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Cold Call King

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Cold Call King

When I first started out in the computer industry, (40 years ago!) I was given a sales quota along with a base salary and commissions based on hitting my targets. The plan was simple enough. We were paid a commission which was equal to 5% of the revenue we generated. It didn’t matter if the revenue came from software or hardware sales or if they came from existing accounts or new logos. I didn’t have to worry about existing accounts, because as a new hire right out of university, I wasn’t afforded any current clients. Presumably, it was assumed I would just mess them up.

My quota stood at a respectable $150,000, a significant target to achieve during those times. I was a new hire along with 35 other recruits. I have lots of fond memories of those early days. Along with the social camaraderie and life-long friendships, trying to be the first to ransack a departing colleague’s desk and filing cabinet for a better staple-remover or pens and markers. While we all had different backgrounds and skills, we all had the same objective which was to sell enough to not get fired and to meet or exceed quota.

With some primitive sales training, a very long list of company names with addresses, we were all let loose. But we really weren’t given much guidance on how to find and close customers. We were selling hardware and software solutions to small manufacturers and distributors. Cold calls were done in person by driving to their office and asking for the person in charge. Introductory phone calls were not done, and the internet and email weren’t invented yet.

But I did learn from senior reps that you needed on average four client proposals to land a sale. And with the average sale being about $75,000, I needed two to make my quota. So, I worked backwards from there. I learned that to get one proposal, I needed two product demos, and for each demo I needed three qualified prospects, and to get one decent prospect, I needed to have eight meetings and to get one meeting, I needed to make six cold calls.

Activity Number needed for each Totals needed
Sale 2 2
Proposals 4 8
Product demo 2 16
Qualified Prospect 2 32
Meetings 6 192
Cold calls (in person) 6 1,152


That required 1,152 in person cold calls if I were to make my quota. And not get fired. Obviously, outside influences could change this, but I try not to worry about what I can’t control. But this required real dedication as I could only knock on about 12 client doors per day as they were dispersed throughout the city. And I still had to manage my other activities such as product demos, proposal writing and so on.

Just as in business, it was important for me to monitor my quota sales achievement, but it was far more critical that I focused on and tracked the activities I assigned to myself. My assumption was that if I did the little things, I would reach my goal. So, every month, I made sure I didn’t fall behind on the cold calls, and with this discipline I was able to get the meetings, prospects, demos, proposals and sales I needed! I was one of very few to make quota and management nicknamed me Cold Call King because I made many more cold calls than anyone else.

Perhaps it’s more than coincidental that so many years later, I’m still advocating the same thing. You must identify and do the critical activities that align with your overall goal. It’s important to measure how we are doing against the goal, but don’t just measure that and ignore what got you there. From my example, everything is driven by the success or failure of making the requisite cold calls. If they don’t get done, you don’t get the meetings and not the prospects and so on.

KPI Karta

Likewise, KPI Karta is a framework for identifying the necessary activities to do. Building Kartas, which are hierarchical maps to identify important metrics to track is an iterative process of adding layers of increasing detail to describe the decision-making process. If an organization already has KPIs they are following, a Karta can be built to support them. It will help justify why certain activities are important. But whether KPIs are already known or need to be discovered, we always start with the Goal and build the Karta from there. 40 years ago, my goal was to reach my quota, and the activities required was primarily to make a specific number of cold calls.

Let me know what questions you have.

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