Scoring Through Diligence
Daniel’s passion was football. His problem was not a lack of effort or even his abilities. When he was in high school, Daniel led his team in tackles for two consecutive years. As the saying goes, he had a nose for the game. He worked out, practiced hard, and listened and learned from his coaches. He improved everything that was in his control. What kept him from playing at the next level — college — was his size. At 5’6˝ and 165 pounds, it would be more appropriate for him to be the mascot than to make the team.
But Daniel had a goal and, despite the fact that everyone told him multiple times to give up, he never did. The only thing bigger than the challenge before him was his desire to meet it. Most would give up at this point.
* * *
The salesperson makes a call on a large account. Not just any large account, however, but a mammoth, game-changing company. He applies his step-by-step, week-by-week prospecting process. But after four weeks he has nothing to show for it. At what point, he asks, does he give up and move on?
He has left multiple messages without any response whatsoever. There has been absolutely no indication that the company is open to meeting with him, would welcome his ideas or would even look his way. Most print sales reps would likely give up at this point.
* * *
Daniel had one other significant problem: He was currently enrolled at the college where he wanted to play football. Getting in was a whole different challenge, especially since his grades fell short, too. Scholarships were available but Daniel knew that he would not get in on skill alone. He would need another plan.
So, he decided to cozy up to the powers that be. He would set up meetings with college deans and show up unannounced at the admissions department to introduce himself and express his desire to play football. Everyone was polite (and privately, amused) and some were encouraging even if they knew in their heart Daniel didn’t have a prayer.
One year later, Daniel had built a reputation for his diligence and desire. When his name came up in a meeting, others would mention that they, too, had been contacted and heard his crazy plan. They’d tell him he is a dreamer. They’d tell him he is wasting his time. They’d tell him he should be pursuing another team and another college. Most people would give up at this point.
* * *
Taking a break, the salesman sits with a cup of coffee staring at his CRM and looking over the activities he has performed so far while asking the question every rep asks: “At what point do I give up and move on?” Sales is a tough job, he thinks, one that few understand. As the saying goes, no one gets dropped off at the top of the mountain.
His manager advised him to give up on this account. The other salespeople just shake their heads when he talks about his crazy dream in meetings. That last part surprises him, actually. You would think that a fellow salesperson would understand and be supportive.
Wait. A fellow salesperson? A quick search on LinkedIn reveals the names of the salespeople that work for the company he is pursuing. Though it’s a bit of a long shot, he reaches out to connect with each of them. To those who accept, he explains what he is trying to do and asks for their counsel.
Subsequently, he gains some valuable inside information and quite a few points of contact. In time, he has expanded his internal network to the point where he knows more people working at that company than he does at his other clients. Still, despite this extraordinary effort, one year later he has yet to even meet with a decision-maker. Any decision-maker. Most would give up at this point.
Knowing When to Quit, Fight
This is the tricky part. Knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. In sales — and in life — there is no shame in quitting, so long as 100% effort has been shown. When is a continued effort a bad idea, and when is it the road that must be taken in order to succeed? When is it a good idea to continue the fight and when is it utter lunacy?
Say “quit” and you’ll be reminded of success stories that would have been failures had the party in question given up (read: Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln). They, too, faced long odds and a bounty of naysayers. But say “persevere” and images of Don Quixote chasing windmills suddenly appear.
Clearly, there is no clear rule to follow. That leaves icky, gooey things like gut feelings and intuition as the key components in the decision. Hope, too. But since when is hope a solid enough base to build on?
In the end, the question of “When do you quit?” is answered with another question, “How badly do you want it?” Do you want it a little? Then quit after a little effort. Do you want it a lot? Then become like coach Jim Valvano and never give up.
Daniel Took Concept of Diligence to a New Level
Back to Daniel … in his mind, failure was not an option. Success was his mission and he would not be denied. To say his picture appeared next to the word “Diligence” in the dictionary would be an insult to the word “Diligence.” He went past that and didn’t stop until he reached “Unstoppable.”
Daniel became a fixture on campus. He’d show up to student events and voice his opinion. One group even put him on the committee’s leadership team, just assuming he was enrolled as an undergrad. More time passed and, despite repeated attempts to transfer, he was denied. Not once. Not twice. Daniel would eventually receive 50 rejection letters. Most people would have given up by now.
* * *
Our salesman knew he would have to get clever and take some initiative. He started looking for opportunities to make connections with his key prospects. Reading about a golf tournament in the weekend edition of his newspaper, he smiled when he saw the list of sponsors. Buying a ticket, he showed up and made it a point to mingle with the top brass afterward.
When he perused their website (as he did from time to time), he read a press release that said they’d be participating in a local trade show, so he stopped by their booth to learn more. One of the sales reps recognized his name and offered to introduce him to the marketing manager, who was at the show. Paydirt! At last, his tenacity had paid off. When the introduction happened, the head of marketing said, “You have built up quite a reputation here” to which the sales rep replied, “Just imagine how hard I will work for you once you become a client!” He was on his way.
* * *
The rest of Daniel’s story about making the Notre Dame football team as a walk-on is best told on Amazon Prime.
One is a feature film and the other a documentary. Both tell the tale of the undersized kid whose heart (the adjective, not the noun) could not be measured. And both bear the name Daniel is better known by — Rudy.
Diligence is omnipotent, Calvin Coolidge wrote. The print salesperson and the football player each achieved success as a result of perseverance while others said quit. Most would have given up. They didn’t.