The #1 Skill Every Salesperson Must Have: Persistence

Posted on 18 Jan

When I was just starting to shift my role at LeadSift from product to sales, I heard a story about a local Halifax entrepreneur that struck a chord.

His startup was trying to close a deal with a big company – the kind of deal that has a huge impact on your bottom line. He had an initial meeting with a decision-maker, but the buyer went dark when he followed up.

He had the office number of the contact he met with, and he followed up. Every. Single. Day. For 30 days. Each morning he called, left a voicemail, and noted that he would follow up again the next day. He wanted a yes – or a no – and would keep following up until he got a response.

After a month, the buyer finally called him back. Thoroughly impressed with his persistence, they set up another meeting and this entrepreneur eventually got an answer.

I was just as impressed by his persistence as the buyer, but also a little turned off by this story. Daily calls for a month?  That seemed excessive. Coming from a product background, I thought that following up more than two or three times sounded desperate or even a bit rude. At the time, it seemed to me that if a customer really wanted your product, they would get back to you.

But with several more years of sales experience under my belt, my perspective has changed, and now I see that this entrepreneur had the skill that all of the best salespeople possess: persistence.

If a customer doesn’t reply to your email – even your third or fourth email – it’s not personal. People are busy, especially decision-makers and C-level executives. They face a daily bombardment of internal and external requests, and have to prioritize. Not only this, but there are so many unknown factors, like travel, personal issues, or conferences, that are outside of your control and might delay their response to you. Does that mean you give up? No!

Of course, there is a fine line between following up genuinely and following up using automated, generic messages. Keep it short and sweet, ask for next steps, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a reply right away.

While persistence is key, you must also be honest with yourself and your customer. You have to truly believe that your product or service will be a value add to their life or company – whether you’ve seen past cases of success with similar clients, or you inherently understand their needs, you must be sure you can provide value in order for your persistence to pay off.

Personally, I follow up five times in a four-week period with a potential client. I use whatever tools and methods make sense for that individual, whether it is social selling, email outreach or phone calls.

If I don’t get a response in this time, I will pause my follow ups for three to six months, depending on the client, and then follow up again with something of value. In our case, we provide leads based on signals of intent or interest, so I usually deliver sample data showing accounts that might be relevant to them. Many times, this piques their interest, reminds them of our previous conversations, and compels them to respond and set up a meeting.

But what if you hit another dead end at this point? This happens, but it doesn’t mean you stop being persistent. I will typically stop my follow up to that individual and search out some other relevant person at the same organization. There is a lot of research out there that shows that buying decisions in enterprise software are not made by one person alone, so by contacting another decision-maker, you’re casting a wider net.

This three to six month follow up is critical to success. In fact, we have closed several deals at this point in our discussions. If I didn’t restart my follow ups, those deals never would have materialized. So be sure to put it into your calendar or CRM to take action down the road, if you aren’t seeing an answer right away.

Most of the time, even months after our initial conversation with no response, clients do get back to me and are grateful for my persistence. I might not always end up closing the deal, but I get an answer either way.

I don’t actually know if the entrepreneur who followed up for 30 days got a yes or a no. But it doesn’t really matter in the long run, because he got an answer. And as salespeople, we owe it to ourselves and to our prospects to be persistent enough to get that closure.

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