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Sales Q&A #26 – How many sales calls should a sales person make?

This is a Sales Question and Answer article from guest poster Dave Kahle author and leading sales educator. Follow Dave’s latest Tweets at @davekahle.
Q.   How many sales calls should a sales person make?

A.   In about one out of every two seminars that I do, I hear this question. It springs from a manager’s concern for defining what constitutes a “good sales day.”  And sales people want to know so that they have some ammunition to fend off unreasonable expectations of their managers.  So, let me settle the issue once and for all:  I don’t know.

I don’t know how many sales calls any particular sales person should make, nor do I have any idea how many calls a class of sales people should make.

Having said that, I do have some thoughts to share on the subject.

Why do I not know how many sales calls a person should make?  Because of all the variables.  For example, if you are brand new in your territory, you should make more calls than someone who is well established.  If you have a compact geographical area, you should make more calls than someone who has a large, rural area.  If you carry 20,000 items, you should make fewer calls than someone who sells three lines.  If you sell a non-technical commodity product, you should make more calls than someone selling a highly technical piece of capital equipment.  And so it goes.  The variables that define your specific situation dictate how many sales calls you should make.

One of the reasons this question comes up has to do with a typical manager’s concern with making sure that the sales person is working hard enough in order to be successful.  I prefer to think in two alternate ways instead of thinking about the number of sales calls.

First, how many hours should a sales person work?  The most recent survey I’ve seen indicated that the average sales person works about 49 hours a week.  That seems like a good standard to me.  Sales is not an 8:30 to 4:30, 40-hour a week job.  I’ve never worked just 40 hours.  So, let’s say that a good work week for a field sales person is around 45 – 50 hours.

Now, rather than look at how many sales calls should be made in that time frame, I’m more concerned that the sales person is using those 45 – 50 hours most effectively.  To me, it’s ultimately about the quality of the sales calls rather than the quantity.  There is a relationship between the two.  The greater the quality of the sales call, the fewer calls are possible.  The lesser the quality of the call, the more calls can be made.  I suppose that a sales person could make 100 calls in the course of a week, if each of those calls were in and out in five minutes.  But would they be worthwhile?  Probably not.

If the sales person had created powerful business relationships with all the key people in an account, if the sales person spent time understanding the customer at deeper levels (see my ‘peeling the onion’ analogy), if the sales person created and presented creative proposals, if the sales person helped orchestrate the implementation to a new product, if the sales person leveraged his/her relationships into more and more opportunities within an account – in other words, if the sales person was good at what he/she does – that takes time.

You can see that the real issue is the quality, not the quantity, of the sales call.  So, everything else being equal, I’d prefer that the sales person make fewer rather than more sales calls.

I’d also want the sales person to be guided by all the principles of good sales time management that I describe in my sales time management book.  Stay out of the office, make cold-blooded business decisions about which customers to invest in, nurture helpful relationships, stay balanced, etc.

When a sales person works a sufficient quantity of time, and works in an effective way, producing high quality sales calls, then that sales person is working in such a way as to be successful.

Those are the more important issues:

1. quantity of time,

2. effective decisions,

3. quality sales calls.

I’m really going to recommend that you invest in my book, 11 Secrets of Time Management for Salespeople to take this to the next level.

Hope that helps!

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations.  Sign up for his free weekly Ezine.  Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level.

You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI  49321, or

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