Recipe for Persistence: Equal Parts Order, Preparation and Follow-Up
As a new sales professional, I heard a common refrain from a variety of training sources: sales requires persistence. And while I quickly found this to be true, I also discovered that simply telling someone to “be persistent” was missing a bigger picture. There are some key ingredients required to improve this crucial sales trait.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Yet persistence remains a trait many people think they have, but very few people truly do have. The good news is, if you can learn to mix together the core elements that create persistence, this critical skill will be a surefire way to set yourself apart from the pack in the fast-paced world of sales.
Being persistent is much more than simply refusing to give up. It takes a balanced combination of intense organization, preparation and commitment.
You can be persistent without being organized, but it is hard
If being organized isn’t a trait your friends or family would typically use to describe you, it’s not a persistence deal-breaker. Solid organization methods don’t mean you have to have everything perfectly neat and pretty all the time, it just means you understand the importance of knowing where everything is, its purpose, and that you’re able to find things when needed. The techniques and styles you use to accomplish this can, and will, vary.
As a Senior Sales Development Representative for memoryBlue, my organization comes down to two major things: my daily calendar and my prospecting lists. I put everything on my calendar, which is simply what works for me. I color code my calendar based on what each notation means or what I need to do (Red = appointments, Green = client calls or when I compile reports, Purple = company training sessions, etc). These are simply my methods for staying organized throughout a busy day, week and month. But there are other ways to do the same thing (i.e. make daily lists, write notes in a phone, set reminders in your email client and more). Find what works best for you, but do something.
In addition to building lists, I also have to keep their ongoing maintenance super organized. Since I am calling and emailing these lists all day, it is vital that I have some sort of system that keeps my sanity and lets my workday run smoothly. Essentially, I color code my lists based on what I’ve accomplished or need to do, and I keep everything I’ve done under a “Notes” column in an Excel spreadsheet.
There are many additional ideas and best practices for sales people committed to being organized. An interesting tactic is the “two minute rule” which states that if a task takes only two minutes, do it right away.
I think being different is one of the most valuable practices you can learn in sales. A good way to accomplish all three of these tasks is to review your talking points pre-call, add value to the conversation by looking at the prospect’s LinkedIn while speaking with them, and pull pain throughout the conversation by using consultative questions. When you pull pain from the prospect, it increases the likelihood of a lead occurring, which in the end, is the ultimate goal.
At memoryBlue, we use InsideSales.com software to help with our list organization and prospecting, however, I also keep my excel sheets open when dialing out of the platform.
Here’s an example of what a typical list looks like for me in Excel:
YELLOW: Highlights my “notes” section, so I’m always looking at it (bright color). I keep every touch recorded in the notes section (ex: Prospect says no, prospect is no longer in this role, I emailed someone on 3/14, emailed on 3/9, etc).
RED: Booked appointment
PURPLE: This is either a company we are already working with, or I have already booked someone at that company in a similar role and I want to wait to see how that meeting goes. If it’s going to likely close in a few months, I’m not going to continue reaching out to people within the company. If it ends up not going well, I can circle back to those companies and continue reaching out to more people.
BLUE: Every single person that I will follow-up with at some point (Joe says, “Sadie, this looks great, but this isn’t on the agenda until Q3” or “I’m at home, but call me tomorrow).
Of course, your lists may look much different. I find color coding helpful, but there are other ways to stay organized, including color coding your filing systems and utilizing a CRM effectively. Most companies do have a CRM that they utilize which can help form electronic organization, which is extremely useful. The CRM platform will also give you a cleaner way to put in notes, all touches to a prospect, etc.
If you build it, the leads will come
Being persistent with your list building is huge. In this industry, if you have to make your own lists as you prospect, bad lists equal bad leads (or no leads). At memoryBlue, I was fortunate to have vast resources at my fingertips — including Web sites that help with list building and prospecting.
Beyond mastering those tools, make sure you are also constantly trying new things. People often forget that Google is literally right in front of you all the time. Why not fill in the gaps of your list building on LinkedIn, Datafox, Lead Genius, Zoominfo, and DiscoverOrg with Google? Try searching for an A-Z list of the top companies in the financial industry. Search for a list of the best tech start-up companies in New York. Get creative! Changing your routine and trying a varied approach to list building research can increase your knowledge base and grow your list faster.
Perfect your follow-up game
Fine-tuning your follow-up approach might be the single most important aspect when it comes to persistence. The screenshot earlier showed my notes section covered with reminders such as: “emailed 3/15” or “asked for more info on 3/14” in bright yellow.
This level of detail and granular interaction tracking is the lifeblood of my persistence methodology. You cannot expect to call a C-Level Executive one time and, upon failing to reach them, simply give up. These are incredibly busy professionals. You cannot expect to email a C-Level Executive one time and think that that should be enough to establish a connection. You actually shouldn’t expect to do this with anyone, let alone these top-of-the-org-chart executives. Sure, you will get some leads on the first dial or the first email, but you are missing so much opportunity if you give up after one attempt.
Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that you pester key stakeholders indefinitely and go to the full other side of the spectrum, either. There is a happy medium for follow-up, and you need to find it and live there. I put a limit on the number of emails I will send someone (usually about four). I usually put a limit on the number of calls I will make to someone as well (I limit it to six to nine times based on research from InsideSales.com). However, even after these approaches, a lack of contact may still not get them off my radar. If I don’t get a “no” from a prospect, I’m following up again next quarter. Stay hungry.
The best times vary, but are usually early in the morning (around 8-9 AM) and late in the afternoon (around 4-5 PM).
Persistence is Powerful
Staying organized, constantly improving your lists and refusing to quit early are incredible differentiators in sales. They are the fundamental building blocks to truly being persistent. Two simple rules that I live by which help me remember this are:
- Just do it. Stop complaining that it isn’t yet so you can’t possibly get a lead.
- Know your solution and target prospect. Some prospect lists obey none of the day/time rules above, so understand this and be flexible when prospecting.
Persistence is a skill that can make you successful in any career path you choose, not just sales. Learn how to build and manage this powerful trait. It’s certainly a skill you’ll use over and over again in your professional sales journey.
Senior Sales Development Representative Sadie Kneuper joined memoryBlue in December 2014. She is a professional with deep experience surfacing new revenue opportunities for a variety of high-tech clients. Sadie boasts a company lifetime sales quota attainment number of over 110%. She earned a degree in Marketing from Radford University where she was a Dean's List scholar.