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Stick With It

Tenacity is the key to building business relationships--just don't come on too strong.
February 8, 2008
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/190222

The favorite mantra of athletic coaches--"Never give up"--is also the key to launching your company into the stratosphere. Not only does Jonathan Soares never give up, but he also is the textbook definition of tenacious. The 23-year-old founder of Q Products Inc. developed a barbeque sauce that he knew would resonate with consumers. Developing the idea while in college, he cold-called every major buyer and retailer in the country to gain knowledge and build relationships. "I wouldn't stop until I got them on the phone," he says. He would send samples, follow up a week later to get feedback and then request an appointment. Says Soares, "I was very persistent about it, and it got me a lot of appointments."

What folks told Soares couldn't be done--launching a national product with just $10,000-he did with sheer perseverance, starting his New Milford, Connecticut, company in 2005. This year, he projects sales between $3 million and $5 million as his Jonathan's Q Gourmet BBQ Sauces hit about 7,500 retail stores.

Walking the fine line between endearing persistence and overwhelming aggression can be challenging. Be creative in your approach and show your personality, says Chip Cummings, a marketing consultant and author of Stop Selling and Start Listening! Marketing Strategies That Create Top Producers. Be persistent in trying to talk with people, but don't go overboard. "One of the biggest turnoffs that will kill a campaign is [receiving] multiple messages in the same day or every day," he says. "People tune it out. If they get the same e-mail message from somebody 10 days in a row, they'll delete it just because they see your name."

A good approach is to request 10 minutes to ask questions so you can learn about the industry or find out specifically what a buyer is looking for. Surprisingly, it's sometimes the higher ranking members of a company who are most receptive to this "I'd like to learn" approach. Says Cummings, "The higher up you go in the corporate ladder, the easier it is to approach those people and talk to them one-on-one because that's how they got there."

Keep your game face on, though, because you'll probably have to make at least four calls before making a sale, Cummings says. "[Prospects think,] 'First, prove to me that you're worth my time, then we'll talk.' Be tenacious--it weeds out the amateurs."