If a face-to-face sales call is the most effective tactic to progress buyers from one stage in their journey to the next, should you simply load up the top of your funnel to ensure your sales force is fully occupied?

It’s not quite that simple. This method is resource-intensive, and you will need to work out your likely outcome before committing your forces.

There are two issues to consider in sizing the resource load:

  1. A face-to-face sales call is the preferred and most successful method of making a sale. But because it is also the most expensive tactic, you should use it where it will have maximum effect. Marketing has many other tactics that can help buyers to progress, or at least get them ready to move into buying mode. The truth is that many businesses use salespeople to do what less expensive methods could accomplish.

  2. Buyers expire! Those who have progressed to a stage ready for sales contact won’t sit on the shelf until your salespeople are ready to engage with them. If you build a funnel that has more buyers in the top than your salespeople can handle, you will have wasted your efforts and may not be able to revisit these buyers for a while.

You will need to consider carefully where to use face-to-face meetings and where to use some other tactic. You will also need to build a funnel that has the right number of buyers progressing – too many and you will not act on all inquiries which wastes resources and dilutes your effectiveness in future because prospects will be sceptical of your ability to engage, and too few will create a hungry sales force competing for the same prospects.

Let’s put some numbers to this:

  • If you build a campaign that requires each sales person to meet 20 prospects five times each to reach a close (in or out), that’s 100 meetings required. A busy salesperson might be able to conduct 40 face-to-face meetings every month once we allow for calls, emails, follow ups, proposal generation, training and administration.

  • Once you allow for holidays, training time and other non-selling time, your busy salesperson has 400 meetings to offer you into your “inventory” of scarce meetings every year. So does this mean you can conduct four campaigns a year with 100 leads for each salesperson?

Not likely. If you run four campaigns each year, the salesforce will be able to do NOTHING else – no existing customer visits, no calls to prospects they dig out themselves (as opposed to Marketing finding them), and no referral calls.

Perhaps more realistically, you might design these four campaigns to provide only five brand-new prospects per sales person rather than the 20 we assumed earlier. And if you accept that a salesperson can handle only a finite number of opportunities and still do a good job, then you’ll realise that these five new leads must “dislodge” five old opportunities that have gone cold.

Perhaps this adds further to the need for a good recycling program.

One final thought: If your campaigns have a fixed start and stop date, you will have salespeople who are frantically busy at first, and then not busy enough, and then too busy again when the next campaign starts. It’s better to design these four campaigns to run continuously, and smoothly. Campaigns that continue rhythmically also allow for greater traction to be gained with the buyers.

Feed the top of the funnel with new names at just the right rate to keep your sales force well-fed, and they’ll never stray from home.