Jon Goldman provides a recommendation for Gideon Amichay’s book: No, No, No, No, No, Yes. Insights From a Creative Journey: Motivation & Self-Improvementin which the writer provides a case for perseverance. The Israeli artist provided 1000 sketches to the New Yorker magazine between 1989 and 1990 — and received rejections for each, until he finally got his break. The argument: No doesn’t generally mean “No” if you look for the comma, and figure out what you need to do to work around the rejection.
Amichay’s argument resonates with anyone who has read sales guides, which indicate salespeople tend to give up far too soon in most cases. And it reminds me that in almost three decades in business, I know of only one sales representative who pushed it too far with perseverance. After his fourth follow-up call, I called the company owner where he worked and said that I had been reviewing the idea but because of the excessive pushiness, would absolutely not do business with the organization — and told him to pull the guy off my back.
Ugh. But realize, that is one occasion in almost three decades in business. And the sales rep failed in the most basic understanding of listening carefully to the potential purchaser and determining the right time and way to follow-up.
However, there is more to the story here, because we simply cannot/should not persevere unless there is a good reason to continue the process.
Consider, for example, the importance of AEC businesses implementing solid go/no go rules for proposals. Pouring energy into RFP responses that won’t generate business drains time, energy and resources, and there is evidence that the only RFPs that will succeed happen AFTER you’ve built the relationships — sometimes over several years. In other words, successful RFP submissions require the persistence test to be passed even before you ask for the formal “yes.”
On the other side of the fence, I have seen one of the best signs of weakness of a sales rep in my business is when I receive reports of repeated efforts to connect with a single client who won’t buy. The representative’s progress-to-sales pipeline is simply too small, and so he or she holds on to weak links where there either hasn’t been a formal “no” or simply there is nothing else to do. The time would be better spent building new relationships or enhancing the connection with existing clients or community groups.
However, the rewards of carrying on, even when things don’t look optimistic, can be incredible. When I was 28, I dated a woman three times. She said, “Let’s be friends.” I accepted the classic brush-off as a simple statement of fact, and became her non-romantic friend, for a decade. Things changed, we matured, and she suggested it was time for a more romantic association. After two years, we married. We are still together after 23 years.
Realistically, true perseverance requires quite a bit of patience and much commitment and few of us can juggle too many files with the long-range perspective needed to achieve consistent success. We need to focus our talents and resources effectively. When we do, “No” certainly doesn’t need to be the final answer.
Do you have your own perseverance stories? You can share your perspectives in a comment or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.