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Prospecting: Timing is (Almost) Everything


Prospecting requires discipline — and time. And since there a million demands on our day, routinely blocking out time each week to make those prospecting calls is a great way to stay organized.

Let’s say you make your prospecting calls on Tuesday mornings. Every Tuesday you grab a cup of coffee, fire up your computer and automatically start calling leads. You don’t even have to think about it — your habit keeps you honest.

But how do salespeople decide when to prospect? If you’re like most of us, you decide based on your schedule. But you’d reach a lot more potential buyers if you called based on theirs.

A study from MIT compiled data from thousands of B2B sales calls. By analyzing the data, the researchers wanted to see if they could identify the best time to reach prospects.

Here’s what they found: 4:00pm to 6:00pm is the best time to call to make contact with a lead. Surprising, right? You may think that people are mentally packing it in around 4:00, and often out the door by 5:00. But the research says that this window is the best time to reach your prospects — 114% better than the worst time period (11:00am to 12:00pm).

The beginning of the day was also found to be a good time to reach prospects. 8:00am to 9:00am — again, outside of “normal” business hours — was also effective, with 9:00am to 10:00am rounding out the best times to call.

The study didn’t just look at times of day but days of the week as well. The research found that Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to call leads — almost 50 percent better than the worst day, Tuesday.

As it turns out, if you’re calling prospects midmorning on a Tuesday, you may really want to reconsider your approach.

Of course, the numbers might be very different for your industry or company. So it’s worthwhile to take the time to analyze your own calls over several weeks. Using that data, you can create a personal Time Optimization Plan, or T.O.P., that allows you to identify and make the most of your prime call times.

Time Optimization Plan

To begin your T.O.P., use a tracking spreadsheet (you can download one here). In it, keep track of the day and time, how many dials you make per hour and how many prospects you actually get to speak to. Use your spreadsheet to calculate your contact rate for each hour, like this:

Contacts per hour / Calls per hour = Contact rate

For example, if you made 10 dials in an hour and reached a prospect on two of those calls, your contact rate is 20 percent.

After you track your calls and your contact rate over the course of several weeks, you’ll have a clearer picture of your best times to call.

The T.O.P. isn’t only useful for prospecting. You can also use it to track customer behavior. Say you need one final piece of information from a buyer in order to finalize a deal. By consulting your customer data, you’ll know when you have the best chance to reach them right away, as opposed to leaving a voicemail, playing phone tag and potentially losing a day or two in limbo.

You can also use the spreadsheet to track email correspondence. For example, you may find you get a quicker response to your e-mails when you send them out at after 7 p.m. — probably because your buyers see them in their inbox first thing in the morning. So that’s your optimal time for sending out e-mails.

Once you’ve identified your high-value times for calls and correspondence, protect them as best you can. There are all kinds of demands that intrude on your workday. But there are only a few windows of time where the likelihood of reaching your prospects is at its peak. Try to stay completely focused during those times. No e-mail. No office conversations. No coffee breaks. You should even ask to reschedule a meeting if it falls during these time periods.

Bottom line: Not all selling time is created equal. Know your optimal call times. Look for patterns in your prospecting efforts. Think about prospects’ and customers’ availability.

Your prime times are a scarce commodity. You’ll sell more by making the most of them.

About the Author:

Michael Boyette is the Executive Editor of Rapid Learning Institute. You can connect with him via Twitter at @TopSalesDog or read his sales blog, the Top Sales Dog.

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