Cadence has become a bit of a buzzword in Corporate America, particularly in project management. People want to know meeting schedules in advance to manage their own calendars. We also recognize that a commitment to regularly scheduled meetings will keep people working toward their stated objectives. It is a momentum builder. Sales cadence is a sequence of activities to increase contact and qualification rates. It is the ultimate “what and how much, by when?” question for sales professionals.
Easy Reference Point
I have no musical aptitude. Ironically, my wife and I raised three “band kids”. My oldest was a percussionist. I quickly learned that the drum line of the high school marching band had the most attitude and swagger of any of the band sections. One day I asked him about it. I thought it might be just one of those “T-Birds and Pink Ladies” things of innate coolness.
He told me that the percussion cadence establishes the very foundation of the show. It is the rhythmic skeleton on which everything else rests, a cohesive beat that keeps everything going. And, once it is established it gives freedom to every other section for flourishes and improv that showcase section strengths and even masterful individual performers. I at once decided I had watched way too much Grease and my son knew things that I never dreamed of knowing. I kind of understood the swagger but did not fully appreciate of the perils and pressures.
Years later my middle child, a tubist, came home from an important regional band competition. He was crestfallen. The high school had a wonderful show that year but under-performed, missing finals at the event. In the semi-finals performance, the band experienced a “tempo tear”, throwing the entire show out of whack. I realized then that the pressure on the drum line to “keep things moving” was very real.
Back to Selling
I have no doubt that any self-respecting salesperson is consumed with meeting goals and I also believe that the most successful sales professionals obsess over sales cadence the same way drum lines do for marching bands – for the same reasons. Financial analysts ultimately concern themselves with profit growth. Wise financial analysts analyze profit growth in tandem with revenue growth. Yet both are “lagging measures” of performance.
Sales cadence is the real-time indicator of revenue growth, and revenue growth is likely the most dependent variable on profit growth. Without that rhythmic humming of phone calls, door openings, and qualification, the rest of the business is in a spiraling tempo tear, out of sync and underperforming. So, there is room for swagger, but lots of responsibility to others in the sales effort.
A friend recently sent me a study on sales cadences entitled The Truth Behind Successful Sales Cadences performed by Gabe Larsen and A.J. Hunt of XANT. XANT is a company specializing in data-driven revenue acceleration. Feel free to access the full study here, but these are some key findings that stood out to me.
Honesty is always the best policy
In a 2017 survey by XANT, sales reps self-reported an average of 12.1 attempts per contact. In XANT’s observational study, they found that the average cadence was only 3 attempts per contact. Something doesn’t add up! Be honest with yourself before all others and make sure you are putting in the work.
The XANT study showed that the contact rate dropped by more than half after seven attempts and was virtually non-existent by twelve attempts. XANT found that the sweet spot was between 2 and 7 attempts for a successful contact. So, if you are “average” at three attempts per contact, you are in the game, but still have lots of upside before your odds drop. Everything up to 7 attempts is a valuable investment.
Monochrome is out
In another case of perception versus reality, a separate XANT study showed self-reported averages of 4.8 phone calls, 4.8 emails, and 3.4 voice mails per sales rep for each potential contact – a diverse and well-balanced mix. The observational study reflected 2.4 phone calls, .5 emails, and .3 voice mails. The gap itself is striking, but what makes it even worse is XANT data that shows using multiple contact channels increases contact rates by 161%, and email engagement drives up to 4x increases in contacts. Show some diversity in your sales cadence and watch your numbers!
Spacing is critical
XANT’s research indicates that the optimal cadence sequence is 6-8 days long. Within this range, contact rates varied from 31.8% to 58.7%. All cadence lengths shorter or longer than this window had significantly lower average contact rates. The optimal spacing between attempts is 1-2 days and responding immediately to emails instead of the frequently used cultural norm of 24 hours increases contact rates by 3x!
If you are responsible for sales/revenue production and you have not established a distinctive, multi-faceted sales cadence to lead the organization, the business will not grow to its full potential. There is no rhythmic skeleton for the rest of the organization to build upon. It may take time to find the right cadence, but these tips are a great way to get started.
Oh, and there is one other thing that my percussionist son reminded about……the cadence is a signature to the drum line’s identity. When people in the stadium hear that cadence coming and going, they know exactly who has come and gone. It is up to you to make it a memorable show. If all you are doing is tracking activity, you have missed the point. Be a virtuoso.