My friend Kevin had good cause to celebrate. He had just closed the biggest sale of his career and it would have required surgery to remove the grin from his face.
Of course I was thrilled for Kevin. He’s one of those folks we meet from time to time who are just impossible not to like.
Kevin sells employee benefit programs. If you work for a company that has provided you with health and dental benefits, life and sickness insurance programs or many of the other benefits that are common in corporations then, directly or indirectly, you are dealing with Kevin, or someone just like him.
What made this particular sale so satisfying for Kevin was not its size – the client has more than 25,000 employees participating in this plan – nor was it the commission checks that will be flowing Kevin’s way for a long time to come, it was something far more rewarding.
Kevin first made contact with this company in the spring of 1989. Yes, 1989, twenty-four years ago. He was shown the door and told not to come back.
But Kevin is the embodiment of the Habit of Persistence and for the next twenty-four years he called on that company every spring and every fall, attempting to “get my foot in the door.”
And each time the message was the same. There would be no opportunity for Kevin to sell his services. This company enjoyed a long-term relationship with its existing service provider and would give no thought to changing.
Around the fifteenth year he thought his big break had arrived. The Senior Vice President responsible for employee benefits – the very person who had been shooing him away year after year – was retiring and Kevin thought a new face may present new opportunities.
That did not happen. The new VP had long been mentored by his predecessor and kept telling Kevin that he preferred to “keep things the way they are for now.”
Undeterred, Kevin continued to call this person twice every year with the unshakable belief that the day would come when instead of hearing the sound of the phone being hung up, he would hear a voice inviting him to meeting.
This past spring when Kevin made his call a different voice answered the phone. This voice belonged to a newly promoted Senior Vice President who was taking it upon herself to do a thorough review of all vendor contracts.
Kevin was invited to a meeting and given an opportunity to present his services. He was then asked to submit a proposal and, in doing so, was able to demonstrate that he could deliver greater benefits, with superior service at a lower cost.
Kevin’s proposal, along with several others from competitors, was reviewed over the summer and two weeks ago he learned that he was the successful bidder.
One of Kevin’s colleagues told him he was indeed very lucky to secure a client of that size.
Kevin agreed. It all just came down to luck. It was sheer good fortune that Kevin had adopted the Habit of Persistence and went back time after time, enduring rejection for twenty-four years in order to get lucky.
We should all be as lucky as Kevin.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
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