Buyer beware!  Do a Google search to look for evidence on this sales force effectiveness myth, and you will find a good number of articles that skirt around the issue, and then a few more that border on down right apocryphal.  A set of stats that seems to keep bobbing up, but has no substantial reference and research backing suggests …

  • 1% of sales are made on the first contact.
  • 2% of sales are made on the second contact.
  • 5% of sales are made on the third contact.
  • 12% of sales are made on the fourth contact.
  • 80% of sales are made on the fifth contact (or above).

A source we found , that I believe all of us would think worthy and credible – Neil Rackham and Huthwaite Group <google “Myth busters – how major sales are really made”>, tells  us “in a low cost sales environment, there was a positive  correlation between more sales visit activity and more sales.  In the higher end cost environment, however there was a negative correlation between more visits and more sales.  The sales reps who were making an average number of visits were making more sales than those making a high number of calls.”  Rackham goes on to tell us that the key to sales success is getting the balance right between the preparation and follow up to each call and the number of calls.

A McKinsey sponsored meta – analysis from 2009 – indicated that too much contact from the sales rep is the biggest destroyer of customer – sales rep value.  Critically, in our opinion, the authors summarised striking the right balance between contacting customers too much and too little requires understanding their stated and actual needs. There should be a clear strategy for reaching out to customers based on needs and profit potential, with schedules dictating frequency.

As with all these sales force effectiveness conundrums, the “what” is generally the easy bit.  The devil is in the implementation.  Come back next week, and we will explore some keys to the “how”.

Next week: Part 2 – The great myth about the number of visits required to influence buyer behaviour – imperative for your sales force effectiveness


Want to learn more? Check out ‘How to undertake potent role play practice to increase sales force effectiveness’