A Short Story on the Power of Persistence

A Childlike Determination

Too many salespeople believe that persistence means putting their dream client on a quarterly call list. That isn’t persistence. It isn’t enough to be meaningful, and it is too easily ignored.

Persistence is a lot closer to a child asking for candy; they keep asking until they wear you down, completely unimpressed and unmoved by your objections. It isn’t simply that a child doesn’t give up; it is also the frequency with which they make their request.

As Relentless as the Rain

In the early 90’s, long before there was any real sales force automation for small companies or individuals, the great Harvey Mackay released a software package called Sharkware. I loaded it on a big, old, heavy laptop, recognizing the value of being able to systematically keep my prospect and client records. It had the Mackay 66 (requires registration) questions built in, but I mostly used the software to track my calls to prospects, ensuring that I maintained a great consistency calling my dream clients.

One dream client that I was calling on was a relatively small telecommunications company. I had the right contact name, and he was absolutely in charge of making the purchasing decision on buying the service that I sold. One day I called the contact, and after weeks of trying he answered his telephone.  He said: “Listen, you must have called me twenty five times now. Haven’t you?”

I looked at my Sharkware screen, and reported the real number: “Actually, this week makes 76 weeks in a row that I have either called you or visited your site.” He said: “Really? Seventy-six weeks, huh? Well your persistence has finally paid off. I have a problem and I need some help.” I literally packed up and left to meet the client that afternoon. And, as you might suspect, I came back to the office with his business.

Sometimes Timing Is Everything

What if I hadn’t called that day? What if another salesperson from another company would have called while my dream client was experiencing the dissatisfaction that caused him to change? Although I had left my number and mailed and dropped off business cards, he wasn’t then picking up the phone to call me. Sometimes it is simply persistence and determination that opens the doors to opportunities . . . but only if you persistently keep calling.

What I Learned

Your Dream Clients Are Keeping Score: They don’t respond. It is unlikely that you will get a call back simply because you left a message (I know, it was a great message!). But subconsciously, your dream clients are keeping score. They remember who calls and how often. And they know that most of the salespeople that call them, if ignored long enough, will simply give up and go away.

And, in most cases, they underestimate how often you call!

Consistency Counts: You have to have something valuable and compelling to say when you get your dream client on the telephone. You also have to demonstrate that you believe what it is you are saying. If you feel strongly that you can make a difference for your dream client and their business, and you call once each quarter, your not all that resolved, now are you? The lack of urgency and the lack of consistency ensure the client that you aren’t determined and that your message is one that can easily be ignored.

Conclusion

Persistence and determination are essential attributes for success in any endeavor, especially sales. But too often salespeople believe that persistence and determination are the result of quarterly calls. Being persistent requires the grit and determination to make the calls, and to make them with a frequency that is meaningful enough to be effective.

Questions

  1. Is a quarterly call really a demonstration of your persistence?

  2. What do infrequent calls tell your dream clients about you?

  3. Are infrequent calls really more the result of not believing strongly enough that you have something worth listening to and an idea that will make a difference for your client?

  4. Do your dream clients know who you are and that you truly believe you have something worth their time—even if they haven’t given you an appointment? When they keep score, is your name on their scorecard?


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