We believe persistence is a critical contributor to success. In fact, Calvin Coolidge once said:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
In sales you win business by consistently working hard towards a sale in spite of obstacles and by refusing to give up. Try fail, learn, try again, succeed. If you are targeting a prospect, who doesn’t return your call, you don’t give up after calling twice. You keep trying until you catch them. If the prospect doesn’t need what you are selling right now, you try again later to see if the prospect’s needs have changed in your favour.
When does persistence become an obstacle to sales success?
- When you annoy your prospect
- When you ignore your prospect’s wishes
- When you appear to be dumb
- When you appear to be desperate
For example, if you are trying to contact a prospect to make an offer, you can`t simply call them twice a day every day until they return your call. This is not persistence. This is annoying (-if you have ever been on the receiving end of repeated voice messages and calls from a sales person with the same pitch, you know what I mean). And if the ask you not to call them anymore, you have to respect their wishes.
You have to appreciate how the person at the other end feels about your persistence.
We can speak from experience. At Peak we receive hundreds of pitches from sales people interested in the positions we are filling on behalf of our customers. Many of the sales professionals that approach us are confident and clever. Unfortunately some people simply send us their resume with no cover letter or message. One would-be candidate, in particular, has become well known (infamous) inside our company for sending their resume along with a blank message 50 or 60 times over the last couple of years. One day I was both curious to see who does this and wondered if I could help them improve their chances, so I picked up the phone to see if I could offer the candidate some coaching on finding the right right position – he was oblivious to the fact that the spam approach to marketing himself was hurting his chances, or that he needn`t continue to submit his resume as we have it already (60 times). He ignored my advice and, to this day, continues to submit his resume to us in exactly the same manner as before. If he sells the same way he tries to find a job, it is no wonder he is constantly seeking employment.
Can you imagine being targeted by a sales person who left you 50-60 messages saying “buy from me”?? You would assume the person has a lot of extra time on their hands (ergo, is not busy making money), they lack creativity and they are wasting your time by cluttering your voice mail. If they still called after you asked them not to, you would assume they are either very poor listeners or they have no respect for you. You would never buy from them.
How to make it work:
Most prospects won’t mind numerous calls from a sales person over a period of time and may even appreciate your persistence, however repeated calling will elicit a positive response, only if you are creative as well as persistent. If you do your homework on your target, try different messages and leverage different tactics that might garner interest, you will eventually get the target’s attention or perhaps catch them at the time when they are ready to give you a shot.
Update: Seth Godin gets to the essence of this issue in this recent two-line post.
Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner.
He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.
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