We have all been told at some point that “persistence pays off.” Probably your Mom, your Coach or even your Teacher gave you that little pep talk when you were struggling with a particularly difficult ask. Well, just as Robert Fulghum* might have said, this advice is actually timeless and bears repeating whether we are in school, in sports or in the world of business.
Statistics tell us that most sales are made between the 5th and 12th follow up call. Yet how many sales people give up after the second or maybe third call at best? How about networking? You go to event after event, you share business cards and maybe you even get two minutes to give your “elevator sales pitch.” That’s great but how often do you walk away with a solid lead, a great referral or a sale?
Sometimes it might seem like you are investing plenty of your hard earned cash to attend networking events and not seeing any return. This is where persistence comes in. In our world of social media, 24-hour news channels and “Instagram” (the very name a play on the word instant) we have come to expect instant gratification and immediate satisfaction of our wants and needs. As a result, we have forgotten that some things simply take time. Like nurturing any good relationship, networking and sales requires an investment of your time, energy and commitment. You wouldn’t expect someone you just met to drop everything, forsake their other commitments and go away on a vacation with you but it might be more than reasonable to ask your good friend of the past ten years to jump on that “sellout vacation package.” That’s because you’ve nurtured and grown that friendship over time, have learned that you are compatible and have taken the time and care necessary to foster a friendship built on the trust required to take advantage of this kind of quick get-a-way.
It’s the same in business. We build trust in a variety of ways including word of mouth, by providing great service and through building a strong referral network around us. Yes your product is important but ultimately, it is your service that will separate you from your competition. Great service is fostered through continuous contact with your customer, by taking the time to learn their wants and needs and to demonstrate through your commitment how best you can meet their expectations. Persistence means that sometimes, it isn’t even the customer you were dealing with but another individual who will then act as a referral source for you. As a female, I am never going to need protective sports-related undergarments geared to men (a jock….) but I might have friends, a husband or a son that need one. If you have proven yourself to me as a consistent and reliable supplier and one with whom I can trust doing business, I will refer others to you.
How do you nurture these relationships without breaking the bank and without annoying your potential customer? There are certainly an abundance of theories on this topic but chief among them is to offer something of potential value, at no charge and with no strings attached. Pestering is constantly sending emails of little or no relevance to your customer (which Canadian anti-spam legislation now expressly forbids) but persistence is offering something that adds value. We’ve discussed reciprocity before. Giving something to a potential customer, even helping them in a capacity other than one involving a direct sale, will encourage them to think of you over your competition when it finally comes time to make a purchase.
If you belong to networking groups (and you should) perhaps you can provide something of value to the group that they will appreciate. If you’re in the travel industry for example, give away some free information like explaining to people how they can best leverage their Aeroplan points, information they might not otherwise have known if you hadn’t explained it to them. In communications I have a handy Rule of 10 “10mplate” that helps small business entrepreneurs build website content successfully. You could give an information seminar for free and of course, samples of your product always go over well. Even if your business is a service and not a product, invest in something useful or delicious (a notepad or pen branded with your corporate logo or some chocolate is always popular) and hand these out together with your business card. Perhaps your customer is conducting a fundraiser and requires a donation. Offer up a gift basket full of yummy seasonal products. You don’t have to spend a great deal, the point is to do something that gets you remembered, keeps you top of mind and that will be perceived as having added value to your potential client.
If you keep engaging your potential customer, offering not soliciting, eventually the phone will start to ring and your inbox will fill up with messages from those seeking or referring your services. It’s all about persistence not pestering. Persistence pays off, pestering annoys. It’s a tightrope but if you balance it successfully you can use that tightrope to get you to the other side – bridging the gap between a referral and a sale!
*Robert wrote the popular “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten.”
As Owner and Principal partner of “Writing Right For You” Sheralyn is a Communications Strategist – working together with entrepreneurs to maximize profit through effective use of the written word. Looking for web content that works, blog articles that engage or communications strategies that help you get noticed? Contact Sheralyn today. Sheralyn is also the mother of two children now entering the “terrible and terrific teens” and spends her free time volunteering for several non-profit organizations.
Sheralyn Roman B.A., B.Ed.
Writing Right For You
Communications Strategies that help you GET TO THE POINT!
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