Question and Answer
By Dave Kahle
Q. How many sales calls should a sales person make?
A. In about one out of every two seminars that I do, I hear this question. It springs from a manager's concern for defining what constitutes a "good sales day." And sales people want to know so that they have some ammunition to fend off unreasonable expectations of their managers. So, let me settle the issue once and for all: I don't know.
I don't know how many sales calls any particular sales person should make, nor do I have any idea how many calls a class of sales people should make.
Having said that, I do have some thoughts to share on the subject.
Why do I not know how many sales calls a person should make? Because of all the variables. For example, if you are brand new in your territory, you should make more calls than someone who is well established. If you have a compact geographical area, you should make more calls than someone who has a large, rural area. If you carry 20,000 items, you should make fewer calls than someone who sells three lines. If you sell a non-technical commodity product, you should make more calls than someone selling a highly technical piece of capital equipment. And so it goes. The variables that define your specific situation dictate how many sales calls you should make.
One of the reasons this question comes up has to do with a typical manager's concern with making sure that the sales person is working hard enough in order to be successful. I prefer to think in two alternate ways instead of thinking about the number of sales calls.
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First, how many hours should a sales person work? The most recent survey I've seen indicated that the average sales person works about 49 hours a week. That seems like a good standard to me. Sales is not an 8:30 to 4:30, 40-hour a week job. I've never worked just 40 hours. So, let's say that a good work week for a field sales person is around 45 - 50 hours.
Now, rather than look at how many sales calls should be made in that time frame, I'm more concerned that the sales person is using those 45 - 50 hours most effectively. To me, it's ultimately about the quality of the sales calls rather than the quantity. There is a relationship between the two. The greater the quality of the sales call, the fewer calls are possible. The lesser the quality of the call, the more calls can be made. I suppose that a sales person could make 100 calls in the course of a week, if each of those calls were in and out in five minutes. But would they be worthwhile? Probably not. When I was selling, on my best day, I made one call in the morning, and one call in the afternoon. But those two calls to great accounts contributed about 50 percent to my total sales.
To judge the quality of a sales call, you must first look at it from the perspective of the role this particular call plays in the penetration of the account. For example, if the sales person had created powerful business relationships with all the key people in an account, if the sales person spent time understanding the customer at deeper levels (see my 'peeling the onion' analogy), if the sales person created and presented creative proposals, if the sales person helped orchestrate the implementation to a new product, if the sales person leveraged his/her relationships into more and more opportunities within an account - in other words, if the sales person was good at what he/she does - that takes time.
Beyond that, you can judge the quality of a sales call by looking at it through the perspective of the four key objectives to every sales call. I believe that every sales call should accomplish not one objective, but rather four of them:
- To what degree did the sales person connect with the customer?
- To what degree did the sales person learn something greater or deeper about the person or the account?
- To what degree did the sales person educate the customer on some idea, product or process?
- To what degree did the sales person gain an agreement with the customer for the next step?
You can see that the real issue is the quality, not the quantity, of the sales call. So, everything else being equal, I'd prefer that the sales person make fewer rather than more sales calls.
Is that an excuse for a sales person to leave the house at 10:00 every day, spend a couple of hours in the office, and be home by 3:00? No! See my 45 - 50 hour a week rule.
I'd also want the sales person to be guided by all the principles of good sales time management that I describe in my sales time management book. Stay out of the office, make cold-blooded business decisions about which customers to invest in, nurture helpful relationships, stay balanced, etc.
In my Kahle Way® Distributor Selling System course, we teach sales people how to make good decisions about in whom they should invest their time. That is the one practice that will impact the quality of the sales call more than anything else.
When a sales person works a sufficient quantity of time, and works in an effective way, producing high quality sales calls, then that sales person is working in such a way as to be successful.
Those are the more important issues:
1. quantity of time,
2. effective decisions,
3. quality sales calls.
I'm really going to recommend that you invest in my book, 11 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople, to take this to the next level.
Hope that helps!
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About the Author
Dave Kahle is one of the world's leading sales authorities. He has written ten books, and presented in 47 states and ten countries. He's personally worked with more than 300 companies, and helped thousands of sales people, sales managers and sales executives be more effective. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine, "Thinking about Sales," and contact him to help your team sell better!