Here’s a question for you—Which trait is more important for a sales professional to master, persistence or patience? Let’s put it another way, is it more important to have the drive to do whatever it takes and keep going, regardless of the roadblocks you face or is it more important to sense when it is time to take a step back, analyze the situation, and give the customer time to think?
The correct answer? Well, there is no correct answer. Sales is complex, and as contradictory as it may sound, these two traits often complement each other. Think of persistence and patience as the Yin and Yang of sales. The ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang describes how seemingly contrary forces are interdependent on one another. At first glance, the forces may seem like opposites, but if you take a closer look, you’ll realize that they are indeed connected.
I’d like to tell you a short story to delve a little deeper into this concept. When I first started in my sales career, I worked in the call center of a large telecom provider selling long distance phone plans. If you’re staring at the screen right now wondering, “what is long distance?”, there once was a time before the internet made Skype and VoiP calls a possibility and talk time was not simply included in your basic cell phone plan. So, instead of these services, consumers and businesses signed up with a company and paid for each call they made. My job was to get them to buy our long distance service. Long distance was a large and highly competitive industry with a high level of demand.
As is true today, when you call or follow-up with leads, I’d often end up with a voicemail or a gatekeeper. It often took many, many calls to get ahold of the person I was trying to reach. Of course, there were performance metrics to fulfill by reaching a certain number of outbound calls, total talk time as well as converting x number of leads per day. And to be honest, it was long, tedious work, often with little reward. But I stuck to it. I became better over time introducing myself, delivering my elevator pitch, and I finally became pretty good at selling the benefits of our solution. Those customers that didn’t bite at first become a challenge I gladly embraced.
To make a long story short – I learned to be persistent and grow a thick skin. I made dial after dial without making any assumption about if or why this lead would refuse my call. I got creative. I dialed at different times of the day to try to reach someone. And what’s most important is that I never gave up. I never doubted my abilities to reach my goals, even when faced with constant negativity and a less than stellar work environment.
But do you know what else I learned? I mastered the art of patience. I discovered that it often takes several attempts to finally connect with a lead, and most importantly I learned that this patience pays off. To truly excel at a task, you must exercise patience. Many of my colleagues were unsuccessful in their call center position because they lacked both persistence and patience. Instead, they fabricated excuse after excuse as to why they failed to meet their quotas. Before long, these individuals were leaving their position looking for something new. Had they taken the time to work on their elevator pitch, presentation, rapport building skills, and take a step back to analyze the true cause of their struggles, they likely would have succeeded.
Persistence and patience are equally important in the sales cycle. We need persistence to avoid stalling an otherwise healthy, open opportunity. We need persistence to keep the momentum going and drive our opportunities to a close. But, at the same time, we need to have patience. Finding the balance is critical. Sales professionals can’t just bully the customer into making decisions. We need to have the patience to invest time in the discovery process to truly understand what challenges our customers face. We need to have patience to put together a tailored presentation that will address their problems rather than using a canned deck of PowerPoint slides. And above all, we will need to have the patience to deal with unforeseen roadblocks that will undoubtedly pop up along the way. If you can find the balance, the Yin to the Yang, success can be yours for the taking.