The person asked the question I have been asked dozens of times before. The question he asked was, “When do you give up on a prospect? When do you cut your losses and move on?”
Whenever someone asks me this question, I am reminded of two stories. The first story is from the great Harvey MacKay from Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, where an experienced veteran responds to that same question with, “They die, or you die.” That statement takes persistence to another level, doesn’t it?
The second story is my own. I called on a client for seven years. To be fair, it wasn’t any client, it was my dream client, and they spent $2,000,000 a year in my category. More still, I was absolutely positive I could help them get better results. But, as luck would have it, the decision-maker had a deep relationship with a competitor, and she wouldn’t give me the time of day.
I called her over and over, without ever getting further than “No,” “We’re all set,” or “Thanks so much,” before she hung up on me. One day I called, expecting to hear another “no” to yet another request for a meeting, only to find out she had left to take a new role at another company. Within two weeks I had a contract with my dream client.
Here is how I thought about what I was doing. I was prospecting anyway, so why wouldn’t I call on the biggest, best prospects in my territory? What would I spend my time pursuing smaller prospects with small problems and small needs when I could help big clients with big problems and make a bigger difference? It couldn’t hurt me to pursue my dream clients while I was prospecting, but it could hurt me to give up and go away, only to later find out that something changed that might have allowed me to create an opportunity.
If you decide to frame a “no” as rejection, well then you have never really been personally rejected (you would know that a “no” from a client is rather neutral, not personal). But if you believe instead that it is simply feedback that your timing is off, you aren’t trading enough value, or that the client has other, more pressing priorities, you will persist, trying again and again, knowing that your time will come.