A few years back I read a great book called No Ordinary Disruption. Largely drawn by the presence of co-author James Manyika and a few good reviews I found some incredible insights in the book. It spoke about disruption, as we know, being more than a digital affair, the trends behind disruption owed more to behaviour change or realisation of people’s preferences than advances in technology. A great example is media streaming which owes just as much to the realisation people are more interested in enjoying content than owning it as it does to high-speed internet. One behaviour the book speaks at length about is buyer behaviour.

According to pine3 marketing, only 2% of sales are made on the first contact with a customer. 3% are made on the second contact with 5% made on the 3rd contact. If you’re keeping up that’s only 8% of sales made within the first 3 contacts.  10% of sales are made after the 4th contact and a whopping 80% of sales are made somewhere between the 5th and 12th contact. Fifth and twelfth! Take a moment to think about your business, how many contacts do you usually make with prospective customers before you give up on them?

Buyers are becoming more and more complicated. The addition of the wonderful world of the internet has cut down many barriers and in some ways streamlined the contact process. When a customer looks up product reviews online or a video that talks about the product that is a contact. That is surely something many businesses would count in their favour. However, it is a double-edged sword as they have just as easy a time accessing competitor or substitute information. Culture also plays a big part in this as was observed in the book No Ordinary Disruption. Customers in European markets buy appliances after around 3 store visits. In Asian markets that number goes up to around 6 visits. No data for Africa was provided but I’m sure your imagination can extrapolate.

Pine 3 marketing also suggests that 4*% of salespeople never follow up with prospects. That’s just about half of the salespeople never following up. 25% make one follow up only. A further 12% make 2 follow-ups before they stop. That’s 85% of all salespeople not going beyond a 3rd contact. Only 10% of salespeople will make more than more than 3 contacts. Now if we recall that 80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact while only 10% of salespeople get there it makes you think.

Pareto strikes again

Wilfredo Pareto’s principle, also known as the 80/20 principle or the law of the vital few tells us that the majority of results will be achieved by the minority of participants. In this case, the 80% of sales that happen after the 5th contact can only be achieved by the less than 10% of salespeople who go beyond the 4th contact.  The odds are highly stacked against the majority of salespeople making the sale. We could take that as the way things are or we can learn the real lesson here.

Nurture your prospects

Understandably, you would think of the extra effort and sometimes expenditure involved in making those multiple contacts with prospects who haven’t bought is a waste. Granted not all prospects become sales just because you have stuck around and made follow-ups. We also have to give some consideration to the way your business operates. Some businesses work with walk-in customers while others have tighter onboarding processes. That said you need to start nurturing your prospects better. How do you do this? I have a few ideas;


CRM stands for Client Relationship Management which is associated with modern software systems that exist for this purpose today though it is a lot simpler than that. Digital CRM systems have simply brought convenience to the work but CRM as a practice predates these systems. Also, a digital system only helps, it can’t do the work for you.

Set callbacks

Never end a conversation with a prospect without agreeing on the next step and when it happens. “I will check on you in 3 days” or “I will give you a call on Friday” sounds like a throw-away line but it does two important things. Firstly it gives the prospect a chance to opt-out by declining the call or rescheduling to a point that works better for them. Secondly and perhaps, more importantly, it gives them a kind of deadline. They will likely work towards being ready at the time.

Or give them the option

As we said earlier not all sales processes are the same. If you cannot set the call back then put it in their hands and let them know you’re available to help them with further questions. Sure it may not be effective but it costs you absolutely nothing.

Nurturing your prospects is important as the data presented above suggests. I worked in an organisation that had sales processes that took 3 months on average to close but management had taken no notice of this. It led to frustrated salespeople. Support your desire to nurture with real data to get the best out of it.