Cold Calling Tips Revealed From Super Bowl Data

Like football, sales prospecting is a contact sport. Identifying qualified leads, crafting the perfect pitch, and reaching out in the right way at the right time all take strategy, tenacity, guts… and the right data.

About three years ago our sales reps started telling us that when they called into Atlanta as it was raining, everybody answered the phone, and they made more sales. Industry research shows the single biggest obstacle that sales reps face is reaching busy decision makers.

Could the weather actually affect sales by affecting the ability to reach people? We put our data scientists on the question and they came back with a resounding “Yes!”

Then our reps noticed that before big sporting events like the World Cup or when Jimmer was sinking his wicked 40-foot 3’s, the whole game of sales seemed to be affected. Could sporting events also affect sales prospecting? The Moneyball model Oakland A’s have already been a model for predictive analytics in sales.

This week, InsideSales.com’s data scientists looked at national and regional datasets collected over the past three years in our Neuralytics predictive analytics engine to see how the Super Bowl affects contact rates between sales reps and their leads.

Big Game Hangover

National contact rates drop just after playoff season, and descend even further after the Super Bowl. Hordes of fans around the country are mourning losses and need some time to recover. Over the past three years, the Patriots displayed the biggest decline (-46 percent) in contact rates of all participating teams. Let’s hope (for the sake of sales reps calling into the Boston region) that the Patriots take home a win this year.

Super Bowl fans in winning cities answer phones slightly more after a win, but losing city fans swing stronger the other direction... especially New England!

Chart 1: Super Bowl fans in winning cities answer phones slightly more after a win, but losing city fans swing stronger the other direction with a big drop in contact rates… especially in New England!

This is especially true for the losing team’s region: For the three weeks after the Super Bowl, losing regions decrease their likelihood to accept sales calls (25 percent) and experience an even greater decrease in their contact rates (about 29 percent) (see Chart 2).

The Joy of Winning

There is an exception to every rule, and the exception here is with the winning team. Winning regions experience a significant spike in their likelihood to accept sales calls (32 percent), with contact rates increasing by nearly 10 percent for a month following the game (see Chart 2.)

Notice how the contact rates for winning cities rise significantly after a superbowl victory and losing cities don't answer the phone as much for three weeks while they recover?

Chart 2: Notice how the contact rates for winning cities rise significantly after a Super Bowl victory and losing cities don’t answer the phone as much for three weeks while they recover?

The fans of teams that eventually become Super Bowl champions are unlikely to answer as their eyes are probably glued to ESPN. Contact rates for these fans maintain below-average rates during the playoffs and in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, but skyrocket following their eventual win (see Chart 2).

Here are a few “key plays” every sales team should consider:

Start Early to Tap Into Nationwide Euphoria

Four weeks before the Super Bowl, the NFL playoffs are in full swing and fans around the country are electrified and hungry for a chance at Super Bowl glory. This is an optimal time to contact Americans nationwide for a sales pitch (contact rates increase by 15 percent). However, you need to know when to back off as contact rates drop off significantly as teams are eliminated.

Don’t Bother Me, I’m on ESPN 

During the week prior to the big game and for two weeks following, people across the nation are less likely to accept sales calls.

East Coast vs. Central vs. West Coast: Understand the National Fandom Heat Map

All fans are not created equal as passions play out regionally in the week following the Super Bowl. The Upper Midwest wins the true “fanatic” title in the variance of swing of willing to engage in phone contacts, with Central not far behind. Eastern and West Coast fans have a more laid back reaction to the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat (refer to Chart 3). Use this little nugget to sharpen your sales prospecting strategies in real-time.

Superbowl regional fans vary widely on the swing of contact rates during the 5 weeks before and after the Superbowl.

Chart 3: Superbowl regional fans vary widely on the swing of contact rates during the 5 weeks before and 5 weeks after the Superbowl.

Just Happy to Be Here

From a historical perspective, regions that eventually return home without a victory have contact rates above average during the playoffs and in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, but drop off significantly following their big loss (see Chart 2).

Are these fans just happy to make it to the big game? Who knows, but sales teams can take advantage of their excitement before their team loses with some targeted prospecting.

The Super Bowl is only one of many factors that influence whether a sales rep will be able to reach a prospect (and, in turn, close a sale). The outcome of sporting events doesn’t have the same impact on contact rates as immediate response to leads, time of day or day of week, for example.

To win in sales or football, you have to take risks, and based purely on the historical data on contact rates of winning and losing teams in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, and admittedly correlative and probably not causative, and if contact rate profiles were the primary deciding factor; then New England fans are matching contact rate profiles of a winning Super Bowl team this year.

So, here goes… New England for the win.

How fanatic are you?

What’s your prediction?

NOTE: Here is a more in-depth analysis of the InsideSales.com Super Bowl Sales Playbook.

Dave Elkington, Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com, Philosophy, Hyper Growth, and Shrimp Tacos

The first company picture of Dave Elkington in August of 2005.  No grey hair at all!

The first company picture of Dave Elkington in August of 2005.
No grey hair at all!

Dave Elkington and I met early in 2004.

He had graduated from BYU with a degree in Philosophy and had already been working at Deutche Bank Alex Brown, an investment bank and a venture capital firm through the dot com era. He had a strong sense that web software, and especially software-as-a-service was a huge opportunity. He had tasted a small win or two and had dipped his toes in the entrepreneurial stream with an early Bluetooth company. He went through the dot com crash and saw the future of internet-based companies but knew they would need to have a strong financial model.

We often would laugh at companies with great ideas but no way to monetize them.

He wanted to start his own company in that space but wanted to grow it out of revenues, so he went back to BYU and started a graduate degree in computer science. He had already seen ignorant founders of companies who didn’t understand enough of the technologies who couldn’t guide the outcomes of their IT staffs and who sold their souls too early to raise money and then had new bosses before they even hit critical mass.

While doing this he started a web development company and began doing all kinds of projects as he zeroed in on what he wanted to focus on.

Marc Benioff started salesforce.com with Inside Sales during the First 6 Years

Marc Benioff started salesforce.com with Inside Sales during the First 6 Years and pioneered the world of SaaS software for the rest of us. – (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

He knew he wanted to use machine learning, artificial intelligence, and what he called “set theory” to do things that had never been done before in business. He had seen many companies’ come and go and was especially watching Marc Benioff plow the deep snow in application service provider platforms (ASP) just when the phrase Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) was being tossed around from the waves being made by saleforce.com.

 

PHILOSOPHY

Dave would talk about his philosophy degree and how it had taught him to think. That was one of the strongest things we both held in common; philosophy, and how to think. I was amazed out differently we thought, but we agreed on many common areas. Though we disagreed strongly on others. Dave believes strongly in what he calls “pragmatic relativism,” he has some pretty compelling arguments and has almost convinced me… almost. 🙂

He and I have warmly debated that topic from about the first few days we met each other. I believe much more strongly in universals principles and laws; I worked under the guidance of Hyrum Smith and Stephen R. Covey during my days at FranklinCovey, and my philosophic mentor had been Dr. Chauncey Riddle since I was just out of college. I had moved my family to Provo, Utah, and audited his last BYU class; the only class I ever took without getting a grade. I remember I felt my brain hurting from the rigorous Socratic method and System Thinking and strategic methodologies he shared. I regard it as more valuable than everything I studied at the University of Utah and the Naval Academy combined to help me be successful as an entrepreneur.

It was from this that I distilled the Systems Model we use:

Analyze > Design > Implement > Evaluate.

Or in one word: Test.

Dr. Riddle challenged me to learn how to think, not just what to think and when to think.

Dave had gone through a similar level of rigor and the two thoughtful backgrounds combined to make very animated discussions. We found when we could both engage we would distill things down to almost their very essence and spent many late nights doing just that.

 

HYPER GROWTH

I had gone to the Naval Academy and when we started this company in 2004 I had already been in the world of sales and marketing for 16 years, I had pioneered the use of inside sales at Franklin Day Planners when they were the 2nd fastest growing company in the US. My plans had abruptly changed from being a Naval Aviator and flying the space shuttle to pioneering professional sales over the phone and through the web. I had learned through sad experience that hyper growth was a unique animal all it’s own. We would set appointments and invite training directors at 115,000 companies with 100 employees or more to see a Franklin seminar and turn it over to the field sales teams. Then we started proving we could close them ourselves.

Our department was gaining the nickname “Telesales,” but I recoiled at anything with the phrase “tele” in it. To me it was a four letter word. We coined the phrase “Inside Sales” which was just beginning to be used.

I told them I would stay 5 years or until we did a million dollars in a single month. I knew I had a long way to go, when my first month sales was just over $27k. I told them we would use college kids on the phone for 60k to sell what their 300k salespeople would sell. We started with six phone reps transferred out of the call center on old furniture out of the warehouse. I researched to see what new outside sales Account Executives would close in the first six months…

We beat it by 127% at a small fraction of the cost.

They closed at two to three times better ratios, but we made seven to eight times more contacts. Sales was a numbers game, and still is.

We made a ton of the old timer outside sales people very mad at us. They first tried to crush us, then control us, then cooperate with us. It was so stressful I would wake up in the mornings with what seemed like little pieces of rock in my mouth; the edges of my own teeth. But much of the problem was me, I needed to grow up and so did my people.

We were dialing by hand but still doing great. Franklin struggled so badly with technology at the time they actually made us dial a 10-digit account code in the phone system after every phone call to track and charge us for any personal calls. It was a policy of the accounting or “sales prevention” department and it drove me nuts. I initially wanted a dialer technology just to store that dang account code under a single button, but I remembered my earlier days at Quota Marketing Centers where we invented one of the very first “power dialer” technologies as we generated leads for Toshiba copy machine dealers all over the country.

I had all kinds of ideas to leverage inside sales, but no technology, just a big leather book. I would go to lunch with Mike Shelton, the Telecom Director at Franklin and we would brainstorm new ways to save time. Next thing I know, he had left the company with some developers and built many of the very things we had talked about. He sold it for millions of dollars; I never got my dialers.

I left Franklin four years later to the day when we did our Million Dollar Month. I left with my dear friend Paul Jarman, who was one of my first two sales reps at Franklin to start what became a long distance company. After being there about 5 years I went to a meeting one day to buy another company and there was my old telecom guy from Franklin seated across the table. He had already sold his first company and was working on rewriting the same code to be the first call center technology in the cloud. He wanted to launch the first SaaS telephony company.

He did.

We saw the possibilities and a year later we bought his 2nd company and eventually changed the company to what is now inContact, the top inbound SaaS contact center company in the world. But I hated inbound, I loved going outbound; causing sales… not catching them.

Talk about destiny, now we owned the very technology I had sketched on napkins in the Franklin cafeteria. Within weeks I started pulling together the single most powerful inside sales technology ever invented. The problem was we didn’t have a way to handle all of the leads. We tried embedding the dialer technology into Act!, then Goldmine, but it took them right to their knees. I had a consultant helping me and he called me and said I needed to go to Springville, Utah and meet Dave Elkington, who had just finished a massive lead management database in the cloud.

Dave Elkington and I first went to lunch at Bajios in 2004 when we decided to launch the project that is now InsideSales.com

Dave Elkington and I first went to lunch at Bajios in 2004 when we decided to launch the project that is now InsideSales.com

I called and we went to lunch at Bajios, we had shrimp tacos and horchata.

We soon realized he had the database technology, the drive, the financial expertise, a crushing discipline, and an ability to execute with charisma like nobody I had ever seen before. I had the dialer technology, the strategy, a clear vision for the future of inside sales, and way of buffering to hold it all together.

We soon decided to build the world’s first customer database with built-in dialer tools in the cloud (though the phrase ‘cloud’ hadn’t been used yet.) The database had the qualitative data, the call center tools had the quantitative tools and we had a feeling that the two together would open up a whole new world by letting us see things in a new light… the light of data.

Dave and I both knew this synergy of predictive analytics, big data, and artificial intelligence would change sales and marketing forever.

***

Author: Ken Krogue | Follow me on Google+
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