Story and lesson by Joe Sherlock:
We love stories about climbing a symbolic Mount Everest but in real life most of us will not succeed as mountain climbers. In your business it's a better deal if you stay near sea level and play the odds instead of hoping for miracles. That's why you'll want to concentrate your efforts on those 60 percent - odds are they can be turned into customers.
Since everyone loves stories about success against formidable odds, here's one of mine. I once called on a small company who bought from my competitor. Their purchasing manager took an instant dislike to me. During our visit he remarked, "We'll never buy from you as long as I'm alive." Figuring that there was nothing to lose, I asked, "Well then, do you mind if I telephone once a year to see if you've died?" He got angry and threw me out. I called every year and asked for him by name, reminding him I was just calling to see if he was dead yet or was at least feeling poorly. It got to be a standing joke with us and he started to warm up to me. Five years later, he finally started to order from me.
This makes a wonderful story but it's a terrible example of how to sell. The reality was this guy never really became a large customer, still gave a lot of his business to my competitor and didn't pay his bills very quickly. I would have done much better investing my time and energy elsewhere. In my business career, I've probably wasted too much of my time on hopeless causes. I would have been better off if I had simply concentrated on those prospects who could be reasonably motivated to buy.
Learn from my mistakes. Concentrate your business efforts winning over the folks who can be won over - that magical 60 percent of your market that has a genuine interest in doing business with you but needs a little persuasion. The other 40% will take care of themselves.