Artist Vincent Van Gogh once said, “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” Just as the artist transforms a series of brush strokes into a painting, so too a sales rep should turn a series of activities into a sales process.
To borrow from the self-help author Robert Collier, their success in sales “is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” The challenge is to orchestrate those activities into what we call a sales cadence.
Think of this as a symphony of calls, emails and social media connections that helps to move a prospect from initial contact to engagement, communication to consultation and, ultimately, to purchase.
But here’s the rub. There is no single magic formula. It’s best to build your unique rhythm and cadence. Here are some ideas to help you do just that.
The Art and Science of Sales Cadence
While it’s long been understood that sales is a process, it wasn’t until 2007 when James Oldroyd published his Lead Response Management Study that we began to get scientific. He stressed rapid response. That’s because his research showed that when outreach is within the first five minutes of an inquiry, a sales rep’s chances of making contact with a lead are 100 times better.
Oldroyd also suggested there were days of the week and times of the day that increased the odds of connecting with a prospect.
More than ten years later, we know a lot more. For one thing, there is no one-size-fits-all sales cadence. The art of contacting and building a relationship with a prospect or lead is about knowing your industry and customer base. You need to develop your own optimal sales cadence through testing and measuring results.
In 2017, when InsideSales.com conducted the Cadence Audit for Xant, they found that putting in the time and effort to create a highly structured, optimal sales cadence can boost a company’s sales results by as much as 110%.
So ask the questions:
- How many times do we need to reach out to get a response?
- In a multi-channel world, what’s the best medium for our initial contact?
- What’s the duration of our sales cycle?
- How do we stay in touch without overwhelming and annoying a prospect?
Then, answer those questions based on your individual experiences.
The other insight to come out of the Xant Cadence Audit was the identification of five essential elements of any sales cadence:
- Attempts: How many times should a sales rep expect to contact a lead without overwhelming or pestering a prospective buyer?
- Media: Which media channel is best for the initial contact, and what’s the best mix of media for following up?
- Duration: What’s the average length of time the sequence of steps will go on?
- Spacing: Ideally, how much time should a rep allow between attempts to contact a prospect?
- Content: What kind of content is best to share with a prospect, and how long should the rep’s message, such as an email or voicemail, be?
While the study tried to distill each question down to a specific value, what you need to focus on are the insights, generalizations and steps you can take to build your own sales cadence.
1. Timing is everything, and early response is still considered a critical factor—especially with inbound leads. As InsideSales.com notes, between 35% and 50% of sales go to the company that is first to respond.
When cold calling, you need to figure out when the best time is to contact your prospects based on industry and job role.
Very few buyers close the deal after the initial contact, so you’ll need to identify your optimum frequency between contacts and the duration of the sales cycle. While Hubspot suggests that eight touches are ideal on average, Online Marketing Institute says it may take as many as 13 touches, and the sales cadence sequence can go on for two to four weeks. Remember to change around the time and day of each attempt to increase the likeliness of reaching them.
2. Content must deliver a perceived benefit to the prospect. Some of the content types buyers favor include whitepapers, eBooks, video, case studies, answers to burning frequently-asked-questions and research studies. However, the best and most effective content is industry and job function specific.
3. Quality and Quantity are both critical. When building your sales cadence, you need to give equal weight to the frequency and duration of contact and the value of your message and content.
4. Consider the buyer’s perspective. When building a sales cadence, you need to find a sequence that allows your sales cycle to converge with the prospect’s buying cycle. Finding this balance is part of what makes every sales cadence unique.
5. Expect to build more than one sales cadence. Among other things, you need to consider the decision-maker, the industry, target market, and whether a lead is inbound or outbound. In other words, you probably shouldn’t expect to use the same sales cadence with a middle manager as you would when selling to the CEO or CFO.
6. Use your CRM to help you manage your sales cadence. It will help you to keep track of your progress, prompt the next steps and ensure that you are following your company’s best practices. There are also sales engagement platforms such as Outreach.io that can support these efforts.
7. Test, Test, Test. When you are setting up your sales cadence, you need to track and measure results and follow the metrics on the number of contact attempts, the spacing between touches, the duration of the sequence and more.
To optimize your cadence, analyze the results, including the number of opens and click-throughs for emails, which content gets the highest response rates and how many prospects convert into customers. You want to track everything from the open-to-reply ratio and call-to-appointment ratio to the bounce rate on email delivery. To make the analysis as easy as possible, build a dashboard of your results to help you identify what activity is impacting your results.
The bottom line is: To develop your optimal sales cadence, you need the right timing, channels, message and content. Once you determine the best sales cadence for your company and your target market, you’ll have a blueprint for sales activity that will reduce guesswork, increase close rates and encourage your reps to follow best practices.
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