When we’ve talked with companies that are struggling with their lead generation, one of the first questions they typically ask us is, “How much time should it take to see results?” In other words, how much time should you spend prospecting? It’s understandable to want to know that kind of metric — and if you really want to do some number crunching, there’s probably statistics out there that will claim to give you an answer. But is that answer really accurate? Prospecting is always a moving target, regardless of how you’re performing it. So the short answer to how long it takes is, it depends. The long answer is that it depends on a few factors.
Before we dive into each one of those below, it’s important to note that prospecting is better done through email. While cold calling is certainly still a thing, we see more success when using email automation. Whenever we refer to prospecting, that’s the type we’re talking about.
1. Your Sales Cycle
What’s your typical sales cycle like for the products and/or services that you currently offer? A couple weeks, a month, half a year? When you’re prospecting, that time is added on to your normal sales cycle, not subtracted from it. While there are ways to improve the time and effort required for prospecting to be effective, those tools shouldn’t be viewed as magic bullets that will miraculously erase the work that your marketing and sales teams will still have to perform.
Will there be times when prospects open an email from you and decide right then and there to talk business? Sure. But will it happen every time they open an email? Definitely not.
2. Verifying New Leads
In order to warm leads up to conversations, you have to find them first. The best way we’ve found to do that is by using prospecting automation, which takes lists of contacts without email addresses and uses their firmographic data to verify what those emails actually are.
We recommend using this service and a navigational email to confirm these leads are the right people to talk to, while also encouraging them to have phone calls with you. This is what we refer to as the onboard stage of prospecting automation. Completing an onboard list can take two to four weeks, depending on its size and the industries that you’re targeting.
During this time, if email messaging is appropriate, you should expect to see initial responses every few days. Some of these responses may result in phone calls, but most will likely decline your offer or refer you to someone else to contact. Many will simply not respond, but will start to become more engaged and receptive once you start sending them informative content emails (discussed more in-depth here).
3. Establishing Lead Trust
Most new leads have never heard of you before, which means they need to learn to trust you instead of mistaking you for spam. While that trust starts with onboarding, it grows with the content that you’ll send to them after. This content should ideally relate to news and services within their market, allowing you to educate your leads on what you know and prompt them to visit your website. This shows them that you’re a legitimate business, and helps establish your credibility as a trusted resource.
As leads engage with your content — opening those emails, clicking on website links, and visiting specific pages — you can send them follow-up emails that again prompt them for phone calls.
Between content and follow-ups, it may take an average of seven interactions before you finally see traction.
4. Protecting Your Website’s Reputation
If you use prospecting automation to verify email addresses, you may be tempted to skip the nurturing phase described above and immediately migrate those contacts over to marketing automation.
We discourage doing this. As we mentioned, these leads have never heard from you before, and — more importantly — they haven’t opted in to receive emails from you. So, if they don’t know who you are, the more likely they are to flag you as spam if you immediately start to send them heavy-hitting marketing content and sales pitches. Get flagged enough times and you’ll end up damaging your sender reputation — and, at worst, get your website blacklisted.
Prospecting automation relies on companion domains to prevent this from happening. This allows you to nurture your database of contacts until they’re engaged to the point that it’s safe to migrate them, either to a different automation platform or a customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
5. Your Daily Workload
Another reason we’re a big proponent of email automation is that it takes care of managing a large database, giving you more time to focus on your most engaged leads. Remember when we said we weren’t big on cold calls? Well, warm calls are a different story. If you see leads consistently opening your emails and clicking on links to your website, all they may need is a phone call from you to spark that new business discussion. Follow up with those leads who are engaging the most with your outreach, rather than spinning your wheels calling potential customers who haven’t heard from you before.
This also allows you to do additional research into the leads who are engaging with you, so that your emails and phone calls are more personalized and effective.
So How Much Time Should You Really Spend Prospecting?
This may sound like a lot to take in, but it involves pieces that all operate simultaneously. Much like your sales process, you need a prospecting funnel that is continuously feeding your team new leads to qualify. Prospecting automation can help you grow a database of ten- to twenty-thousand contacts in as little as three months, and work toward lead engagement in another two to three as you test out the appropriate email messaging.
As you’re qualifying some leads, closing others, and removing those who have unsubscribed, you can continue to verify new leads to maintain the size of your evolving database.
Without knowing more about your specific business, we can’t make any generalized predictions on what kinds of sales to expect. But the factors above do offer a general idea of how much time you should spend prospecting on top of your normal sales cycle. Once we have a conversation, we can talk more about how soon you’re likely to see results. Click the link below to schedule a free lead nurturing discussion.