Apocryphal Anecdote on Persistence

I’ve been reading a book by a well-known and successful consultant Alan Weiss (author of Million Dollar Consulting and about 30 other books), and he had an interesting anecdote regarding persistence (most likely of dubious authenticity).

As I paraprhase how Alan tells it, an organization had a sales team with one individual who, by most accounts, is a terrible salesperson.  He doesn’t really have the skills needs to become a successful salesperson (doesn’t listen well to customer needs, etc.), and was predicted by many to be unsuccessful.  However, this person always seemed to lead the team in sales – by at least two to three times the other staff.

At first, the managers thought his first year success was a fluke, but after two or three years of this performance, he was brought in to explain just how he does it.

So, the sales manager asks him, “When you meet with a customer, what do you do?”

The salesperson answers, “I put the catalog on the desk in front of him.”

And the conversation continues, “OK – so what do you do next?”

“I open the catalog to page 1 and ask if he wants to buy what’s listed.”

“So, what if they say no?”

“I turn to page 2 and ask if he wants to buy what’s listed.”

“OK – if they say no again, then what?”

“I turn to page 3 and ask if he wants to buy what’s listed.”

“Well, what happens if you get to page 147 and they still don’t buy anything?”

“I go back to the beginning and start over at page 1.”

This probably isn’t the easiest method to generate sales (and could lead to being kicked out of the customer’s office!), but the persistence is clear, and one could see how this could lead to better than average results – there are some people who would buy something merely to stop turning pages in the catalog! 

This doesn’t mean that other methods wouldn’t work better (they probably would…).  However, persistence is a key factor in leading to success, whether in sales or in any aspect of life.

Alan mentions this as an example of being omnipresent to your customers – always being there when your customer realizes that they need (your) help.  However, it also is a good example of what persistence can bring. 

You can read more about Alan Weiss at his blog Contrarian Consulting.

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I currently serve as Vice President of Decision Science at CenturyLink. I've previously served as a leader in the Advanced Risk & Compliance Analytics (ARCA) practice at PwC and as Director of Data Science & Analytics Engineering at Areté Associates. I've served the public as Chair of the Thousand Oaks, CA Planning Commission. I have been married to my wife Stephanie since 1993, and we have a wonderful daughter Monroe. Learn more about me »

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