company has the money to spend. If the company lacks the resources to purchase what you’re selling, the courting process is not worth your time. Verify the company’s needs to ensure that your products or services would indeed be a good fit.

As with all business arrangements, there is a personal side to the relationship. A good salesperson intuitively knows when they are connecting with a potential customer. You have to be able to sense whether you’re being helpful or annoying and moderate your contact attempts accordingly.

Your first few contacts may not lead to a sale, but you’re investing time into a relationship. Use this time to gain trust and position yourself as an industry expert. If your contact is not currently in the market for what you have to offer, recognize that but don’t give up. That person may be ready to make a purchase next month or next year, and you want to be the first person they think of when that time comes.

Calculate the appropriate number of contact attempts based on the type of lead (cold versus proactive reach-out), the decision-making authority of your contact and the size of the potential sale. With that in mind, trust your instinct. An effective salesperson knows when to press for a sale and when to redirect his efforts. Understand that not all sales deserve equal attention and distribute your efforts accordingly.


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