Business development: How many prospects should you pursue? It’s quantity more than quality

Nick Youngson

There’s an image that sets me to think of sales success frustration. A new sales representative goes to his manager, and says: “Where should I start to find leads” and the manager hands him the phone book (or now, would refer him to a massive internet directory). “Go call,” would be the very bad advice.

Inevitably this catch-what-you-can, everything goes approach to finding business will result in failure. First, because of the impossibility of building meaningful relationships and truly connecting with “everyone” and secondly, of course because only a relatively small number of potential individuals/organizations are capable of and would be interested in doing business with you.

But how do you set the rules for prospecting/qualification>

The first question sales training consultant John Asher asks in Close Deals Faster is ti determine how many prospects can you comfortably serve. His answer — this formula:

First: Determining the number of “quality touches” — that is, meaningful two-way interactions/communications with people who might seriously do business with us.

(50 hours per week working) x (30 percent time spent on quality touches)/(one hour per touch) = 15 quality touches per week.

Next, we need to figure out the average sales cycle — which especially in the AEC world, can be quite long, say six months or 26 weeks.

(26 weeks in your sales cycle) x (15 quality touches) = 390 quality touches that we can make in our typical sales cycle.

The third point is to consider how many “quality touches” we need to make. High-end sales efforts require persistence; you need to build and maintain relationships and you won’t do this in one, three or even five “touches”.? Asher suggests it could take seven or more connections to complete the deal. So:

(390 touches) / (7 touches to close a sale) = 56 total prospects at any given time in our sales cycle.

The data here — and the results will vary depending on your estimated sales cycle — suggests you can’t hold more than a bit more than 50 prospects in your pipeline. If you have more, you are either failing to serve them effectively, or you are deluding yourself. If you have less, you may be counting on too small a pipeline to be viable and you are perhaps wasting your time rather than really getting out and finding the new business.

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