I am a genuine, bon-a-fide, card-carrying numbers freak. Not a statistician, but certainly a fanatic bordering on the extreme when it comes to breaking things down to the lowest possible level, or searching for the most common denominator. The word ‘denominator’ literally means the number of parts that comprise the whole, and the whole, certainly means the big picture. In order to effectively visualize the big picture, that means I have to do the math.

To ‘zero’ in on my point: how many leads are enough? “Ah” you say, with a shrewd, all-knowing smile, “that’s a trick question,  because it depends on the quality of those leads, not the quantity.” True. And yet, not true. To examine the question in detail, and using my typically ‘digital’ frame of mind, let us say we are discussing an organization where salespeople handle the complete spectrum, from front-line lead follow-up all the way through to a close. Let’s break it down into the key elements, beginning with quantity.

Here we go, calculators poised.

Part 1 of the equation:

How many phone calls can be handled in one day?

Let us assume these particular reps have been allotted 8 hours a day to originate and receive phone calls, and that is all they are tasked to do. Let us also assume that some of their calls result in meaningful conversations, and some are simply quick hang-ups or voicemail messages. I will pick some less-than-random numbers, remembering that this is all just basic SWAG, but hey, I am really good at it, and we have to start somewhere.

To establish a base-line average, only 3 phone calls an hour result in conversations, and the rest are voicemail and hang-ups. Conversations take an average of 15 minutes, dialing and hang-ups come in at 20 seconds each, and dialing and voicemail messages consume 60 seconds each. There, you can see how quickly it turns into a numbers game, and yes, my sphere of influence.

From this point on, I will make a few more critical assumptions, and skip all the details for the sake of space and time. If you want to know the math lurking behind these numbers, send me an email, and I’ll fill in the gray areas.

The answer?

Each rep can make a total of 22 calls an hour.

So, how many leads are enough?

Based on the answer above, the 22 calls that a rep makes every hour, multiplied times the 8 hours, yields an astonishing 176 leads. That is the total number of leads each rep can handle effectively in a single day. So, theoretically, 176 leads are enough.  Any more than that, and reps cannot get to everyone, leaving vital new prospects untapped, opportunities unrealized, and no numbers entered into the ‘plus’ column.

Part II of the equation:

How effective are the calls?

Just how many leads it is possible to contact in one day is only part of the math, and only a portion of an efficient production formula. It doesn’t even come close to revealing the full story. Ask yourself these fundamental questions, “How many leads ultimately result in an significant conversation? How many conversations ultimately result in a critical opportunity? How many opportunities ultimately result in the essential reality of a closed deal?” If the answer is “zero”, then 176 leads per day, per rep, is nowhere near the mark! If the answer is any ‘prime’ number “above zero”, then ‘doing the math’ will surely determine whether or not you are getting a sufficient return on your lead follow-up investment. The imperative principle underscoring this formula dictates that if you had fewer leads to follow-up with, you would achieve far better results, simply because reps could better prepare and ‘organize’ themselves before each call.

Part III of the equation:

How good are the leads?

In Part I of our example, we determined that it is indeed physically possible to contact 176 leads. Moving on to Part II, we also determined that reps would conceivably have better call outcomes with fewer leads to deal with. In this, Part III of the equation, we will boldly posit that only half as many leads or fewer are needed. The actual percentage will be evaluated based on the all-decisive quality of the leads. It does not require rocket science to understand that making 176 phone calls to ‘leads’ that are unlikely to buy now, or at any time in the future for that matter, just doesn’t add up. In fact, it subtracts from the desired objective.

Take the time to critically and objectively analyze call outcomes. See if there is any correlation or ‘tell-tales’ revealed between the outcome and the specific type of lead. Are you getting more appointments with companies or prospects that meet a certain classification or criteria? Are there any commonalities or characteristics defining those leads with poor or indeterminate outcomes that you can use to better categorize leads in the future?


Despite the overall simplicity found in the equation, there is no easy answer to the question “How many leads is enough.” However, one thing is certainly crystal clear. The question cannot be answered just by determining the number of calls a rep can make in a single day. The other key factors revealed in this grand game of numbers are not only how effectively each call is handled, but whether or not those leads are of a high enough quality or caliber to begin with. After all, the numbers will never lie, and the numbers become useless if they fail to provide a foundation for careful and objective evaluation. And that evaluation, can only be measured by the quality of the results.

Special note: Raw leads without the tools to manage and convert them to opportunities, are of little use. Go sign up now for our $100,000 Sales Software Sweepstakes for a chance to win one year licenses to top sales software for your team. Hurry! Sweepstakes ends March 31st!! www.salessoftwaresweeps.com


About the author

Nancy Nardin

Nancy Nardin is a recognized thought leader on sales technologies and building a sales stack. Smart Selling Tools reviews the latest sales and marketing software across multiple categories, including Inside Sales, Sales Intelligence, Sales Acceleration, Pipeline Management & Deal Flow, and Predictive Sales Analytics. It's been named a Top Sales Blog by HubSpot, and Nancy Nardin has been named alongside Forbes’ top 30 social sales influencers in the world. Follow Nancy on Twitter @sellingtools