A couple of years ago, I was sitting in a meeting with a large French aerospace company right outside of Paris. (I made a note to myself: This is a pretty sweet sentence—”I am sitting in a meeting right outside of Paris”—how could you not love this job?)
My meeting was with one of the VPs of this company who has been in his position for just the last year. We exchange pleasantries for a few minutes. He then asks me about my flights and we discuss rain in Paris. He then smiles and says to me, “You are very persistent – very persistent – my assistant thinks we should hire you.” I smile at his comments and nod my head and respond, “You probably should” and we both laugh.” I continue, “I am being persistent because it appears to us that you may have a problem. When you are ready, we would like to solve this problem for you.” He nods his head smiling and says “Yes we do have a problem and I do think you can help us.”
Persistence is useless unless you know what you are being persistent about. After I qualify a prospect and know they have great potential for my client, I am persistent regarding two things: 1) Finding a problem, and 2) Finding the right person who is going to want the problem solved. I am never persistent trying to close a sale. If you find a significant problem and then you find the person who has the authority, the responsibility, and will actually benefit from solving the problem, you are well on your way to a sale.
In this particular instance, we had been calling on this company for four years. They are the biggest company in their industry. Their business over a period of time could be worth millions to my small business client. Although the sale is not complete, our sales effort is an excellent example of how we sell.
We qualify the prospect making sure that if we do become a new vendor, they have enough work to do that it is worth the time and effort to win their business.
After we have qualified them, then we learn the business well enough to identify a problem. This takes time, knowledge of the business, and creativity. In order to identify a problem you have to understand your product and services and you have to understand the company you are calling on. You have got to get exposure inside the company so you can understand the company. Eventually if you are working and paying attention, you will find a problem.
Find the right person who will benefit from solving the problem and then hound (persist) until they will meet with you.
These are the steps. If you work them, you will have conversations like the conversation described above.
Denis, the guy I met with said, “You are very persistent” and “You are right, I do have a problem.” These are the words and phrases that tell me we did an excellent sales job. We worked the process. Sales is not black magic. It is not difficult to understand. It is just a process that has to be intelligently worked over and over and over again.