Persistence Pays

I stumbled upon this blog entry today at www.hbr.org about the value of persistence in achieving your goals. It’s a common theme amongst people who chatter about entrepreneurship and innovation. The blog author, Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., told of how he began to view rejection when he first started his firm. He decided to keep pursuing the opportunity instead of taking NO for an answer.

I noticed something unexpected: I started to enjoy the process of trying to get in, the challenge of making the sale. It became a game to me and my goal was to keep playing until, at some point, I’d say the right thing to the right person and get my foot in the door. I was, surprisingly, having fun.

According to one study, that persistence pays off. Paul Mullan over on Bloggertone, cites this University of Notre Dame research:

44% of sales people quit trying after the first call
24% of sales people quit after the second call
14% of sales people quit after the third call
12% of sales people quit after the fourth call

But the kicker is that 60% of all sales are made after the fourth call — meaning 94% of sales people rule themselves out automatically. But all of this is more than motivational stuff for sales people. Alan Coad — writing on learning orientation in strategic management accounting, of all things — talks of people who are learning oriented or performance oriented in their approach to work. Those who veer towards performance avoid tricky problems, and tend to judge themselves by how they compare to co-workers or how they get noticed by “important others.” The learning, or mastery oriented, individuals thrive on problem solving and challenge, and are undeterred by setbacks. He also says that a learning approach motivates people to work hard. Coad says:

This orientation inclines people to cleverness and ingenuity in task situations, and improves their knowledge of appropriate work strategies.

Mullen tells a great story on how this persistence can pay off when he recalled working with a new account manager who was determined to win back a major client the firm had just lost. On his first call, the old customer just hung up on him. He tried a few weeks later and got the same thing. He made several more attempts until, one day, he landed another major client. He picked up the phone and started talking before the old client could hang up. Mullan says the conversation went like this:

“Matt, don’t hang up the phone. It’s Tim here from xxxx. I phoned to let you know that I just landed the biggest deal in the history of our company. As you can appreciate I am on top of the world at the minute. So I have decided to call you so that you could bring me back down to earth”

Silence followed by laughter followed by meeting followed by business!!