This Internet meme about the importance of persistence in sales appears to be fake, but it’s still right on the money.

The sales statistics above must have struck a chord with salespeople as it is frequently shared on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Unfortunately, according to this article on the credible Venture Beat blog, it appears that the statistics themselves, and even the cited source, the National Sales Executive Association, are both completely fabricated.

Fake Doesn’t Mean Wrong

Many people think selling is tough, but what they probably mean is that selling can be discouraging. It’s hard to stay motivated when prospect after prospect doesn’t return your emails and phone calls, or worse still, tells you they are not interested in buying your product or service.

In order to psych themselves up for another day of knocking on doors and dialing for dollars, many successful sales people read inspiring stories such as the one found in Russell Conwell’s “Acres of Diamonds” speech and these oft cited sales “statistics.”

Fortunately, it doesn’t matter if any given story or statistic is true or not. What matters is that it rings true enough to motivate you to keep going when the phone feels like it weighs a thousand pounds and you are certain that the next receptionist you meet is going to call the cops on you. It is far more important that you just don’t give up.

Don’t take our word for it. Simple observation of top sales performers, many of whom are of average intelligence and ability, confirms that if you sell a product with perceived value, and persevere long enough, you will succeed in sales.

Is it true that 80% of sales are made on the 5th to 12th contact? Who knows? Forget these statistics and create your own. If you have been selling for a while, you can say definitively the minimum, maximum, and average number of contacts required for you to sign a new customer.

Unless you work in a retail store, it is most likely a lot more than 5, and if your sale is large and complex, it could even be a lot more than 12, too.

Don’t Bark Up The Wrong Tree

It’s important to note the importance of selling a product with perceived value. While technically not required, as some buyers can be manipulated, you have to be sociopathic to earn your living selling something to people you think they believe has zero value to them.

Selling a product you believe has perceived value is a good topic for an entire blog post, so for now, suffice it to say that you should only continue to persevere in your attempts to sell something if you and your prospects genuinely perceive what you sell has value.

One more thing. This post should not be used as justification for badgering customers who have no interest in your product or service. Most of the time, when a customer says they are not interested, they mean just that.

You should then use inspiring stories and statistics like these to motivate you to go find new prospects or to follow up for the 10th time with a qualified one.

However, there are other times when prospects say they are not interested, but what they really mean is this is just not a good time to speak. It is totally ok to say something like, “I hear you say you are not interested, and that’s ok, but I also heard that same thing from XYZ company before they realized we could reduce their costs by $50,000. So, I just want to be clear, are you really not interested in those kind of savings, or is this simply a bad time to discuss them?”

In closing, it should be clear that persistence pays considerable dividends as long as your efforts are directed at prospects who recognize value in what you sell and are willing to discuss it with you.

Questions:

1) Do you track how many contacts it takes you to get a sale? If so, how many? If not, what would you guess?

2) How do you motivate yourself when you want to give up?

3) What is your favorite inspiring story? Is it true?

Reminders:

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Happy selling this week. Remember, it’s an abundant world so focus on building value and detach from the outcome.

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