Some clients are more difficult to pursue. You can call, leave voicemail, follow up with multiple emails, and get no return communication from your contact. Prospecting, especially when pursuing enterprise-level targets, can be discouraging for sales reps.
Some salespeople give up on pursuing the client altogether, believing there is no hope of booking a first meeting or winning the client’s business. Prospecting is a game of patient, persistent, professional pursuit. If it were easy to get a meeting with your dream clients, you’d already have booked the meeting.
The salesperson with the intestinal fortitude to persevere over time, without being discouraged and without giving up, will eventually find an opportunity. Persistence is the most important attribute a salesperson must have when pursuing their dream clients.
My Seven-Year Pursuit
I pursued one large client for seven years. I called the main contact, without success, more times than I can count. My contact had no interest in a meeting and was faithful to their current provider. My peers asked me why I kept calling when the contact clearly had no interest in making a change.
One day I called the contact to discover that she had left the company. Two days later, I was seated across the table from the new decision-maker. I left that meeting with a contract of $2,000,000 a year.
Giving Up Too Soon
There is no reward for giving up. Once you stop pursuing a strategic client, you walk away from any chance of acquiring their business. This is a bad practice because you still need to win significant deals to succeed in sales. After all, why would the next enterprise-level prospective client on your list greet your request for a meeting with open arms and an open calendar?
What makes things worse is that some of your competitors, the ones who are not sensitive to being ignored or rejected multiple times, continue to pursue the client. When you give up, you make it easier for them to win. When a competitor wins that client’s business, you might wait years before you have the chance to displace them. Once your competitor is executing, for your dream client, you have little chance of displacing your competitor, unless they fail.
You Are Already Prospecting
If you are already prospecting, making calls, leaving voicemails, and sending emails, what is the difference if your dream client ignored you one time or nine times? A lot of salespeople are easily discouraged, giving up on the most desirable clients in their territory because they hear no or nothing.
Given a long enough time, every large client in your territory will change their supplier. This happens because the current supplier stopped creating new value or has become apathetic. Sometimes, buyers want to change partners because they believe a new supplier will provide them with better results or more attention. It’s impossible to predict when this will happen, and if you have stopped pursuing a client when some decision maker decides to explore their options, you will not be invited to sit down with the people considering change.
It is difficult for a contact to say no to a meeting when the salesperson has been professional and persistent. Once a persistent salesperson gets a meeting, their contact often thanks them for persisting. Buyers and decision-makers often prefer to buy from a persistent salesperson because they have proven they are serious about working with the company.
A B2B salesperson who calls once every quarter isn’t likely to acquire a decision-maker’s time. That’s too much time between communications. You may hear your peers suggest that you are bothering the client, which will harm your chances. In reality, consistent communication ensures that the contact recognizes your name. But to do this in a way that is professional, you may need to change your strategy, upgrading your approach in a way that improves your odds of getting a meeting.
How to Get the Meeting Instead of Giving Up
Most of your competitors are making calls and sending emails to the contacts you are both pursuing. You should differentiate yourself through your communication. A lot of your competitors will offer a meeting to tell the contact about their company and their solution. There is value being traded for the time they are requesting, making it easy for the contact to say no. You can do better by trading value for the client’s time and delivering that value using an executive briefing that is client-oriented instead of self-oriented.
Their emails are even worse, as they are all about the company and how they can help the client improve their results—without knowing enough to make the communication valuable. Every communication defines the sender as either a pest or a potential trusted advisor. You can distinguish yourself by being the person who has done the reading and the research to provide your contacts with information and insights.
So what if you take a long time to win the client? So what if they tell you no more times you can count? If the client buys what you sell, persist until you win them.
In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, I suggested you build a list of 60 dream clients. This number will allow you to communicate with 15 of them each week. That is three dream clients each day, an easy number to manage in addition to the prospecting you do outside of this list. This consistent approach will put you in a position to help the client when they are ready.