Funny how beliefs build up, right? But yes, there’s a lot to be said for perseverance and persistence – and of course, not giving up too soon.
There’s nothing worse than putting in a lot of effort, and when the moment of decision is a hair’s breadth away, giving up on the assumption that things will not work out. On the flip side, some people assume that things will work out – become over-confident and then, watch helplessly as things go out of their control. It happens to everyone at some stage in life. And becomes a huge learning point.
Last week, a friend of mine and I were reminiscing over old times. We used to be colleagues in one of the places I worked and continued to keep in touch. Every once in a while we call each other, plan to meet up and enjoy a long long conversation on the phone before we get on with our day. During this particular call, we remembered another colleague and as old friends will, recalled incidents from that time. Certain things that happen are quite unforgettable and this was one of those.
Let me tell you what happened.
This was during my stint in the office automation industry. My colleague was a great guy. Smart. Successful. Too confident. He also assumed he was perfect – and stopped doing the little things sales people must do to maintain relations with a client.
There was this long term client on our roster. This meant the service engineers would visit regularly and the sales person would intervene only when it was necessary. Of course, we kept in touch with the purchase guys to keep track of new requirements. Now – this guy had been handling this client for a while. When a little birdie told us that a large requirement was coming up in that organization, he made the cursory visit and came back – saying there was no news about it yet.
The heat is on
The case hotted up after a few weeks and soon, it was negotiation time. By now, there were competitors in the fray since it was a large order. This guy was spending a lot of time on the account – and one could see he was fatigued. Then, negotiations were over. All that was left was for the client to actually issue the order. There were some internal issues on their side, non availability of the signing authority and so on…and somehow, the matter dragged.
This guy lost interest in the client slowly.
He was angry that he sweated so much over it… the order was nowhere in sight – and well, sales people have targets to meet. They can’t focus on just the one client. But this order would have not only helped him achieve his sales quota for the next two months, but would also be a big feather in his cap. He became desperate and started hanging around the client’s office. Days went by. Dejected, he got back to his usual beat.
Then one day, there was a courier from the client. This guy was so mad at them, he just picked it up and shoved it in his bag as he walked out of the office and forgot all about it. He thought, “Ugh. Now what. Why waste time opening that cover”. Two days later, the client called, wanting to speak with him. He wasn’t in the office. When he returned in the evening, he saw his list of phone calls and returned some…and this client’s was not one of them.
Another two days passed. Saturday arrived. We were sitting in the office – this guy was cleaning out his bag – and found the envelope, squashed at the bottom. Exasperated, joking, he opened it. It was the client’s order.
Can you imagine how he felt?
He had worked so long and hard at it…and at the crucial moment – lost hope – gave up. Being a Saturday, no damage control was possible and I think he spent the worst weekend in his life, waiting for Monday. On Monday morning, he went to the client’s office to find that the order had been issued to the competitor.
I tell you, the guy was in a rotten mood, naturally – and took the rest of the day off. He was a broken man, literally. Soon after, he quit the organization. Much later, we heard he was no longer working in sales. In the industry it is pretty hard not to bump into each other – after all, we worked the same market.
So anyway – it was a big lesson, in a sense, to all of us. And quite a wake up call on assumptions.
Easy to give up.
Not so easy to hang on.
Easy to take things for granted
Not so easy to accept when things do not go the way we expected
Easy to let ego come in the way
Easy to be scared
Not so easy to overcome fear of failure
Not so easy to stay focused when that happens
Easy to take the easy way out and quit
Not so easy to look those obstacles straight in the eye, stick a finger on their collective nose and say “I will persist, no matter what”
We are stronger than we think. Our minds sometimes bring on the illusion that we “can’t”. I believe that we can when we think we can. We can be successful. We can be whatever we choose to believe because that belief will spur us into action. Or not. And that is the moral of this story.