by Tom Reilly
Persistence is a virtue; so is prudence. Winners never quit and quitters never win, right? Persistence is important, but how much persistence is too much?
You can be persistent without being a pest. Seventy-five percent of salespeople quit on the first “No.” Another 5% quit on “No” number two. The goal is not to hear three “No’s,” but why quit when you face resistance?
A purchasing agent once clarified for a group of salespeople the difference between pushy and persistent. He said, “If you press for an order after I say ‘No’ because you need to sell something today, you’re pushy!” “If you press for a commitment when I say ‘No’ because I really need and should buy your solution, you’re persistent.” It has everything to do with your motivation. Are you persisting for the customer’s benefit or pushing for your benefit?
Prudence is your knowing when to walk away from a piece of business. Too many salespeople persist ad infinitum because they don’t know how or when to walk away. They call on a buyer too many times because they have convinced themselves that one more call will do it. These salespeople have become prisoners-of-hope (P-H).
The time you waste calling on P-H accounts is time you could have spent pursuing more viable business opportunities. The P-H point varies by industry and type of sale, but in your gut, you know when a buyer is stringing you along. When you reach the P-H point, change strategies. Change call frequency and follow up by phone or email. When a viable opportunity with this buyer surfaces, you are still in the loop but have not wasted your sales time calling endlessly to reach this point.
Successful salespeople persist. The most successful salespeople persist prudently.