Persistence: The All-Star Sales Pro’s Secret Weapon


“You never fail until you stop trying.”

Albert Einstein said that, and although Einstein’s main claim to fame is not in sales, I think that worldwide and on a daily basis, sales professionals need to review the truth of that inspiring quote more than anyone else.

It’s possible to look at virtually every encounter in sales as either a success or a failure and that isn’t true in most other professions. But what this quote teaches us is that it’s wrong to see failure in that light.

Failure only happens when you give up. In other words, failure is only a label you can give yourself for something that you do, or you don’t do. I will take that a little further and say that you can only pronounce an act of yours as a failure if it is one that ­ by any reasonable measure ­ you should have achieved.

If I go out to the track at the local high school, find the 100-meter distance, run it and time myself, I’m not a failure if I’m unable to break the world record…or even the local record for people my age.

I’m not a trained sprinter; I couldn’t be expected to break any records.

If, however, I set a goal for myself to lower my time three months from now, and don’t bother to train in those three months, then when I can’t run any faster, I think it’s fair to say that I failed.

Here’s the way this applies to sales: You aren’t responsible for the outcome; you’re responsible for the persistence. (Referring back to my 100-meter analogy, I’ll add that an element of that persistence is preparation.)

It’s often said that you need to engage a prospect at least five times before you will make the sale. I think that is very true. I also heard one very good sales professional tell a group of young associates, “Don’t stop calling until your prospect tells you to stop calling.”

Do you have the persistence to follow that advice?

Let me continue by asking you one simple question: Have you ever ended up buying something after you’ve initially said no to the salesperson?

I’m certain that this is something we all have experienced, so let me follow up with two more questions:

  • Why did you first say no?
  • How long was it between the time you refused to buy, until the time you ended up buying the item?

There can be all kinds of answers to the first question:

  • You weren’t in the mood,
  • You didn’t have the money at the time,
  • You didn’t need the item yet,
  • You didn’t know you needed the item yet, etc.

All of these reasons – and many more – have probably contributed to the times when you haven’t been able to close a sale. But notice something very important about each of those reasons:

They are all subject to changing over time!

Persistence. You must be persistent. You must hang in there until your prospect tells you to go away and never come back. If it takes at least five contacts to make a sale and you don’t have the spunk to make that fifth call, you will never be a great sales professional.

Of course, you must be persistent in a wise manner. Some prospects will tell an annoying salesperson to go away and never come back. You need to develop a feel for this and also be smart about using the tools you have.

Customer relationship management systems and apps like the Gmail plugin can provide the support and framework to make your “persistence” routine and reliable.

Don’t fail. Don’t stop trying.