In the Tootsie Roll television commercial from the 1970s, the little boy wanted to know how many licks it took to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop.  For those of us old enough to remember this, the question was unanswerable as no one, including the wise owl, had the stamina or willpower to find out empirically.

It occurs to me that trying to connect with a promising prospect is sometimes analogous to that chewy chocolaty goodness at the center of a Tootsie Pop.  It takes a lot of touches before a sales rep can unlock the opportunity hidden inside the lead. Yet too often, the effort is abandoned prematurely.

The topic of persistent outbound attempts is one that has been studied and quantified. For example, Laurie Beasley and Tom Judge point out that it takes anywhere from 7 to 13+ touches to deliver a sales qualified lead.

Beyond just the numbers, Dan McDade argues that there is no one single way of reaching potential buyers. Instead, a multi-touch campaign that includes email, voicemail, and relevant collateral, is the most effective.

Finally, Craig Rosenberg, over at the Funnelholic, has an exhaustive list of best practices when trying to reach a prospect: “This is a campaign – make 6-8 multi-channel touches over the course of 2 weeks – Phone + email + social (Linkedin Inmail, retweet them, like them, etc).”

The bottom line is that it takes many attempts to connect and convert a good B2B sales lead. 

But the question remains: Why are prospects so elusive? The reasons can vary.

  • The prospect is busy.  I’m sure we can all relate to this. Think how many back and forth volleys it sometimes takes to set up lunch with a good friend even though both parties are very interested in making it happen. 

  • People screen their phone calls and let many calls (identified and unidentified alike) pass to voicemail as a first resort.

  • Prospects expect relevant and personalized information from vendors before they decide to communicate on a real-time basis.

  • People have many modes of communication: phone, email, text, social networks, and more.

  • They have competing priorities. Often, the prospect may be interested and it still takes 10+ coordinated and well- constructed attempts before they can connect. For instance, here is an excerpt from an email response to one of Compile’s reps who had been chasing a lead for months. The prospective buyer had expressed a strong interest in Compile’s offering but then – not a single peep! – even after 17 attempts (through emails, phone, LinkedIn, and texts).

The 18th and final reach out was a “this will be our last outreach” note and in response we received the following:

“My apologies for the quiet as you’ve been diligently trying to connect with me. I’ve been traveling ever since we met each other and doing what amounts to two full jobs within XYZ and have just been totally underwater …  set up a time that first week in December?  Thank you for your patience.”

That company is now our customer. But what if our reps didn’t have conviction and gave up after the 17th attempt? Admittedly, this example is an outlier, but it underscores the point about persistence. 

Even with highest quality leads, expect and plan for repeated attempts before you reach your customer. If your first, second or even tenth call or email isn’t answered, don’t walk away.

Persist.

Editor’s note: This is an edited version of a previous post, which was published on 10th February 2014.