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Updated Dec 20, 2023

Sales Persistence Pays Off

Being persistent in the right way can have big payoffs for your bottom line.

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

Table of Contents

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Outside any ballgame or rock concert, you’re sure to find a scalper or two hawking their wares. These folks make a living selling tickets to sold-out shows, and their method of operation is always the same: Hit up everyone who walks by, and if one person isn’t interested, then move on to the next one.

For scalpers, this strategy is perfect. Unfortunately, many salespeople use the same approach when they prospect for new business via tactics like cold calling. When a call doesn’t result in a sale, they banish the prospect, never to call them again. Much like the scalper, they move on.

Here’s why this is the wrong move – and why sales persistence is a much more successful tactic and one of the most important traits successful salespeople share.

How quickly salespeople give up

A study from Dartnell Corp investigated the number of times a prospect was called before a salesperson waved the proverbial white flag. (You might also have seen this data in Bill Guertin’s popular 2009 book, The 800-Pound Gorilla of Sales: How to Dominate Your Market.)

Here’s what the study found:

  • 48% quit after the first contact.
  • 24% stop after the second contact.
  • 12% give up on a prospect after the third contact.
  • 6% wave the white flag after the fourth contact.

As you can see, almost half of all salespeople quit after the first call, and the vast majority (cumulatively 90%) quit relatively soon after.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
The vast majority of salespeople give up too soon for meaningful results.

Why salespeople give up so quickly

So why do 90% of salespeople quit so quickly? There are many reasons, the simplest being that they let business and life get in the way. Some salespeople get caught up in busywork because it’s easier than following up with prospects. Others just lack the discipline to make those follow-up calls.

Why salespeople shouldn’t give up so quickly

The fact is that only 10% of salespeople make the fifth call, and 80% of sales are made after that fifth sales call. This leads to the conclusion that 10% of salespeople win 80% of the business.

Successful salespeople use their persistence and stick-to-it mentality to win – and win big. In the same way air gets thinner at higher altitudes, competition wanes after the first few calls. And the key ingredient that differentiates the average salesperson from the truly great ones is persistence – the persistence to make that first call and the discipline to make half a dozen more after it (without annoying the potential client, of course).

That half-dozen isn’t just a random number. Sales statistics say it takes eight cold calls to reach a prospect and that 44% of sales reps stop after the first follow-up call. Similarly, most buyer connections develop after 18 calls – and that’s certainly no small number.

Persistence increases a client’s confidence in a salesperson’s ability. It’s what makes a salesperson stand out from everyone else and make more sales. And it’s how salespeople stay top of mind when the client is ready to buy.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Eighty percent of sales occur after the fifth call, with up to 18 calls needed.

What sales persistence means for early sales calls

Successful salespeople don’t expect to sell anything during a first call. They know that only a small percentage (1% to 2%, according to Dartnell Corp) of people want to buy at that time. They tend to be familiar with what they need and have already done extensive research. If you happen to call at the right time, their business is yours.

But this is not the norm. Most buyers won’t be ready to sign that purchase order when a salesperson calls. Most will not have time to talk or will lack the resources or authority to make a decision.

Rather than trying to make that sale, the goal for the first call should be to implement a follow-up strategy – a strategy that allows you to build a relationship and trust by engaging in an ongoing dialogue. It’s kind of like a romantic relationship: You can’t propose the first time you meet someone. Your goal on the first date is to make it to the second one. And your goal on the second date is to interest your prospect in a third date.

Did You Know?Did you know
While certifications can't teach persistence and other crucial sales traits, the best sales certifications can get you noticed by hiring managers and give you an edge in the interview process.

Why long-term sales persistence works

In building a relationship, you’ll connect with customers and develop a much better understanding of clients’ needs and wants. You’ll get to understand their underlying problems, not just the obvious, superficial ones. Once the client knows you understand them, they are yours. They won’t go anywhere else, because the chances that another salesperson is just as committed are slim.

As a general rule, the more difficult a client is to get, the harder they are to lose, because stealing these kinds of clients requires persistence and discipline. Remember, 90% of salespeople don’t have these traits.

The key to converting your pipeline into sales is the ability to hang in there when others have given up. It means being persistent with phone calls, emails or even a personal visit. The longer you hang in there, the greater the chance that your competition has given up. [Read related article: How to Build and Grow a Sales Pipeline]

Just remember to make those fifth, sixth and seventh calls. Anything less and you’re better off scalping tickets.

Did You Know?Did you know
When you use CRM for lead management, you'll consolidate all the necessary steps to move potential customers through your sales pipeline.

Resources for improving your sales

Sales persistence means more than plugging along until you make the sale. It means knowing how to go about sales properly in the first place.

Here at Business News Daily, our list of the best CRM software picks  can teach you some basics and recommend helpful tools. You can also read in-depth reviews of specific CRMs, such as our Keap review.

Alongside these tips, all you need is persistence – which you surely know by now.

Max Freedman contributed to the writing and research in this article.

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Adam Uzialko, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Editor
Adam Uzialko, senior editor of Business News Daily, is not just a professional writer and editor — he’s also an entrepreneur who knows firsthand what it’s like building a business from scratch. His experience as co-founder and managing editor of a digital marketing company imbues his work at Business News Daily with a perspective grounded in the realities of running a small business. Since 2015, Adam has reviewed hundreds of small business products and services, including contact center solutions, email marketing software and text message marketing software. Adam uses the products, interviews users and talks directly to the companies that make the products and services he covers. He specializes in digital marketing topics, with a focus on content marketing, editorial strategy and managing a team.
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