Persistence: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
I have to believe that persistence might be one of the attributes of top sales performers that won’t be questioned on this list. It’s real simple. You must have the ability to push conversations and stay on top of people to be successful because when working with humans there are a lot of commonalities that take place no matter which type of potential clients you are working with.
I could mention a ton fo them but will settle on a few of the major ones:
When They Say “No” Right Away:
This one took me a little while longer to figure out but when you understand the human psyche it actually makes perfect sense. People have been sold to in every which way throughout their lives so unless they are 100% actively searching for exactly what you say you offer then sometimes the early “no” or “not interested” is a reflex reaction that they don’t want to be bothered right now for a numerous amount of reasons you may not know about. This is where having persistence coupled with the fact that you believe you can really help the client based on the information you have can come in handy.
I had this situation come up on many occasions and one, in particular, was back in 2015 when I received a message back from an email that the person was not interested in what I was offering. Fair enough but I had some notes from conversations with this company in the past and really felt that we could help them make a difference with their business. I wrote a very professionally persistent email back explaining why a meeting for 30-minutes would be well worth his time and explained what I thought we could discuss. Long story short, he replied back and took the meeting and two months later they came in as a partner of ours. It was a great fit for their needs at the time and was a great partner and “logo” for our growing company. It turned out to be a win-win all around.
When They Say “Call Me Back In 6 Months”:
This type of conversation happens all the time and is very understandable if you are in the shoes of the potential client. This particular problem you solve is not a top priority at this time and they tell you to contact them back in 6 months or so. Happens a lot, right? Partly, this comes down to good documentation and organization of your accounts but it also mixes nice with a little persistence. Sure, you can wait 6 months and nobody would fault you for it. In fact, you’d be doing better than most sales reps who never call them back at all. However, if you know this should be a higher priority for them based on knowing their business then make a point to reach out 2-3 times over the next 6 months. Not to “check-in” but add them tremendous value. This could be an invite to a webinar that’d fit well for their business case, asking if they are attending a conference in their area, or anything similar to this. It shouldn’t resemble anything other than purely caring for them to improve and trying to help how you can. The reason this approach is helpful is most likely even though the problem you solve is not a high priority it still may be talked about internally and you should be seen as an advisor in their eyes, which makes it fitting on why you would be sending over additional information.
The Potential Client “Ghosts” You:
This should never happen if you have built a trusting relationship early on centered around respect and candor. However, in the case this does happen, use patience to first assess the situation and come up with the various scenarios as to why you haven’t heard from them. After that, persistence tempered by patience will be the winning formula.
You don’t need to “check-in” regularly
You don’t need to say “Hope you’re okay, haven’t heard from you”
You don’t need to tell them you’ve left several emails/voicemails and are following up.
They received them. They aren’t returning them for several reasons:
There is no new news
The timeline has been pushed back
They are swamped with other pressing matters at the moment
They are having some personal life challenges
And so on…
I tend to lean toward the side of logic in most cases and it’s probably that they are really busy with their actual day job that they get paid to perform at or they have had some challenging personal life things come up. Either way, if you come off as a pest from too many follow-ups you will seem desperate and that will lower your stock value. Continue to provide value in the ways we mentioned above but instead of every other month maybe it’s every couple of weeks especially given the timeline you might be aware of from past discussions. Keep them conversational and continue to back up the points you’ve agreed upon are important for them. Remember, if someone wants to buy something they will. If they don’t, they won’t. The need to remind them you’re there doesn’t help your case at all and can only put you in a worse position once you do get back in touch with them.
There are so many facets to persistence in personal and professional life and I firmly believe that continuing to push through when the times feel tough because you believe in what you are doing will end up paying huge dividends in the future by strengthening your relationships and adding new partners to the mix that didn’t seem possible before.
You don’t need me to tell you this but this is a TON of information out there on the sales profession and a million different opinions on what you should do and how you should do it. From prospecting new clients to navigating the sales cycle, to follow-ups and referrals, it’s borderline exhausting. It’s a big topic, I get it. But it can also be confusing for a lot of the new people that are trying to sell products whether you are “carrying your own bag” for an organization, are running your own business, or are pitching investors and gaining proof-of-concept in a start-up. I think there is an easier way.
I want to strip that all away for a moment and focus on the key characteristics that I feel are essential across the board for any sales professional to succeed. I’ve seen it first hand and it’s not complicated. It’s just logical and takes time to refine and sharpen. However, if you put the time into each and every one of these I am confident that you’ll be able to reach new heights in your career and start to understand the relationship element that is so vital in any partnership.
We are in a new era of sales with much more information out there for the buyer, and frankly, a much savvier buyer which I love. The reason I love it is because human interaction and relationships matter again. Honesty matters. Integrity matters. Respect matters.
I don’t think these things ever went away but a lot of software products were ahead of their time before the client could actually form an opinion and do thorough due diligence. Now, with much more information at their fingertips and the curve from innovators moving to the early and late majority there is more of a level playing field and buyers are back in control.
Times are changing and I feel this new age of sales is going to weed out a lot of those sales professionals that stick with the old way of doing it and fail to make the shift. You are going to have to have true empathy, you are going to actually put the client first, you are going to be professional and brutally honest in your responses when you can do something and when you can’t.
I think the hardest part about sales is all of the BS and bad habits people have learned for years that they try to wedge, fit, or shimmy into an already broken process. They drive to regurgitate what they learned in a book 10 years ago. It doesn’t work that way anymore. People are too smart. That all changes today.
I don’t have all the answers, far from it, but what I do feel I have uncovered is a clear path that new and old sales professionals alike can be cognizant of and continue to build on as they develop their “in-game’ skills. These are not tricks and tactics but the characteristics that will be paramount to future success. None of these should be a surprise but I hope they make you think a bit more about how you project yourself in your business dealings and where you can find areas to improve.
Here are the main areas I am going to focus on:
Over the next 8-part series I’ll break into each of these areas, share some personal stories, and hopefully get you to focus inward on self-awareness and how we can improve in all of these areas. Like a video game, we all have different levels of each of these, and some rank higher in certain areas than others. I expect you to be strong in some and weak in others. What is important is that we know we can improve in all of these areas and my goal is to get you to think differently about each and every one of these and how it applies toward working through partnerships in your sales career going forward.
I believe anyone that ever wants to accomplish great things has a “chip on their shoulder”. I don’t see how you can’t in such a competitive world we live in. We all get slighted or past over from time to time and that should motivate anyone I would think. It definitely motivates me.
I was thinking about this recently while watching the wonderful docuseries on ESPN called “The Last Dance” chronicling the Chicago Bulls Dynasty with a focus on Michael Jordan and their 6th and final championship in that historic run.
There are many instances where we see Michael Jordan use his surroundings to fuel him when needed whether a news story, a player from the other team or his own team. He found ways to keep motivating himself to push forward. I believe in a way we all do this and we may not readily admit it but I think it can be extremely beneficial to our future growth. As long as it not used in any malicious or hurtful way, I think having it inside us to pull out when needed is vital.
I was thinking about this personally as it relates to growing my Podcast or personal brand. Very few people know who I am and what my mission is in life and fewer than that actually care. That’s fine with me now but there was a time when I was insecure and needed the attention.
That dates back to my childhood and many of the struggles I went through in my family life and upbringing with the feeling I was never good enough or could never feel included in almost anything. That took a long time to overcome (still working on it in some ways!) and it was important for me to get attention, any attention, in order to feel I had self-worth.
And that’s where I’ve used the “chip on the shoulder” mentality to help me. I use that fuel from all of the years of being slighted, or laughed at, or not thought of as worthy of anything. It drives me to want to produce a better Podcast, or write better books, or continue to share my story.
I’m not sure what your past was like or the moments in time you felt less of a person or were treated as such but don’t let those moments die off into a distant memory. Although sometimes difficult, with the right mindset you can use those moments to refuel yourself and keep adding logs to the fire when you find your motivation wavering. I have certain memories cornered away in my mind to use when needed and it’s made a big difference. There was a lot of pain I had to overcome from earlier in life and proving myself over and over again is just something that drives me.
We are often told to let go of the past and move on but unless you grew up with a silver spoon in your mouth and never had problems then I think those painful lessons you experienced should go to good use and become the “chip on the shoulder” material that you can use to reshape your mind and grow to new heights.
I’m not sure what you want to do in life but just know you can do great things, you truly can, with the right mindset and perspective on the world. Keep driving toward your mission and the impact you want to have on this world and I hope you continue to stay obsessed with changing the world in a more positive way.
I had a serendipitous conversation today that activated something in my brain which reflected on my time in high school woodworking. Yes, I took woodshop in high school and loved it.
I certainly wasn’t the best at measuring and cutting but I created some cool things. A Poker table with a beautiful Formica top. A breakfast chair that I believe my Dad still has in his house. I also made a Chalace with the lathe machine (it’s a machine where you secure a piece of wood and it spins very fast and you can chip away or sand down the object). I still have that Chalace somewhere, too.
And that’s what got me thinking about this call today.
I want to have all the answers to the puzzle from day one. I want to know the direction and the destination. I like having the “knowns” of the situation. It helps me.
But it’s not realistic.
Everyone reading this now is doing something very different today then they were doing 10-years ago. A different city, a different family situation, a different career/title, etc. We don’t have the playbook.
Life is like a game of backyard football, we mostly just improvise on the fly.
So that what got me thinking about my Chalace and the lathe machine back in high school woodshop. I had an idea of what I wanted but as I started to widdle the wood down it started to take a different form. Some spots I had to shave more than expected. Others were a bit harder and laborious. Sanding took way longer than expected.
I focused on the journey and experience of the process and had a “sort of” path to go down but nothing more. I didn’t know what or how to explain it then, but that is what I now call my “North Star”.
The North Star is your mission and vision of where you want to go but it’s just that, a vision. There is no flag in the ground saying “I’m going to be here at X date and be doing X”. Life doesn’t work that way. As long as you start down the path that is leading you toward your mission you’ll find your way. I think we all do, eventually. When you look all the way back later in life it’s really the moments of the journey that are most memorable and rarely the finish line.
Just keep chipping away at you “Chalace” and don’t get so caught up in the finished product but put a lot of focus and attention on the process and experiences you are building through it now.
In the end, whenever that happens to be, the stories and the experiences that shaped them turn out to be your legacy, and reaching the finish line becomes an afterthought.