The Fallacy Of Sales Being A Numbers Game

by Paul Castain on January 1, 2013

I truly believe that the old adage of “sales is a numbers game” to be misleading and in some cases outdated.

Do you really believe that doing more of something will get you better results?

Think again!

More often than not, we’re doing more of the things that aren’t working.

More often than not we get caught up in some “persistence” thing or our inner competitor takes over and so does “smiling and dialing”

Now that I own a business, I’m on the receiving end of way too many of those types of calls.

They don’t reach me so they just keep calling me, and calling me and calling me while never (as in not even once) changing their tactics or even (God forbid) trying another venue other than the phone.

As a result, they condition me to let their call go to voicemail where I initially ignore it and ultimately delete it.

But they still keep calling, with the same message, over and over again.

Don’t even get me started about the obvious absence of pre call planning. Actually, let’s go there . . .

I’ve got to be one of the easiest dudes on the planet to Google. In 5 minutes, you could get a basic idea of what I do, how I do it, and if you wanted to spend a few more minutes, you could get inside my head by reading my blog,  stopping by my Linkedin group and my Facebook Fan Page.

I’m not exactly the invisible sales trainer! (especially after all the holiday eating I just did) :)

So what am I saying?

I’m saying that less might be more if it leads to a higher quality effort!

A higher quality effort is one where you actually did some research,  mapped your communication on both the messaging side and the inclusion of a good, healthy sales mix.

Why don’t more people embrace this approach?

1)    Because they never adapted.

2)    Because their sales manager thinks anything other than picking up a phone is lazy. Note: I’d really like to see this limiting belief change in 2013!

3)    Researching and planning calls is a pain in the ass and takes too much time. After all, you could make a ton of calls in the time it takes you to do this!

4)    They’ve gotten some results from MMC (making mucho calls)

5)    They simply don’t know how to do anything other than make a sh*t load of calls.

6)    They used the “working smarter” thing as an excuse to never pick up a phone. Kind of like the person who’s always preparing to prepare and meanwhile does a whole lotta nothing! For whatever reason they concluded this didn’t work (or their boss did it for them) when then didn’t get the results.

Do you really believe that sales is a numbers game?

I’ve ranted enough for one post but meanwhile, I do believe . . .

It’s your turn . . .

What are your thoughts with regard to the prospecting falling under the “it’s a numbers game thing”?

Are you a more calls, less targeted sales professional or a less calls, more targeted sales professional?

Please share your thoughts!

FYI . . .

Our next online sales course begins January 30th and we’ll be dedicating 3 sessions to how you can hunt business more effectively. Click here for details!

  • Stephen Lahey

    For people new to selling, mastering the basics is a numbers game (repetition is key to developing new skills). But once they’ve done that, using those skills in a smart, flexible way is key. I totally agree that “less might be more if it leads to a higher quality effort!” Great post, Paul.

  • Chris Ryan

    Paul, good post to start the new year. Sales is both a game of quantity and quality. The reps you describe are devoted to quantity but don’t understand the art of careful target prospecting. Others practice what you describe in point 6 – they spend all their time planning while failing to aggressively execute on the plan. The best sales professionals I know do some pre-planning but don’t get paralyzed by the process.



  • paulcastain

    Thank you!

  • paulcastain

    Thank you Stephen!

  • paulcastain

    I agree Chris. Working smarter is key but how cool would it be if we could get lots of these types of calls in?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Marc Zazeela

    Paul – Nothing is absolute, nothing is black and white; least of all sales. Like Chris Ryan said it is a mix.

    Certainly, you won’t make many sales if you don’t make the calls, but making lots of calls does not guarantee success if they are poorly planned.


  • paulcastain

    Thanks Marc!

  • Steve Martile

    Hey Paul… great message here especially with the beginning of a new year… instead of working harder (I believe that’s the limiting belief you’re referring to) …we can work smarter and produce better results. In other words, less = more.. but again it comes to being smart about the approach – I’d even say it’s about becoming more empathetic for others… to really care about them instead of looking at each lead as another number… I love it!


    P.S. I just recently joined your group on Linkedin… Love the discussions in there. Thanks so much for setting it up!

  • Len Lawrence

    As always Paul, you clear up the mysteries of marketing with common sense. Keep up the good work and continue to be vocal about what you believe.

  • paulcastain

    Thank you Len . . . I really appreciate you taking the time to stop by and say that.
    YOU are appreciated!

    Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy new year!

    Cheers Len!

  • Dave A

    Sales IS a numbers game, as in making your dollar numbers. HOW a salesperson does that is not as important (as long as it is legal) as long as he/she does it. If you use a wee gee board and it gets you to make your numbers, then who can really argue??? Only a fool!

    “Working smarter” IS doing the back work. A lead is golden. A lead is someone who has already expressed interest. Knowing something of your customer and their needs or processes helps you sound aware of them as a customer and a business. Someone who cold calls me and knows nothing of me, my business or what I do (I hate those calls) means they have not targeted their product or message. They are not concerned about me and my needs, only there’s to make their numbers. So why should I give them the time of day!

    If you get lucky with a shot gun approach, congrats on that. Go to the track or bet lottery numbers. Bet enough and eventually you will win. Isn’t that a “game of numbers”. Research the horses and you increase your chances of picking the right one. What horse will you back???


    Dave A

  • Bart William Zink

    In the past, I have worked for companies that stress the “numbers game” and push you to make as many calls as humanly possible. I did make good sales figures because I had a varied approach to calling. My approach was never “canned” and was generally different on each call. After being in sales for many years, I have developed a “work smarter” approach and spend more time researching my prospect thus improving the quality of contacts I am making. As sales have changed over the years, I now utilize a much more diverse approach by using a mix of direct mail, email and telephone sales. My customers and prospects prefer to work by email more now than ever before. Most websites usually have an email address for the decision maker or someone very close to them. It is very difficult to get thru to the decision maker by telephone but find that they are more willing to respond by email because it is slightly more impersonal and more time effective for them than talking to a salesperson on the phone. I believe that the popularity of email has made it easier to make contact with prospective customers. Thank you for starting this discussion Paul. It has great relevance to how sales are viewed differently today.

  • Joanne

    I feel it’s a “needs” game. I can all 100 prospects, but if they don’t need me or my services I’ve wasted time. However, as you said Paul, if I spend the time on learning what this company/customer does while making only 25 calls I will have a better chance of bringing on a new account with recurring business.

Previous post:

Next post: