I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my successes and failures in sales. I’ve come to the realization that in many cases it was my salesmanship that won deals. I’m not sure exactly what percentage of deals were won by my salesmanship alone, but just like my losses, I was responsible for some percentage of the wins.
I’ve also won deals by being particularly lucky as it pertains to timing. I just happened to show up at the exact moment my prospective client needed something, and capturing the opportunity was more a result of being able to say yes to what they needed than my salesmanship. A win is a win, but luck plays a larger part in success than most imagine—and more than some will admit.
But then there’s another class of wins that are also outside of sales skills and business acumen or some other aspect of good salesmanship. This category is made up of won deals that were, more than any other factor, almost exclusively won on persistence.
Keep Trying Until You Win
I literally called one prospective client every week for 75 weeks in a row. I had no great insight to share, and very little outside of my service that would have allowed me to create value for the prospective client. It was just pure, deliberate, intentional persistence that caused me to dial the 76th time and reach my main contact at his desk. Had I not kept calling, I would not have won the business.
I called on one client for seven years. Thankfully, having matured a little, I did not call the contact every week over those seven years. I called her regularly, and she always rejected my request for a meeting. Then I would go away for a while, giving it a pause for a month or so before trying again. At some point about seven years in, the contact who had kept me out took a new job. Within two weeks of her leaving, I had the client’s business.
Salesmanship may have played a small part in winning the business, but when I showed up, the client had a great need, and I was there to solve it. Had I not persisted, I would not have been given the opportunity that resulted in $2 million worth of sales over the following year.
Your Dream Clients Require Persistence
Persistence is an underappreciated attribute when it comes to sales. Too many people suffer from “recency bias,” meaning they believe that a newer lead is better than an older lead—and infinitely better than a cold target with a contract with one of your competitors. Instead of persisting, most salespeople go away in search of something easier than breaking into their dream client’s account.
Because these salespeople go away, they are not known to the client, nor do they consider them value creators. Because these reps lack persistence, they haven’t nurtured the relationships that would have positioned them for an opportunity when events dictate their dream client do something different.
The character traits and attributes of successful people don’t change over time, regardless of the constant, accelerating disruptive change occurring all around you. Persistence, or determination, is an attribute that successful people have shared throughout all of human history.
The ability to continue to pursue a goal or an outcome even when it is difficult, and even when it is going to take time and energy, is a critical component of success. This is especially true in sales, where clients judge the seriousness of your attempt by your persistence over time and where giving up and going away is proof positive that you are not committed to your goal.
If you give up and go away because things are difficult, what kind of partner are you going to make?