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Mainstream Persistence is the Blind Leading the Blind

Conventional persistence (unqualified follow up) is the domain of the mediocre. I do not know any top performing sales people in their field that use sheer will and raw persistence as one of their top weapons to acquire new business. They are too smart and focused to throw a lot against the wall and then to chase it down to its natural negative conclusion. Yet you will find that a large amount of traditional sales people swear by it like Charlie Sheen swears by his specialness.

What the mainstream sales world calls giving up, I call liberation. Classic persistence selling is too often winning at all cost. Strategic persistence is being very persistent in choosing your battles (deals) wisely. The harder you work (indiscriminately) the luckier you get is the battle cry for conventional persistent sales people. This really does not hold much water in the digital age because of all the obvious barriers one has to go thru to reach customers today.

In the sales world there is heaven, hell and purgatory. The latter is okay in the afterlife, but is hell on earth in sales. Deals in terminal purgatory will cost you dearly. Being too intent to sell and pursue when your customer is equally intent to not buy and evade is one of the root causes of failure in sales. And no amount of illogical persistence will really change that.

Orthodox hungry sales people desire to feel needed, be in control and contribute a heavy hand in the outcome of a sale. Their behavior of misguided persistence indicates they crave acceptance and this prevents them from recognizing poor judgement, lost causes and the value of letting go and moving on to persist with better qualified opportunities.

Blind persistence is too often the blind leading the blind. Customers make this cluster mess possible by their charity in wanting sales people to feel better (selling is not easy), encouraging the little engine that could and their sense of promoting the underdog mentality. These elements are embedded in our nation's fabric and culture. Too much of dogged persistent behavior is essentially a Pavlovian trigger with little thought, or practical application.

What also fuels runaway persistence, is in the information economy, outright rejection is a rarity. Whereas in the past formal rejection was fairly easy to get because of the accessibility of people and the guilt impact where customers would feel socially rude if they outright ignored you. My have times changed due to technology! Today it is not unusual to be terminally wait listed and in constant limbo because there is very little societal pressure to do otherwise. I think also that hyper persistent sales people have an over evolved need for security and certainty, and they will go to great lengths to shelter themselves from bad news. They cherish and covet the safe haven of false hope, or the concept that no news is good news. They are diehard adherents to the sales strategy of AWAP- a wing and a prayer.

It is not hard to divine customer's lack of interest. It is fairly simple. It is not rocket science. Yet sales people treat it like a mystery because in part it fuels their notion of the mysterious black art of selling. If customers are not reciprocating your emails, voice mails, and they have essentially locked and blocked you out of further personal communication, it is usually for a good reason. Further turbo follow up now has you entering the realm of diminishing returns. So it comes down to simple economics 101. Can your effort and resources be better reallocated to increase your chances of pursuing another opportunity with a better yield? Unfortunately, the answer is no for most sales people, because they believe that a bad opportunity in hand is worth more than two good potentials in the bush.Their lack of success largely is in direct proportion to them making poor decisions as to where to invest their efforts.

Do not get hung up on understanding customer's behavior; why are they not calling back, why are they no longer hot to trot? Do not focus on the "whys," just focus on reality. Each sales person should come up with their own formula and equation when to determine when enough is enough. Use it as a standard, but leave some wiggle room for exceptions.

Run of the mill sales people often ignore the long-term costs for perceived short-term benefits. Persistent sales people so often remind me of the federal government. They spend lavishly and cut sparingly. Sales people need to cut, trim and eliminate a lot of the fat in their non-performing deals in their pipelines.

Failure is an option. Before success comes, you have to have the courage to fail. Failure is healthy and an inevitable element of sales and capitalism. Learn to accept that lessons are to always be learned, and failure always brings new opportunities. Sales people do not want to close any doors because they are afraid to go out into the marketplace and open up new doors

When you wantonly give away your valuable assets of time and resources on lost causes you are like a criminal robbing yourself at gun point.

No one wants to die. Even those who know they are going to heaven do not want to die. "Yet dying is the single best invention of life. It phases out the old to make room for the new," said Steve Jobs. In sales dying is substituting bad opportunities for new good opportunities. Die hard persistence usually will delay this from happening, or not allow it to happen at all. Often sales people fail to see the distinction that for every ending, there is the potential for a new and exciting beginning. Usually their scarcity thinking obscures their better judgement. With the lure and seduction of blissful productivity (busy work and avoidance activity) and unchecked optimism, overly persistent sales people soldier on with the false encouragement of customers happy to sustain their illusions of deals to come.

Richard Farrell is President of Tangent Knowledge Systems, a national sales development and training firm based in Chicago. He is the author of the upcoming book Selling has Nothing to do with Selling. He trains and speaks around the world and has authored many articles on his unique non-selling sales posture.

Phone: 773-404-7915
EMail: rfarrell@tangentknowledge.com
Web: http://www.tangentknowledge.com