Does Persistence Really Pay Off?

Does persistence really pay off?

In my experience the answer is usually no and when it does pay off it was hardly worth the effort.

But sometimes an account just gets under your skin.  The guy saying no simply hasn’t a clue and you cannot get over it.  You can’t get at the real objection and he isn’t really going to pay attention anyway.  You could get him to see that he mistook his mother for his father and vice versa and he won’t change his mind.  The guy is as close to a brick wall as you’re ever going to encounter in a living, breathing thing and yet you just feel like you gotta push on.  You bring out everything but flip charts (maybe YOU DO bring out flip charts) and experts from MIT to go over again the iron clad return on investment opportunities but this monkey still wants to flush his cash down some rat hole rather than invest in you.

What do you do?

Usually if you are at a point where effort feels a little extraordinary, you have crossed the line.  You’re going down the road of excessive persistence.  Instinct … or something similar and quickly learned … tells you what is and what is not worth the effort.  Nevertheless there are those that simply get into you.  And there are those that you want to fight just to make a point or…perhaps…to get even.  (“Hey, you wasted my time, now let me tell you a little story about ROI once again.”)

The key, of course, is to weigh your own profit-loss situation, but as is the case with all keys, they sometimes get lost and we fight on anyway.  Back to profit-loss…your own personal ROI… in a moment.  For the moment, how to tell your persistence isn’t going to pay off even if it becomes a sale.

First, if you have offered the same close and received the same indecision (“ok, let me think about it”) it is time to call the question.  It can be awkward, but just ask, “What is it you’re going to think about?”  You might fish around for the price issue:  “Other than price, is there anything else you don’t understand about my proposal?”

I like this better than the canned, “Other than price, is there any reason why you wouldn’t sign today?”  This approach presumes it is price and can get a “no, no…I just want to think” response.  My challenge puts the client a bit more on the defensive:  “Other than the price, is there anything else you don’t understand about my proposal?”  I’m leading him, I am calling him out.  And if he doesn’t say, “Well, yes, I really don’t understand how your product is distributed.”  I’ll go back to the price…

The other guy to look out for in a drawn out sales process is the one that seems too good to be true.  These guys more often than not are all hat and no cattle.  Look out for things like, “Oh money is no issue in this, I just need to think it through.”  Or “It is a great value, I have to do it.  Call me a few weeks.”  What businessman would put off increasing revenues NOW verses later just to see you again?  (You might have a little fun with that:  “Hey, Mr. Business Owner, what kind of guy would put off profits now just to see me and my sales pitch come back again?”)

Which brings up a third case where persistence is trouble…and it doesn’t really apply to me.  But suppose you are an attractive young woman out in the field.  You have other things to worry about, especially if you’re meeting guys who spend the day looking down septic sucking tubes all day.  You’re going to look pretty damn good in comparison!  What to look out for here:  Repeated meetings at the end of the day, suggestions to meet at the bar, or long discussions about everything and anything but your products features and benefits.  Just cut to the chase.  Are you buying or not?  A lot of these guys are push overs.  Make the sale and get the account reassigned so he can meet a bloke like me next go around.

In general, you’re going to meet these guys that are doing nothing but putting you off.  The reasons abound.  Too polite, too timid, too stupid.  Sometimes, though, they really don’t know and you’ve got to fugue it out of them.  Just be firm, direct, and professional.  Explain to them why passing on your product or service is a mistake and if they don’t buy, tell them they are making a mistake and explain it.  It’s a kind of push-pull approach.  And if that doesn’t work and it looks like you might be revisiting the same situation in meeting three (never more than a third and rarely a third) move on.  Set the poor sap free.

You have bigger fish to fry.  Remember, No is our friend.  And sometimes you’re better off saying No for your customer.  You have a business to run, too, and what kind of return are you getting by revisiting indecision?  You certainly can keep coming back with counter offers and more and more features and benefits, but what is it worth?  Start dividing the time spent into your probable reward for persistence.  Keep in mind that the longer you work an account the less likely it is going to be a big buyer.  More likely they will end up being a very small buyer which only reduces your return on your time more.

So, yes…persistence does pay off (sometimes), but not nearly as well as a good pipeline of fresh leads to call on.  Avoid the persistence trap and keep moving.


3 thoughts on “Does Persistence Really Pay Off?

  1. Yu No Hu

    brilliant. fugue it out of them? what does that mean? i’m not sure you need the last sentence. mostly, i don’t like the self help book advice voice, but i’m not sure you need the sentence.

    persistence is like niceness. there comes a point with some people when you’re just wasting your niceness, and you’d be better off to cut your niceness losses immediately and get ’em outta your life. larry david really knows how to do it.

  2. Pauline Kale

    Is it just me, or is there really some ominous foreshadowing starting to build from post to post? Will everything come to a head? I hope that the earnest protagonist does not get sucked into a situation that ends up spiraling out of control…

    Duck and cover, isn’t that the advice for tornadoes? Yes, duck and cover, duck and cover I say!

    1. Tour Guide Post author

      Ominous foreshadowing? Yes…perhaps, in a way. A writing exercise sorting out ideas for other loosely related projects. Hadn’t thought of it before, but I do like the idea of ominous overtones. Eventually something needs to happen, right?


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