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Today’s story features the seemingly simple direct-dial phone number. And I’m here to tell you, there’s a lot more to this piece of contact information than meets the eye.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Well, this story starts when I had a great opportunity at a young age to work for a third-generation entrepreneur who taught me the way to really sell business to business over the phone.

This was pre-technology stack. This was before AI. It was as simple as: “bang the phones, get the decision makers, sell the deals”.

One of the first things that he taught my team was the distinction between a direct phone number and a general business line or phone tree. “You definitely wanna have the direct-dial phone number!” he said. And so we were trained to find direct dial numbers for every prospect on our call list.

Well, our team had a lot of success – so much so that the founder was able to sell the business to investor partners. And the first order of business was to scale up the size of the team. So we went from a sales team of 15 people in a call boutique to 45 people – more of an inside sales body shop.

And at level of rapid growth, we started to lose our edge. With so many new people, we weren’t really good at doing the research to find those direct numbers anymore. It was no longer a competitive advantage.

A lot of people don’t dig very deep into the possibilities of direct contact information – but in today’s whiteboard session, you’ll see the real impact on your sales team.

So I learned firsthand what it was like to have direct-dial phone numbers … and quickly learned what it was like to not have them. And I’m here to tell you, as the leader of that sales team at the time, when our access to direct dial phone numbers diminished, so did our sales numbers.

With this in mind, let’s break it down.

Video from DiscoverOrg, which acquired ZoomInfo in 2019.

1. Direct-Dial Phone Numbers Save Time

Duh, right?

We did a little math: You’re likely to make 4-6 times as many connections when you’re working with direct-dial phone numbers than without. If I’m on the phone for an hour, that’s the difference between getting 3 connections and conversations in an hour, and getting 12 connections or more.

Sales efficiency is an obvious benefit … but underneath the surface, there are other implications.

A world where your sales team doesn’t have direct phone numbers is a world where your sales reps will find a thousand things to do other than pick up the phone.

Lack of Direct Phone Numbers Causes Call Reluctance

“Well, I just have to do a little bit more research. I just have to do a little bit more searching. I’m gonna find that phone number.”

Next thing you know, phone calls aren’t made and selling doesn’t happen. Because underneath the surface, lacking access to direct phone numbers is an invitation towards call reluctance. We learned that firsthand.

Call reluctance dresses itself up in many ways: When somebody doesn’t have the data they need to get into their target accounts, next thing you know mind starts telling itself a story about the many other things they could be doing.

And you have a silent sales floor.

Quote about direct-dial phone numbers: "I'm here to tell you, as the leader of the sales team, when the ability to procure and utilize direct dial phone numbers diminished, so did our sales numbers."

2. Empower the Sales Team to Target Higher-Level Decision Makers

I think that every salesperson out there would prefer talking to decision makers all day long.

Decision makers are the folks who have purchasing power, who can actually sign the check – or who can ultimately say yes to bring a new solution onboard.

Sure, we’d all like to sell that way. But when you don’t have a direct phone number, you’re left with a tough choice: “I have to just talk to whomever I can talk to.”

You’re fooling yourself if you think the receptionist on the main business line is going to transfer you through to a VP or high-level decision-maker. They’re hard enough to reach when you actually do have their direct-dial phone number. Without it – you don’t stand a chance.

But the opposite is also true.

When a team knows that they have direct access to high-level contacts who can actually sign the check … Well, all of a sudden, picking up the phone is a lot more attractive.

3. Direct-Dial Phone Numbers Motivate Your Sales Team

This leads me to the motivational aspect. Direct-dial phone numbers go right to the heart of a sales team’s psyche, both individually and at the team level.

In my first story, I went from having direct dials, to not having access to them. And finally, we got access to those phone numbers again – my first encounter with DiscoverOrg – so I was able to see both sides of this sales experience. (Note: DiscoverOrg acquired ZoomInfo in 2019.)

When we got those direct phone numbers, something magical happened on our sales floor.

You could see everyone’s competitive spirit came alive again! Next thing you know, guys and gals couldn’t get to work quickly enough. They were ready to get on the phones.

They were ready to run through walls because they believed in the data, and they saw their way to a bigger commission check, and everything that went along with it in their lives.

Just like with an iceberg, there’s more to direct-dial phone numbers than meets the eye:

  1. It’s not just a matter of saving your team a lot of time and wasted energy; this data also prevents call reluctance.
  2. You also empower your team by helping them engage with decision makers; and moreover, that EVERY sales cycle starts with decision makers.
  3. Direct access motivates your team to aim higher and hustle harder – boosting the bottom line for everyone.
Quote about direct-dial phone numbers: "When your team has the very best and direct access to contacts that they're trying to engage with, that's empowering."

I hope you enjoyed this whiteboard session! Please comment if you have anything to add about direct-dial phone numbers. And if you found this information valuable, please subscribe to our YouTube channel to learn more! 

But don’t leave just yet! Read on for some bonus information about direct dials that is sure to help you improve your sales strategy.

BONUS: How Connect Rate Affects Sales Productivity

To understand the importance of direct dials, you must understand connect rate. Connect rate is the average number of calls a sales rep makes to get a prospect on the phone. The average connect rate is 18 calls to one connection (source).

Let’s use a fictional scenario to illustrate the importance of connect rate. Pretend you manage a sales team of 25 reps, who each make 52 calls per day (the industry average: source). Operating under the assumption that your team works 250 days per year, what would happen if you could improve your connect rate by just one call?

Calls to Connect RateConversations Per YearIncrease in conversations per year from industry average
18 to 118,055.56Industry Average
17 to 119,117.651,062.09
16 to 120,312.502,256.94
15 to 121,666.673,611.11
14 to 123,214.295,158.73

The numbers here don’t lie. Simply decreasing your call to connect rate by just one call will yield 1,063 more conversations with prospects.

Connect rate and your sales funnel

To see how an improved connect rate translates into closing more business, let’s go back to our fictional scenario. Let’s pretend your 25 person sales team produces an average order size of $10,000. Using average sales productivity metrics, we will create a sales funnel to see how an improved connect rate can increase revenue.

Aside from the industry average of 52 sales calls a day, here are some other industry averages we can leverage to complete our funnel:

  • Average connections to schedule a meeting: It takes 18 calls to get on the phone with a prospect; the percentage of these live sales conversations that result in a meeting is 23%, or about 4 connections (source).
  • Average meetings per created opportunity: 38% of meetings (about every three) lead to a sales opportunity (source).
  • Average close rate: The average close/won ratio for qualified sales opportunities is 27%(source).

With everything else being equal, here’s how significant the downstream improvement is to each of these KPIs by improving connect rate by just one call:

Connect to Call RatioConversationsMeetings scheduledOpportunities createdRevenue
18 to 118,055.564,513.891,489.58$4,021,875.00
17 to 119,117.654,779.411,577.21$4,258,455.88

Obviously, these metrics vary from company to company. Your close rate may float around 50%. If you can improve the rate at which you get prospects on the phone, you’ll see a big impact to your bottom line.

Final thoughts about direct dials and sales productivity

Sales productivity is a combination of effectiveness and efficiency. Access to direct dials will not make your sales team better at pitching value propositions or digging for pain points. But, direct dial phone numbers will drive efficiency and improve your connect rate.

Does your sales team struggle to connect with decision makers? Contact ZoomInfo today to access the world’s most comprehensive database of complete, accurate contact and company information. 

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is the Director of Marketing at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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B2B marketing, growth, sales and more.


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