BUSINESS MARKETING: If 'polite persistence' doesn't work

2013-08-31T16:25:00Z BUSINESS MARKETING: If 'polite persistence' doesn't workLarry Galler Times Business Columnist
August 31, 2013 4:25 pm  • 

Everyone in sales knows a large percentage of prospects show enough interest to follow up with but then many won’t take phone calls (Caller ID), or won’t return calls or ask you to call them back in a week, a month, six months, or longer, and still they string you along.

Everyone in management knows that a large percentage of those you rely on (staff, vendors, etc.) will agree to have their work done by an agreed upon date and then miss their deadlines with excuse after excuse.

Both above scenarios cause frustration, and eventually anger because as one buying agent told me recently, “I feel like a babysitter calling suppliers constantly to see if they will be making good on their promises.”

For both the seller and manager, I strongly suggest a regimen of “polite persistence.”

For the salesperson, that means being prepared with a series of friendly, low-key, semi-scripted phone calls (always being prepared with an evocative, quick voicemail message) and email communications. If you can inject some humor into these messages, so much the better. The favorite one I heard (wish I had thought of it) was, “You said you would call me back on Tuesday and I haven’t eaten anything since because I didn’t want to have a full mouth when the phone rang.”

It’s much the same for the manager with the addition of communicating the escalating importance of your need.

But when polite persistence doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work all the time, what then? At some point the salesperson has to drop the prospect and spend that time working with others who will either say yes or no. The manager needs to go beyond polite persistence to "threatening persistence” then “demand persistence.” (“If you don’t do what you agreed to by [insert date] I will be forced to do [whatever you will be forced to do”].)

Polite works most of the time, but once in a while you have to move to beyond it to threatening and then even demand. Unfortunately, once in a while, you have to follow-through on your threats and demands.

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