Editor’s Note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople made a challenging sale despite price objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. In this Greatest Sale, Tom Borg, of Tom Borg Consulting, Canton, MI, tells the story of how persistence pays off, despite getting no feedback from the buyer.
After spending several years with a large well-known consulting firm, I launched my own company. In my former job, the company’s reputation had opened doors to major clients. Now I needed to build my own brand. So I’d targeted several large, high-profile organizations whose business could help me establish credibility. I’d identified one national association in particular that I wanted to do business with. My background made me a perfect fit – if only I could get their attention.
I quickly identified the key decision maker: the group’s national training director. So I called to introduce myself. He wasn’t in, so I left a message. I got no reply, of course, so I called again. And again. I got nowhere. Either he was the busiest man on earth or he was ducking my calls.
It was like my efforts were going into a black hole.
At the same time, I was also working my way from the bottom up. I’d contacted a local chapter of the association and offered my services. They had no budget, but invited me to speak to the chapter.
I quickly agreed. “If I do a good job, all I ask is that you recommend me to your training director,” I said. Afterwards, they said they loved my talk and would recommend me. And sure enough, I soon got a phone call.
But it wasn’t the training director. It was another chapter. “We heard about your talk,” they said. “Can you speak to our chapter too?” I did, on the same terms. More referrals came my way, but still no word from the training director.
Just to be sure, I asked for copies of the locals’ recommendations, bundled them up and sent them on to the national office. They went into the black hole too. The training director still wouldn’t take my calls.
A glimmer of light
One day I got a call from one of my local contacts. “I’m in charge of our regional meetings this year,” he said. “Can you help us out?” I said I would. Then my contact casually mentioned that the training director would be attending.
When my contact introduced me to the director at the meeting, I decided to play it cool. I didn’t even mention all my efforts to reach him. I just said, “I’m glad you could be here.” He nodded noncommittally.
After my session was over, he made his way over to me. “Great job,” he said. “I’ve been hearing good things about you for quite some time. Call my office next week and we’ll talk.”
I did, and landed a major assignment. That opened the door to other opportunities with this client and helped establish credentials for my new business.
This was my greatest sale because it taught me the value of persistence. Even when I thought my efforts were going nowhere, they were having a greater impact than I could have known.
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