Have your lead follow-ups made your sales development insane?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

We’ve met sales development teams all over the spectrum between these two quotes – teams that hit a lead once and forget about them and teams that call someone every day for, well, forever.

What’s the happy medium between the two? How many lead follow-ups is too many? How many is too few? First, let’s look at the two extremes:

“Hit ’em once and go.” In this extreme, sales development reps get a list of leads, pound through the list with an email or call or two, then go on to the next list. The manager of the team might not even know he or she is running a “hit ’em once and go” team. We find this approach in teams with minimal tools, metrics, or formal processes.

What’s wrong with this approach? These teams may be leaving 52 percent of the money on the table. According to a much-quoted Velocify study, touching each lead just two more times will increase your conversion rate 50 percent. Sticking with a lead for a total of six touches will increase your conversion rate 94 percent above what you’d get with a single call. It’s simple: it’s critical to catch your leads at the right time. The competitor who keeps trying is more likely to succeed and advance. If that’s not your team, it will be someone else’s.

And then there’s the other extreme…

“I’ve called that lead every day for the last two years. I will call them again tomorrow.” In the opposite extreme, once a rep has a lead, they never let go. Ever. Really, ever. We’ve met folks who have been calling a victim lead consistently over a year.

What’s wrong with this approach? Bad manners and opportunity cost. Going back to the Velocify study, if you go from six touches to nine, you might lift your conversion rate by only 4 percent. If you call a lead 200 times, that’s 200 calls you could have made to leads that would have converted, instad of pounding on one that won’t. Worse, you’ve actually hurt your reputation with this (admittedly stubborn) account, so you’re further behind where you could have been.

So how do you find a happy medium?

The highest performing teams think outside of the “touches per lead” box.

Instead of thinking about touches per lead, high performing teams think about sales development campaigns. Each lead from a particular source may go through three campaigns (each of which may have 10 touches per lead).

These teams vary the call-to-action, message, and approach per campaign. Since they aren’t just beating their head against a wall, conversions go up.

The first campaign always uses a standard sales development approach, stating the value proposition and asking to set up a meeting/call/demo/etc. The rep runs this campaign until the lead has been touched 6 to 10 times.

But when that doesn’t work, they don’t give up there. They start a new campaign. (Though often they let the lead “rest” in marketing for a while first.)

For example, they may have a local event, such as a steak dinner with a traveling exec or tickets to a game – something of value that isn’t tied directly to the product pitch and asking for a meeting. Marc Benioff is famous for using steak dinners to grow Salesforce from a departmental to enterprise solution. And it still works. (For example, David Ulevitch, CEO of OpenDNS recently spoke at Saastr, entitled “Steak Dinners, and Trade Shows – Racing toward $100m+ ARR and Growing 100% YoY through Enterprise Field Sales“).

The campaign approach combines “never let go” relentlessness without slipping into insanity. If your standard pitch doesn’t work after 10 tries, the problem is probably the pitch, not the number of tries.

Sadly, while most marketing tools center on campaigns, most sales development tools don’t. We’ll write more about what makes a good sales development campaign tool soon. But in the meantime?

Stop the insanity, but don’t give up!