Persistence

5 Ways to Master the Entrepreneur's Most Important Attribute

When you were in school, you were probably told to “be nice.” Today, educators are teaching another virtue: persistence.

According to research by Angela Duckworth, “grit” -- the persistence driving people to keep going despite setbacks -- is a bigger predictor of success than IQ.

This is music to the ears of serial entrepreneurs who have yet to have their Uber moment, but it also reveals an important, often forgotten lesson: Groundbreaking technology doesn’t politely submit to the status quo and successful entrepreneurs don’t take no for an answer.

If you want to capture investors’ attention or land that big client, you must shift your focus from being nice to being persistent.

Related: The Entrepreneur's Secret Weapon: Persistence. (See General Grant.)

When you should push.

Persistence is an important skill for leaders, especially entrepreneurs. When you work in an industry that challenges the status quo, much of your time is spent clearing space for your product in the market by convincing stakeholders to change their minds.

To survive, you must have a powerful internal drive urging you to overcome rejection, delay and criticism.

You can pitch your idea to an investor, and he or she may turn you down. All too often, businesspeople walk away when they shouldn’t.

After the following events you should still persevere instead of throwing in the towel:

You caught the person on a bad day. Every negative event an investor experiences in a day (from a pet's death to the cracking of an iPhone screen) can affect his or her ability to receive your pitch positively.

You botched the presentation. If you pitched your idea at the end of an exhausting three-day conference and forgot to mention some key traction metrics, don’t give up just yet.

You pitched too soon. If you pitched someone before you built up strong rapport, you haven’t necessarily hit a dead end.

Unfortunately, being persistent often looks and feels like being annoying. If you do it wrong, you’re hounding someone until he or she agree with you, and that’s no way to grow a relationship.

Here are five ways to make sure your persistent follow-ups feel authentic not aggravating:

Related: Hungry Entrepreneurs Need True Grit to Get Their Next Meal

1. Nail the timing.

If you pitched before you built good rapport, try to find common ground and expand on mutual interests to build credibility. Engage the prospect with casual emails or follow-up calls until you’ve developed enough trust to be able to negotiate to reach your objective.

2. Put the other person’s concerns first.  

The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science found that when someone feels like another person is listening intently, he or she becomes more invested in the relationship and trusts even more.

Listen to gain insight about why a prospect is (or isn't) interested in your pitch, which can be valuable ammunition for later. Understanding these reasons -- and countering them with new information -- can make your next interaction more effective.  

Related: 5 Sure-Footed Steps Toward Earning Respect and Loyalty as a New Entrepreneur

3. Respect the person's time.

Pleasantly persistent people understand the difference between consistency and harassment. Leave significant periods of time between each interaction to be sure that you come off as interested and determined rather than impatient and desperate.

After you have earned time on your prospect’s schedule, be prepared to make the most of that opportunity. Develop a comprehensive presentation that covers all the key metrics and that will carry you through a 45-minute meeting. Don’t rely on your memory.

4. Offer clear value.

When you meet with prospective clients and investors, cut straight to what you can do for them. Start with a value proposition that establishes that you can put their needs ahead and offer something that can help them achieve their goals.

People have patience for new products that may benefit them later or under different circumstances. But if there’s absolutely no value in your proposition and you remain persistent, you’ll quickly become a nuisance.

5. Keep things positive.

If you’ve identified a need for your product, you might build up to presenting this in the meeting. But don't become confrontational. Move toward positivity as the pitch continues. 

Persistence is an important part of being an entrepreneur. While you might worry about being annoying, the real danger lies in losing a deal by giving up too quickly. If you have value to offer and are thoughtful and constructive in your approach, your prospect won’t mind a follow-up. He or she might even be impressed by your scrappiness.

Related: Turning Crisis Into Opportunity: 5 Ways to Deal With Hardship