The Power of Persistence
“Never, never, never give up,” is a brief quote frequently attributed to Winston Churchill. However, that short quote is more like the CliffsNotes® edition of a powerful speech he made in 1941, during the midst of World War II.
On that occasion, he said “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never —in nothing, great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our school history, our songs, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.”
Why You Need to Follow-Up More than You Think
So, what does Churchill’s speech in the 1940’s have to do with you?
Salespeople and business owners are not facing decimation by enemy forces, however, they could do with a little Churchill-like fortitude, especially when it comes to persisting in developing business relationships.
It’s likely that the problem you face today is that you send endless emails and voicemail messages, and yet rarely receive a response. It’s understandable that you’re frustrated by the indifference of the people you are contacting.
The truth is, the rules of engagement have changed.
Years ago, the common wisdom was that it took thirteen “no’s” to get a “yes.” Although that sounds like a tough path to travel, in today’s multitasking, non-stop world, it takes an even greater effort to win a “yes.”
Statistics show that 80 percent of sales require at least five follow-ups after the presentation. And another twenty percent of people who request information about your company will take at least a year to buy.
The bottom line is: Don’t give up!
Adjust your perspective. Realize that you are just warming up when you have contacted someone three or four times and have not heard back. And remember that after a prospect requests information, you may have to wait over a year before you close the deal.
Like Churchill, you need to persevere even when the odds appear to be against you. If you want to bring someone into your sales fold and retain them as a loyal customer, they need to hear from you forever.
Be Persistent Without Being a Pest
Following up does not mean banging on the door to say, “Are you ready to buy now?” Nor does it mean sending bland emails with “just following up” in the subject line. As a buyer, would YOU respond to that?
What you must do is build your company’s brand by becoming a resource and a source of information. Send prospects an article that you think might be helpful to them. Develop an entrepreneurial sense of networking and attend events where you might run into the right people. We call it “EntreprenateTM”.
Here is an example of how committing to follow-up worked for me:
When I was the head of the U.S. division of a Barcelona based commercial textile business, I wanted to build a relationship with a man called Don who ran the largest aftermarket marine products company. Contacting him again and again, and on occasion face to face with him at industry events, I persisted in reaching out. After a while he said to one of my customers, “Who’s this guy Stan Sherman? I mean he just won’t leave me alone. It isn’t about selling me. He wants to connect to share his company’s story. He continues to say, ‘I’m going to be in Florida’ or ‘I’d like to tell you something more about us’.”
Eventually, Don became one of our best customers.
Today, after visiting Barcelona together to sell to his customer, we have a strong business relationship. More importantly, we have a friendship.
The moral of the story: you need to keep your name in front of key individuals! Connect on a continuous basis without making your outreach about selling. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and recognize that people like to build relationships. They do not, however, like to be sold.
Never give up on doing some form of monthly marketing or outreach, whether it’s an e-newsletter, a holiday card, a personal email with a link to a relevant article, or a quick phone call. This practice will give you an advantage over your competitors because they (unlike you) will not contact their prospects on a consistent basis.
Mastering the Mechanics
You may have a marketing automation and/or customer relationship management system that makes it easy to follow-up with prospects and clients without skipping a beat. If you do not have such a tool, however, it’s no excuse for giving up after two or three follow-ups. To make staying in contact easy, you can simply keep a list of people you want to stay in touch with and review it once a month. Or go old school and use index cards with a date filing system…it works!
The One Reason to Opt Out
There is one caveat to all this follow-up. As you work to build a relationship, you will likely develop a sense of which prospects are a good match and which are not. If you do not believe you’re going to be successful with someone, it is a good reason to move on.
Get Started on Building Relationships
Remember, with persistent follow-up you can separate yourself and your organization from the competition, build relationships with prospects and grow your revenue. Make sure you stay connected at least monthly to remain top of mind, and when you do connect, offer something of value to them.
Don’t push for the sale. Be patient, it takes time. In the end, what you give is what you get.