Data-driven sales: The 3 cold calling and emailing metrics that matter

by Steli Efti

Tracking sales data is a lot like dieting.

You know you should do it. You know it’s good for you. You might even know how to do it. But do you?

Probably not.

You’d rather be calling, emailing, or visiting customers—literally anything other than tracking numbers. Besides, most salespeople don’t track their sales data.

But most salespeople don’t produce extraordinary results.

Here’s why you need to track your data.

Your bias is killing your business

Human beings are biased, and our bias leads us to generalize, delete, and distort information. Because of this, we rarely see the “truth” in any situation.

We get attached to our ideas and let our emotions influence our decisions (and that can have serious consequences).

We need data because it has no bias, emotion, or motive. It simply is.

Data is the great truth teller.

Why don’t we track our data?

Most salespeople don’t track their data because they don’t know where to start, and they don’t know the difference staying on top of data could make to their sales career.

Tracking your sales data does not have to be complicated.

I’m going to show you a three-metric system that will transform your sales performance.

But before we get there, let’s get clear on where you are in the sales process.

Are you in sales exploration or sales execution?

You’re in sales exploration if …

  • You can’t tell me what your revenue numbers will look like three months from now.
  • Your sales model has to change if you add more people or spend more money.

To track your data in a meaningful way, you need a sales model that is predictable and scalable. Here’s a quickstart guide to building that model.

Step one: Customer profile

Who is your ideal customer?

If you said something like, “Any technology company  with up to 2,000 employees,” you’re in trouble.

That's not narrow enough.

In the beginning, your criteria should be so specific you struggle to find qualified prospects.

If you find yourself saying, “But that only leaves us four companies,” good! Go get those four!

Step two: Lead generation

How are you going to get to those customers? Will you rely on inbound leads or outbound prospecting?

If you go with outbound prospecting, and you decide to buy a list, make sure you do a quality assurance test. Always assume 30–40% of the contact information in a database is outdated. Sample a portion of the list and track your results.

Step three: Engagement

How are you going to sell to these prospects? Should you be knocking on doors? Making 100 cold calls? Sending 1,000 cold emails? The only right answer is the solution that works for you.

Give different strategies a try. Keep up what works and ditch what doesn’t.

You’re in sales execution if …

You have a sales model that is predictable and scalable.

You’re recruiting, training, hiring, and, most importantly, selling. This is where you find the highest quality data. Now you’re ready for the three metrics I mentioned earlier.

Crush your sales with these 3 metrics

1. Activity

How many cold calls did you make? How many cold emails did you send? How many storefronts did you visit? Knowing your activity will help you track how your time is being invested and provide a foundation for the following two metrics.

2. Quality

How many decision makers did you reach? Of those, how many were qualified for your product? Use this to determine whether you’re pursuing the right prospects and to test the quality of your lead list.

3. Conversion

How many of those qualified decision makers moved on to the next step (demos, trials, or purchases)? The conversion metric is great for pinpointing the strengths and weaknesses of your pitch and close.

Make it a habit

The key to effective data tracking is consistency. If you don’t make it a daily habit, your data is meaningless.

It’s better to track one of those metrics for a week than all three for a day.

How to pinpoint the weak spot in your sales process

Most people think of sales as the act of closing deals.

When performance is suffering, the first and only place they look is the pitch.

If you aren’t making sales, you’re obviously either a crappy salesperson or your presentation sucks. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not. There’s no way to know for sure without looking at the data.

Let’s look at a few scenarios and some data driven solutions.

Low reach rates

You’re calling 100 prospects, reaching two, qualifying two, and closing one.

Activity: 100 cold calls

Quality: Reached two (2%), qualified two (100%)

Conversion: Closed one (50%)

Although you have a qualification rate of 100% and a conversion rate of 50%, you’re only reaching 2% of the customers you’re calling. You don’t need to improve your pitch, you need to speak to prospects! Figuring out how to do that is your number one priority.

Potential solutions:

  1. Call different numbers
  2. Visit storefronts in person
  3. Call at different times

Low qualification rates

You’re calling 100 prospects, reaching 15, qualifying two, and closing one.

Activity: 100 cold calls

Quality: Reached 15 (15%), qualified two (13%)

Conversion: Closed one (50%)

Your reach rate is better and your close rate is still acceptable. However, the problem is that none of your leads are qualified. Either your lead list is outdated or you are going after the wrong customers.

Potential solutions:

  1. Revise your customer profile
  2. Get a new list
  3. Explore inbound opportunities

Low conversion rates

You’re calling 100 prospects, reaching 15, qualifying 10, and closing one.

Activity: 100 cold calls

Quality: Reached 15 (15%), qualified 10 (66%)

Conversion: Closed one (10%)

Now you’ve got great reach and qualification rates, but your conversion rate is bad. If you can only close one qualified prospect then your pitch needs some serious work.

Potential solutions:

  1. Use a script
  2. Delegate sales responsibilities
  3. Find a new career

How to measure your results

If your sales aren’t bringing the results you want, optimize from the top down. Ask yourself:

  • Is my sales activity high enough? If it is,
  • Is my lead quality high enough? If it is,
  • Is my conversion rate high enough?

Use the framework below to benchmark your performance against successful campaigns.

Cold calling benchmarks

Reach rate: 15% of total called

If your reach rate is below 15%, change your cold call approach.

Qualification rate: 30% of total reached

If your qualification rate is below 30%, you need a new lead list.

Conversion rate: 50% of total qualified

If your conversion rate is below 50%, you need to work on your pitch.

Cold emailing benchmarks

Open rate: 30% of total sent

If your open rate is below 30%, then you either have inactive email addresses or weak subject lines. Remember, five times as many people read the headline as the body copy.

Response rate: 30% of total opened

If your response rate is below 30%, you don’t have compelling calls to action. Get your readers to respond.

Conversion rate: 50% of total responses

If your conversion rate is below 50%, there’s a problem with your follow-up pitch.

What sample size would give you enough data to make a decision?

This is the messy reality of startups: You will not have enough time to gather data for a perfect decision. You need to optimize for speed, not perfection.

I’d rather be wrong three times in a row really fast than be right really slowly.

cold-call-and-email-success

Here are some basic guidelines:

Cold calling: 100–200 calls/day for three weeks

Cold emailing: 25–50 emails/day for two weeks

It won’t give you perfect data, but you don’t have the luxury of waiting around. Billion dollar companies can afford to have data scientists on staff to make sure that they only deal with statistically significant sample sizes. But even they get it wrong sometimes.

For a startup, aspiring to have 100% accurate data is a waste of scarce resources that could be put to better use.

The 2-week challenge

Tracking your sales data doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s almost effortless if you’re a Close.io user. We've automated the majority of the process; all you have to do is tell our software what you want to track.

Still feeling a little dataphobic? Try tracking your data for two weeks (which just happens to be the length of our free trial), then share your results in the comments below.

Try Close.io for FREE!

I’ll personally take a look at your data and offer my feedback

Sound good? Great. Now get out there and crush it.

Recommended reading:

How to write subject lines that get your sales emails opened
Want to increase your open rates? Don't follow the widespread advice you find on the net. Here's what really gets sales emails opened ...

5 cold email templates that will generate warm leads for your sales team!
Cold email templates for sales professionals. Cold calling 2.0 approach as well as direct sales approach templates.

19 B2B cold calling tips for sales success in 2015
People say cold calling is dead because they work the phones like it's 1995. Here's how fast-growing companies cold call to drive revenues in 2015.