This Week’s Big Deal: Healthy Persistence in Prospecting

February 18, 2019

Marathon Runner Showing Persistence

What’s the biggest cause of heartbreak for salespeople?

We had a bit of fun last week concocting our own list of 17 heartbreaking sales GIFs just ahead of Valentine’s Day, but if you had to boil it all down to one single answer, it’d probably be this:


Prospect rejections can range from passive (no response) to aggressive (“LEAVE ME ALONE!”) but they never feel good. It hurts on both personal and professional levels. If you’ve worked in sales for a while, you have probably experienced your fair share, but that doesn’t take the sting away.

Over time, rejection threatens our persistence. That might ultimately be the biggest heartbreak, because a healthy level of persistence is essential to success in B2B prospecting.

Defining Healthy Persistence

In 1997, a band called Chumbawamba released a song called “Tubthumping.” That may sound like a bunch of gibberish, but the lyrics of its energetic chorus are beautifully clear and resonant, which contributed to the single’s massive popularity.

I get knocked down, but I get up again
You are never gonna keep me down

It’s the ultimate anthem to resilience and a great theme song for today’s post. (There’s a good chance it’s now blaring inside your head, and for that I am sorry.)

Persistence in sales is all about overcoming setbacks and keeping after it. You’ve probably heard this statistic before, or some variation: 80% of prospects say ‘no’ four times before they say ‘yes.’ This alone speaks to the crucial importance of tenacity in B2B prospecting. If you give up on a deal after the first speed bump, you’re not going to be closing too many.

That said, there’s a fine line between being persistent and being obstinate, or even downright obnoxious. So it’s all about understanding when and how to follow up or reach out again.

The Purpose of Persistence in B2B Prospecting

I came across a good post on the SalesGenie blog last week outlining why persistence matters in in sales prospecting. Three key points were offered up (commentary my own):

  • It fortifies your strategic plan. Persistence isn’t just about repeated prospect outreach and follow-ups. It’s also about being relentless in your planning, and continually making the tweaks necessary to optimize your approach.
  • It helps you overcome rejection. Over time, hearing the word “no” becomes less deflating when you’re finding ways to make the best out of situations.
  • You maintain pipeline discipline. As we keep grinding, and continually gain clarity around what works and what doesn’t, we are able to refine and sharpen our pipeline management.

There’s another dimension to this as well: When done right, persistence makes a strong impression on your customers and peers. They will recognize your determination and drive.

So how do we consistently get it right with persistence in B2B prospecting? I’ll offer up a mindset that might prove helpful.

N.O. = Next Opportunity

In the break room at a job I used to work, there was a sign on the wall that said, “If someone tells you ‘no,’ N.O. means… Next Opportunity.”

There are plenty of similar rah-rah acronyms out there (F.A.I.L. = First Attempt In Learning; E.N.D. = Effort Never Dies) but I particularly like N.O. = Next Opportunity from a sales perspective, because it gets to the heart of what healthy persistence really means.

It’s not just about “if you fail, try again.” It’s about moving on to the next opportunity when someone says no. Maybe that means following up with the same individual at a later date, once there’s a legitimate impetus. Maybe it means turning your attention to someone else on the buying committee, or another promising prospect in your pipeline. And maybe it means getting back to prospecting — building up that pipeline with more targeted opportunities that are less likely to result in heartbreak.

You get knocked down, and you get up again.

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