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August 26, 2014

Persistence Pays Off: The Art of the Sale

Career Tips - Networking - Lending And Cash Management Proposal

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” ~Calvin Coolidge.

We’ve all heard it. Persistence pays off. It’s no secret that persistence gets you ahead in school, in your career, in your relationships, and in achieving your life goals.

But are we doing it right?

Promoting ourselves or our businesses and “selling” to clients can be particularly onerous. We’ve all been to a networking event where fellow attendees do nothing more than slide their business card into every hand they shake. We’ve all experienced a salesperson’s cold calls during dinner—not to mention their emails, letters, office visits, and follow-up phone calls, emails, letters, and office visits.

These kinds of shallow customer interactions and disruptive sales tactics rarely fail to elicit exasperated sighs and eye rolls. So how do we artfully practice persistence?

Provident’s very own cash management expert, Sarra El Gamil, has turned the practice of persistence into an art form. She has forgone cold calls, mass emails, and geo-farming for real relationship building, toeing the line between staying top of mind and pestering.

And she understands that it’s not just a numbers game (throw as much as you can at the wall and see what sticks); it’s a balance.

Now, she’s sharing her art with you. Here are her top 5 tips for practicing persistence.

1. Choose quality over quantity.

Choosing quality clients is the foundation of persistence as a discipline. You’ll want to do your research and identify those prospects that best satisfy your “ideal customer” criteria: a) they have a problem you can solve, b) they are pleasant to work with, and c) they bring increased revenue and brand awareness to your business. “Fit” is crucial here. Sarra selects prospective customers based on the company’s line of business, longevity, employee retention, annual sales, and even their current banking relationship. If she believes Provident Bank is better able to meet a company’s needs due to its big bank capabilities and small bank personal service, local decision-making, and quick turnaround, she will pursue it.

2. Stay organized.

When you’re prospecting for a multitude of customers at once, things are bound to get a little hairy. Break out the rolodex if you have to, but you must keep names, dates, and appointments straight. Outlook, Google Calendar, and iCal allow you to organize, search, and store contact information. Make sure you keep detailed notes, Sarra says, including where you met or how you know each other and a summary of the client’s needs/situation. She advises you to also set alarms, calendar alerts, or reminders to follow-up—and how.

A good rule of thumb is to follow-up with a phone call, email, or letter 2-5 days after initial contact. Contact the customer again in a week, and then two and then in a month and then every so often.

3. Tickle, don’t shove.

Speaking of following-up… it requires subtlety, a light touch, a feather rather than an anvil. You want to stay top of mind, but not too top of mind. Remember, a handwritten note is always a nice touch. It tells the prospect that you care enough to take the time. It will set you apart. You should also stay visible in the community, attending networking and other industry events. Sarra likes to visit prospects’ offices whenever she’s in the area. She believes her persistence demonstrates to customers her commitment, dedication, and character.         

Following-up hardly ever works if the interaction is artificial and provides no immediate value to the customer. Instead of pushing a hard sell, adopt a content marketing approach, where you provide relevant and informative content to improve their life or business. Also, notify them of worthwhile news, events, and activities at your company, within your industry, and in the community. And then ask for a meeting.   

4. Deliver the WOW.

Once you do secure that meeting, don’t blow it. Make sure you bring the WOW. Come well-researched and thoroughly prepared yet flexible. The best presentations, Sarra asserts, are thoughtful, anticipating questions and rejections—and how to overcome those rejections. In an initial prospect meeting, she identifies the customer’s needs, explores services that may add value to the business, and sets clear expectations for both parties. She then schedules a follow-up meeting with key decision-makers and presents a comprehensive, detailed lending and cash management proposal. It takes just a little bit of organization, dedication, and skill to cinch the deal!

5. Accept the hard no.

Sarra is the epitome of dedication: she has pursued clients for more than three years because she ardently believed Provident was the right bank to meet their needs. But sometimes, you have to know when to accept ‘no thanks’ and throw in the towel. We’re not suggesting giving up, but getting smart. It’s a waste of time and energy to chase a dead end, so you’ll have to recognize when your company and a client are simply not a good fit, whether it’s timing, circumstance, worldview, or disposition.

You can’t win ‘em all and that’s ok. What’s more important is that you attract the right kind of people to do business with. And you can bet your bottom dollar all your hard work will pay off. 

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