Engaging Your Prospects – The Real Numbers

The question I’ve been working on lately might get you thinking: What’s the best technique to snag a meeting with a prospect?
We needed a few days to answer this (seemingly) simple question, and many years to test everything.

“The best prospecting technique is the one that brings in the most leads with the least amount of effort.”

This isn’t the place to go into comparing lead sources – I’m more interested in looking at the tactics used to get sales conversations going, conversations that will lead more or less (according to the approach) to identifying a qualified project.
Here are the 9 tactics that I analyzed. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it gives you the a general idea:

  • LinkedIn with personalized InMails
  • Prospecting using ultra-personalized emails (individually written with prior research)
  • Cold calling (buying a prospecting list and calling 70 people per day)
  • Targeted ads (such as on LinkedIn)
  • Ad Retargeting (targeted ads for leads who’ve been on my website)
  • Emailing campaigns (unavoidable)
  • Referral recommendations
    (identifying a prospect and finding a common relation that can help me land a meeting)
  • Inbound lead requests (contact forms)
  • Passive inbound leads (they’ve left their name but haven’t made any requests)
    (No, I didn’t add physical events such as trade shows – it’s impossible to have reliable results – and as for nurturing streams, this isn’t really a direct hook – and email retargeting and the rest of the lot, well, we can debate this in the comments section).
    If you want the short version, here are the results: one axis is the volume of projects that can be detected per week, and the other represents the effort required (and additional costs).

    engagement stats picture

    Since it’s only natural to be sceptical, I’ll share my excel file with all of these sources that you can play around with.


    Let’s take a look at the results

    If we set cold calling aside (the result is no surprise), the solution that would seem the simplest (LinkedIn) is in fact the least appealing. My hypothesis: 10 InMails per day for 4 Euros, 40% response rate, 30% of prospects that are ok for a conversation/meeting, and 15% that will actually be interested/qualified for a project. To be honest, we haven’t even achieved these numbers internally.

    “The solution that would seem the simplest (LinkedIn) is in fact the least appealing.”

    Referral selling (working through recommendations) is one of the most efficient methods shown here, but also the one with which it’s almost impossible to create high volume. It’s true, 44% of these introductions end in a meeting…but you also need to take into account the time needed to ask for these introductions, and many of these meetings will be done out of politeness, without any real need for or ability to move forward with a project.
    As for the inbound (requests or passive prospects), I did not in fact include the cost of the production/promotion of the content involved, nor the inherent inertia of this kind of strategy, the tools needed to make it work, etc. So the real “effort” is quite underestimated. And after all that, you’ll need to sift out which are the best leads to talk to (on average, only 30% of these leads are of interest), to end up with a conversation.
    Concentrating on “passive” leads would therefore seem to be the best of these 9 tactics, because it lets you increase volume, even though they’re a little less mature (compared to those who have made a direct request) and a bit more difficult to get ahold of. Even so, I know of very few businesses that seriously utilize this source to its fullest potential.

    Treating “passive” inbound leads is the best tactic. Clearly underexplored by businesses.