Taking the Long View in Sales

Two of the most remarkable mistakes that salespeople (and lots of other people) make are giving up too soon and not having an active patience.

Giving Up Too Soon

So you found your dream client. You nurtured the relationships you needed over time. You created an opportunity. Then, in a shocking turn of events, you lost a competitive contest for the opportunity to serve them. So, what next now that you are number two? You decide to take your loss and move on with your life.

But that is taking too short a view of major account sales. The competition you lost was merely a battle, not the war—unless you act like you lost the war and give up trying.

I have said this here before, but it bears repeating: if the dream client was really your dream client, nothing has changed by our losing a contest, and you must continue pursuing them come Hell or high water. You decide whether you lost the battle or the war by the decisions you take now.

Active Patience and the Long View

Losing a competition for your dream client’s business feels like it is final, especially when you have done everything right and believe that you should have won. People who patiently—and actively—pursue their dream clients over long periods of time eventually create new opportunities.

An active patience is something very different from a passive patience. Waiting patiently and passively isn’t ever enough to win your dream client. Waiting alone isn’t an activity—it is a non-activity (or we would have a metric to track it).

An active patience means that you continually and frequently take action to pursue your dream client, to find a way to be valuable to them, to nurture the relationships you will need later, and to eventually create another opportunity. You have to be there and known when the trigger event that is dissatisfaction makes another round.

Taking the long view means never quitting. It means understanding that a single round of the contest may have been decided, but that you must get up off of your stool and walk across the ring and continue the good fight. The only way to win is to extend the contest and to get busy patiently taking action after action to position yourself to win.

The contest can really only end when you win your dream client. Anything less is giving up too soon.


Make a list of the contests for dream clients that you lost last year. How often have you communicated with them since losing the contest?

Make a list of the dream clients that you have had trouble penetrating? Are you calling and pursuing them seriously enough to call it a real and meaningful effort?

When does the contest for your dream client end? If it ends when they choose your competitor, why would you ever call any anyone? Don’t all of your dream clients already have a relationship with a competitor? Why doesn’t it end when you win your dream client?



  • http://twitter.com/Dragan_S Dragan Stjepanovic

    :-) So what would our college said? The Dip? Don’t ever quit?

    Confused… provocative (sorry).

    I am haveing a feling the answear will start with’z: BUT!? This is not the same…

    • Anonymous

      True, Dragan!

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  • Frank Hays

    Thanks Anthony, your points are accurate indeed. Certainly the biggest problem many sales people have is no time to be patient even actively since they are measured on a quarterly or monthly basis.

    This can be addressed partially by thoughtful business executives executives giving their sales people MBOs or other ways to see the light at the end of the tunnel for taking a longer view. This should include a clear and thoughtful strategy to be defined to win that dream client. Of course, those executives can’t be so focused on the short term either.

    Another way to address is to take advantage of tools like marketing automation. These have be applied with thoughtful strategic campaigns that reduce the time required by a salesperson to help employ some of the active patience touches that are meaningful to keep their solutions in the minds of the prospective target accounts.

    • Anonymous

      So true that we measure short term results and almost never measure the longer term activities that win dream clients.. We should measure we don’t measure!

  • http://twitter.com/VickiFrost VickiFrost

    I must tell you Anthony, I met your sister at a seminar on Brand Personas. She was sitting next to me. I am sorry to say, I’ve forgotten her name. But she mentioned your blog and I decided to follow it. I LOVE reading your blog. I am in marketing, but I have worked closely with sales for many years and I feel you really have hit on many key themes to successful sales. I particularly like this post today. More than once, we have lost a client and the salesperson has moved on when later we found out that they were dissatisfied with the company they went with. What if we had been there waiting in the wings?