The sales odyssey: Lessons in persistence. The Paul Kinuthia story

Persistence and the art of connecting the dots pave the path to your success in selling. They are cornerstones of the sales odyssey; the sales journey. Here are two compelling stories that demonstrate this—one of unwavering persistence and another of methodical dot-connecting. The stories illuminate the essence of thriving in the competitive realm of sales.

Be persistent like Paul Kinuthia

The Business Daily captured his story thus: “Initially running a one-man operation in which he was the only worker on the ‘factory’ floor and the chief salesman, Mr Kinuthia would package his goods and walk from one beauty salon to another introducing his products to prospective customers.” 

And Forbes magazine continued about this successful salesperson, “Paul Kinuthia started (Interconsumer) in a makeshift apartment in Kariobangi Light Industries 20 (now 30) years ago with a start-up capital of 3,000 KSh ($ 50). He sold it, twenty years later, (to L’Oreal) for over KSh 1 billion. Though extreme, Kinuthia’s is a remarkable story on persistence.”

Read: Never say, ‘I can’t sell’ once you start a business

There are many lessons to learn from Mr. Kinuthia’s story-his sales odyssey. I shall, however, stick to one – persistence. “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than 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.” Spoken close to 80 years ago, these words by Calvin Coolidge still ring true today especially for you, the progressive salesperson.

The sales odyssey is travelled by successful salespeople too

The most successful salesperson in your organization in all probability has the most failures. That statement will surprise most, but it’s true. The reason why most will be surprised is because we don’t see successful salespeople (or any other successful person for that matter) in the light of failure. It’s almost as if they shield us from it. But the truth is, they don’t. They just don’t let the many rejections, the false promises, the ignored emails, the disconnected ‘phone calls and the aborted meetings clutter their conversation. They just take these in stride.

“It comes with the territory,” they will tell you. They know they are part of the job and an intrinsic one at that. It’s the sales journey, the sales odyssey. And because they rarely mention (let alone lament) over these woes, we never get to know about them. So, we assume these successful salespeople have their path always brightly lit and paved in gold. In truth, it’s not-what they do is persevere.

the sales odyssey

There is no failure in sales; only feedback!

As the quote aforementioned says, education, talent and genius are secondary to persistence. Look around you: the most successful person is not necessarily the most learned; and possibly, like me, you may know many who have a flair for the sales profession but hope that their talent will work for them even if they don’t.

If you want to successfully sell your product or service the key is to do it. Try. Try selling the Honda, the log book loan, and the education policy. Whatever your are selling, just try. And try again. And try yet again. Even if it means getting rejected all the time (which is very probable). Like the successful salesperson, if you want to double your success rate you must double your failure rate. Usually though, you find you triple, even quintuple, your failure rate, just to double your success rate.

Read: Just like hips, numbers don’t lie

Learn from the journey

One day, a pregnant wait for a major deal fell through. A business partner, lamented, “This is very discouraging. What do we do now?” And the response he got from yet another partner: “We knock more doors.” Just like that; no qualms about the “failure”, no bickering about who was to blame, no crying over spilt milk. Just, knock more doors. There is no failure in sales; only feedback!

Persistence does not mean repeatedly banging your head against the wall. That’s foolishness, which leads to your head cracking. Persistence, as you journey through your sales odyssey, means continually redirecting your efforts; meaning, connecting the dots as we shall see next week. It means banging your head against the wall but shifting the angle again and again based on feedback until the wall, not your head, cracks.  Persistence could also mean questioning whether it’s only your head that can crack the wall. After all, a sledgehammer just might do the trick. You can’t be stumped by the same objection over and over again, for instance. Handle it!

The foregoing is all good news for the progressive salesperson. Like Paul Kinuthia, it means that giving up on the second phone call isn’t acceptable; statistics show that 84% of breakthrough comes after the fourth call. It means that the spell of nil sales that has you at rock bottom means with guided persistence the only way is up. After all, “nothing in the world can take the place of persistence…”

Read: Optimism is a key lifeline for successful salesperson

Read the next story, here. Sales Odyssey II. Connecting the dots to being a seasoned seller


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