Selling from the Front Porch : Persistence

Every time we would go down to Uncle Allen and Aunt Barbara's house, it would mean one thing to me--a chance to fish!  Allen had two farm ponds that were stocked with fish.  One had a nice dock and you could throw fish food over the water and watch swarms of fish come to the surface.  Yet another learning experience popped up one night on the porch when I looked up from a pile of beans that seemed higher than how tall I was on tip toes.  I did not have time to snap beans, I wanted to fish! 

So I dutifully snapped and threw beans into the buckets all the while glancing at the water from the pond down the hill.  I felt trapped and knew at the rate I was going, we may be there all night and halfway through the next day before the pile was gone.  To make matters worse, Allen had gone back to another few rows of the garden that we did not pick and piled yet more unprocessed beans into the pile.  Fishing would never happen this day!

Aunt B asked me, "Phil, do you want to go fishing?" 

"Yeah, I would rather do that than working on the mountain of beans we have here," I replied. 

Barbara's response made me almost fall out of my chair.  "You will never get to the pond if you continue to mope at the task at hand instead of just getting in there to conquer it!"  I had never thought of beans as something to conquer, but at that time, I did consider them my personal enemy. 

And so, I began to dutifully snap beans and engage in the conversation of the evening.  It did not take long before the bean snapping mission was accomplished and it was then time to grab a pole and some worms and head to the pond.  It happened the summer heat had cooled down enough to allow for the fish to become more active.  I was not as thankful for all the hard work at that moment, but I did learn in the winter how good a pot of home canned green beans and bacon were!

The lesson here was in persistence.  Good sales and leadership require it.  You can be snapping beans or building a relationship with your biggest commercial prospect; either of these requires you to press on and complete the task.

At my last banking job, I spent five years calling on a large contracting business before I won their accounts.  Many times I would respond to more retail-minded, transaction-oriented, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately bosses who questioned why I would periodically visit the company and its key leaders.  It proved they were focused only on the small business today, instead of working to build larger business tomorrow.  Yet to be successful, both now and future time-frames must be worked.  After five years, I won a solid customer and a relationship of tens of millions of dollars. 

Persistence is what keeps you pressing on when times get tough.  It follows a discipline of what needs to be done each day and every hour.  It drives the actions that need to be done in private times when nobody sees in order to have the excellent performance in public.  It is what forces the football player to get up in the wee hours of the morning in order to workout.  It is what makes the professional golfer hit ball after ball on the driving range to perfect his swing. 

One of my favorite persistence quotes came from President Calvin Coolidge.  I have the saying posted by my desk.  Nothing in the world will take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; noting is more common than an unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan Press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

So no matter if the task in front of you is a big pile of beans, the largest customer you have landed to date, or reaching the top in your field, persistence is necessary to ultimately succeed.