When should you make phone calls and send emails to generate the most possible conversions? While the answer does depend partly on your industry and audience, there are some data-backed rules that you can build your strategy around.
What’s The Best Time To Call?
Like so many things in sales, this harks back to times when everyone had their own limited experience of what worked: everyone had their own tricks, the equivalent of grandma’s magic ointment.
The thing is, whatever your grandma used to swear by, most hospitals will give you the same medicine for the same illness now. And it’s just the same in sales: we’ve got real, hard data, courtesy of Dr. James Oldroyd of Sung Kyun Kwan Graduate School of Business.
Partnering with Kellogg School of Management, Dr. Oldroyd conducted a 4-month study taking over 40 industries and covering 495 respondents. His results were surprisingly clear, to say nothing of counterintuitive. If you’d had to guess, you’d have said the worst time to cold call would be when someone’s just got to the office, or when they’re just about to leave. Midmorning, lunch and early afternoon make sense. But they’re stone cold wrong.
The best time to cold call is between 8 AM and 9 AM, and between 4 PM and 5 PM.
If you’d rather blow the whole thing, though, when’s the absolute worst time to place that call?
The worst time to cold call is between 1 PM and 2 PM.
Obviously, that’s 8 AM or 4 PM in the time zone you’re calling to no one you call cares about what time it is in your office! Dr. Oldroyd’s research also told us the best days to cold call.
The best day of the week to cold call is Thursday. The worst day of the week to cold call is Friday.
As to why any of this might be, we don’t really know. But we do have some real data to start building a structure around now.
When to Respond to a Lead
Most sales people will tell you that, obviously, lead response times are important. They’re wrong. Lead response times are critical. Between 35% and 50% of sales go to the agent who makes contact first.
If you make contact second, you’re working at 65% capacity or less. What if you’re the fourth contact, or the eighth? Get there first, every time, and you’ll increase your sales by 50%, say the stats.
B2B leads need to be dealt with within 20 minutes. That’s a tight window, granted. You’d expect some companies to buck the stats because of the specific needs of their industry, while others probably did OK getting in at 30 minutes, or 40 minutes.
So what’s the industry average? Average B2B sales response time is 42 hours. Hours. Not minutes. The same study, of 2,241 US businesses, found that:
- 37% of companies responded within one hour.
- 16% responded within one to 24 hours.
- 24% took more than 24 hours.
Most shocking of all, 23% of companies – nearly a full quarter – never responded at all. It’s like walking into a store and waiting… and no one comes. Ever. How many sales can you make by ignoring people? As much as this is a bit of a horror story, it’s also a massive opportunity if you can learn to be a super-fast responder. And it really is super-fast.
Consider that the chance of making successful contact with a lead is 100X greater within 5 minutes compared to 30 minutes. But contact is just contact. We want conversions, right? The chance of a lead entering the sales process and becoming qualified is 21X greater if initial response time is 5 minutes, compared to 30 minutes.
Call within 1 minute for a 156% increase in conversions. Which means the best time to respond to a lead is immediately.
When to Call Back
There’s a delicate balance between giving up way too soon on one hand, and running the risk of irritating people on the other. When it comes to making contact, you could virtually guarantee contact by calling constantly, but it’s unlikely to result in a positive conversation – let alone a sale.
On the other hand, giving up after one call is probably premature. Yet that’s exactly what many salespeople do. The average number of calls a sales rep will make to a new contact before giving up is 1.3. That means 50% of leads are never called a second time.
We can probably make a couple more calls than that, right?
It makes sense to call back at least once:
- 48% of leads that convert are contacted by just one call.
- 70% of leads that convert are contacted after two calls.
- Call back a third time and 81% of leads that convert are contacted.
The sales process has changed: most B2B clients will now be on average 67% through the sales funnel before there’s contact with a salesperson. That means purchasers are doing a significant amount of self-qualification. The importance of lead nurturing is beyond the scope of this post; we’re talking qualified leads and if we define ‘conversion’ as an appointment, or even a sale, depending on your space, it still takes more than one call or touch for a contact to convert.
How many? Opinion differs on how many touches make a sale; 7 is a typical but potentially ill-founded rule of thumb. Velocify show decreasing returns after the first three calls and recommend calling six times, to garner 93% of all possible conversions. The argument being that the three further calls needed to bump the needle to 97% becomes uneconomic.
Based on the value of individual conversions, though, your mileage may vary. What we know for sure is: it takes several quality touches at the right time to get a conversion. So when is the right time to place those calls? Place the second call within 30 to 60 minutes of the first one to boost conversions by 58%.
The Best Call Schedule For Conversions
There’s an optimal call schedule, according to Velocify’s data, that shows exactly where to place each call on a timeline in order to generate maximal conversions. It looks like this:
- Call 1: Within 0 -1 minutes of lead generation = +156% conversions
- Call 2: Within 30-60 minutes of lead generation 1 = +58% conversions
- Call 3: Within 1 – 2 hours of lead generation = +25% conversions
- Call 4: 5 days after lead generation = +22% conversions
- Call 5: 14 days after lead generation = +23% conversions
- Call 6: 15 days after lead generation = +9% conversions
Glancing at this data, it’s obvious that the process is ‘front-loaded’ – just get the first day right and you could see a 239% increase in conversions. But if you abandon it after the first day, you’re still leaving a 54% bump on the table: numbers well worth picking up the phone for.
What about times and days?
The best time to call to contact a lead is 4PM-6PM on a Thursday. The best time to call to qualify a lead is 8-9AM and 4-5PM Wednesdays and Thursdays. Again: this is about the recipient’s time, not yours. If you’re calling California from Boston, your prime times are measured in PDT, not EDT. And those last six calls need to be to leads you’ve already contacted. If you’re calling to contact leads, every call you make after the first 20 hours actually makes you less likely to get through!
When to Email
There’s a major flaw in a strategy that just looks at phone calls. Email is so well-entrenched that it’s practically old-fashioned now. Many companies communicate with marketing leads by email. Shouldn’t it have some kind of place in your sales strategy?
Unsurprisingly, the answer is yes. The best way to contact a B2B prospect is by both email and phone call. In fact, prospects who receive an email are 16% more likely to respond to a call. So why did 59% of prospects Velocify studied receive not one single email?
Emails and calls work best together. (Consider other kinds of direct contact too: Sales prospects who receive text messages convert 40% higher.) If you’re going to send an email to a prospect, when would it be? If you hadn’t seen the data further up on calls, you’d guess probably midmorning and lunchtime, and you’re not getting caught out the same way twice.
Very wise. The best time to send a B2B email is 5-7PM, when 26% of B2B emails are opened. Granted, that data refers to marketing emails.
More general research indicates that the best time to send an email is a time when there’s less competition: YesWare say they see better open and response rates at the weekend, and Yesware blogger Bernie Reeder points to data gathered in Q1 2014 to observe that this might simply be because there are fewer emails being sent. (They also found there’s no best email day – Friday and Monday, for instance, have pretty similar open, response and every other rate.)
Phone calls are day sensitive: emails aren’t. Again, how many contacts it takes to generate a conversion is open to question, and emails that support a phone-first strategy blur the line between pure sales and marketing by supporting a lead-nurturing sales approach.
The Best Email Schedule for Conversions
There may not be an absolute best day to email people on but there is a best schedule. Emails aren’t as time-sensitive as calls, but they still work best when they’re done fast. If the first email goes out within 20 minutes of lead generation, conversions rise by 49%. The optimal email timeline for conversions:
- Email 1: 20 minutes or less from lead generation = +49% conversions.
- Email 2: 4 days from lead generation = +85% conversions.
- Email 3: 8 days from lead generation = +52% conversions.
- Email 4: 15 days from lead generation = +37% conversions.
- Email 5: 22 days from lead generation = +44% conversions.
Emails are less time sensitive than calls and they’re less ‘front loaded.’ Unlike calls, the majority of email success takes place down the line, over a longer time period.
The Best Data? Your Data!
YMMV. It might track pretty closely with the data outlined above, or it might differ wildly. As we spoke about earlier, if an individual conversion is worth $15,000 to your company, making some extra calls to push conversions up by 1% or 2% might be worth it. If the value of an individual conversion is lower, that changes the whole landscape: even 3 calls might not be worth it!
What about call timing? If your customers are professional night fishermen, you probably shouldn’t call them at 8 AM. The number, timing and schedule of calls presented here are averages, drawn from a range of data source. Your data may differ.
Planning Starts With Data Strategy
Start by collecting and analyzing your real data. Focus on the most critical metric, lead response time, and develop a clear picture of how your team is responding. But measure for timing and scheduling too. Until you have a solid database of your own to design strategy around, use the schedules from this post, but tweak them based on performance data from your own team as soon as possible to really focus on what works for your business.
There’s always a risk in trusting averages, but the data presented in this post should give you something to build on. Statistically, your sales team’s response time and call and email scheduling are leaving a potential 400%+ increase in conversions on the table, and the solution isn’t to buy new equipment or hire consultancies. Sharpen response times and build touch strategies for long-term nurturing on a data-supported schedule and you could quintuple sales!
Persistence is key to driving sales with a longer, multitouch funnel, but so is strategization.
- A fast response is the best possible change you could make.
- Use email and calls together to generate big jumps in conversions.
- Call and email timing is vitally important.
- The best data is your data!
About the Author: Richard Bayston is a freelance blogger and copywriter covering tech, digital marketing and content strategy for SMBs. I’ve also been known to write on health and fitness. Find out more: Richard@RBCopywriting.com or @RBCopywriting. The rest of my time is spent arguing amicably with my wife and Googling the answers.
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