In 2012, I was on a team of friends and family that raised over $5,000 for Livestrong by running the Chicago Marathon. While I was worried about badgering people during the fundraising process, I learned a valuable lesson that applies to just about any sales pitch (and one more reason you should consider a job in sales).
After about a month of sending emails and intermittently posting the donation page on our Facebook walls, very few people had donated.
But then, following my teammate Adam’s example, we started publicly thanking each person who donated by tagging them in a note on Facebook. This allowed us to genuinely thank the person while calling further attention to the cause.
One person who I knew would donate but hadn’t yet, said to me one day, “I love that you guys are posting when people donate. I’ve been meaning contribute but I’ve been so busy and keep forgetting. Those are good reminders.”
If someone who actively WANTED to donate kept forgetting and the frequent reminders helped her take action, I thought, what does it take to convince someone who’s undecided?
The bottom line is that people are too busy for most sales pitches. They forget or get distracted, and any doubts they had about donating (buying, subscribing) get amplified. Basically, inertia is a bitch, and people need reminding. A lot.
This was a big eye opener for me. I needed to stop worrying about how many times I could ask before annoying someone, and worry about how many times it takes to get the job done.
Sales are tough
I experienced this again recently, with a post I wrote for Lifehacker. As you all know, I wrote a book full of shortcuts to become good at Mint.com. I’m trying to get it on as many blogs and sites as I can, but just like the Livestrong example, sales pitches are tough. I sent a few emails and never heard back. Rather than feeling ignored or uncomfortable about continuing to follow up, I decided to keep looking for another way in.
Eventually it worked. But getting published on Lifehacker took me about 30 emails, reminders, follow-ups, and check-ins spread out over two months, in addition to Twitter stalking and outreach. And just like with the Livestrong example, it wasn’t because they weren’t interested, it’s because people are busy! I just needed to be persistent to get their attention. And the higher profile someone is, the harder it is to catch their eye.
There’s a lot of noise out there and if you don’t speak up, no one can hear you.
Finally hitting our fundraising goal, and seeing my post on Lifehacker, both confirmed that we can’t be hesitant when it comes to selling, pitching, or convincing. Most of the time we have to push our way in by any means necessary.