Persistence in Boutique Consulting: From Rejection to Opportunity

The difference between being persistent and being annoying.

Persistence is the act of choosing a goal or outcome and pursuing it until you achieve it. You fail at your first attempt, and you try again. You failed at the hundredth attempt, you continue trying. It's not giving up.

If you want to grow, you will need to do things that are outside your comfort zone. So to achieve challenging goals you will need to, by definition, persist.

Since many sales gurus advise for a position I don't agree with, here are my thoughts on how consultants should use persistence to promote their offerings.

It's Not Failure, It's Information

Don’t take any rejection personally - it's all about them, not you. The best way to deal with it is to see it as feedback.

Sometimes prospects share what their main objections are, and you get the chance to address them during the conversation. This is a great sign, because it means the opportunity is not closed yet - the prospect trusts you enough to share their concerns, and you have the chance to improve your proposed solution to better serve them.

Other times, though, you will be rejected without justification. You ask the prospect why, but hear nothing back. Even in those cases, we can see it as information.

Assuming the prospect is a good fit, a “no” meant that:

  • They did not enjoy the way you interacted with them;
  • They didn't see how they benefit from engaging and working with you;
  • They had other urgent priorities and you caught them at a bad timing.

If you really want that prospect you will need to persist, and the way you do so is by attacking each one of those hypotheses. This means you need to either:

  • Change your approach;
  • Create more value during the sales process; or
  • Try again later.

Doing Something New

What can you do differently on the next try? Look back at every communication you had with the prospect:

  • Did you do your homework? Did you take the time to research, and then understand the client's situation and how they feel about it?
  • Did you send meeting materials in advance, and made sure meetings had clear goals? Did you reply to messages in a timely manner?
  • What makes this prospect different from the others that I have sold to? What does that mean for what I should say and how I should behave?

While I'm a big promoter of creating, documenting, and following a clear sales process, sometimes you might need to experiment if you want to succeed.

Without Value, You Will Be Seen As Annoying

I wrote about the importance of trading value before, especially when prospecting. The sales process consists of a series of conversations and commitments, and you need to provide enough value in your conversations if you want the prospect to commit to the next step.

If you want to continue pursuing a specific prospect, here's a quick exercise:

  1. Identify what was the commitment you failed to secure: Was it time (for the first chat)? Was it to explore his situation (learn context and discover needs)? Was it to propose a solution?
  2. Look back and list the stories and insights you shared in the last conversation.
  3. Answer: Is that enough? If I were the prospect, which insights would convince me to commit to the next step?

"No" Means "Not Now"

One of the biggest reasons we see higher win rates and faster sales cycles with inbound opportunities is timing. There's something that impelled them to reach out to you now. Find out what it is, and you're halfway there.

But the best opportunities are off the market, and you will have to take a proactive approach to start conversations with them. The problem is that, 98% of the time, they don't have (or don't know they have) a problem for you to solve.

In some cases you will need to take a consultative approach and show them their lives could be better, and how you can help them make it happen. In other cases, the company is going through internal changes or bigger challenges, and you need to wait until the process is over.

That is exactly why you need to persist: so you will be in the right place at the right time.

Since it's impossible to know when the right time is, staying top-of-mind and touching base every now and will ensure you’re there when it’s time to strike. Focus your efforts on winning the business over the long term.

Thanks for reading. You can get more specialized and actionable growth insights for micro consultancies in our newsletter. Every Tuesday, you get one idea from Danilo, one quote from other experts, one number you need to hear, and one question for you to level up your consulting practice.

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