There’s a fine line between bothering somebody and tenacity, but entrepreneurs have made pestering, or persistence, work for centuries. Persistence pays off. Knowing who the best person to speak with, and not stopping until you’ve cornered them is crucial if you’re trying to grow your network or boost awareness of your product.
Those who hold back will find it hard to get noticed. Even with a great product, unless you have fantastic marketing, there’s a chance your product or service will falter without persistence.
"In the North East there's a phrase 'shy bairns get nowt', meaning if you don't make yourself heard you won't get anything as a result. This colloquialism can be applied to small businesses everywhere," says Chris Nixon founder of FOOTY.COM.
The same goes for available opportunities. Many of us spend time considering "when is the right time?" "What should I be doing now?" To succeed, and to achieve a goal, it’s great to have the mindset that an opportunity won’t necessarily come up again. Persistence goes hand in hand with this mantra - you may never again be in the same room as Bill Gates, or whoever your idol is, so walk up and shake their hand.
Lowdon suggests making a list of everyone you’d like to work with, and then trying to contact them. "Blindly knocking on doors will only get you so far. However, with a structured plan and a strong dose of persistence you can secure the partnerships which are key to your business."
Nelson Sivalingam, founder of HowNow, is convinced that being persistent and talking to people is a great way to start a business. Sivalingam is a strongexample of how important it is to target who you speak with.
"Before we started building HowNow, I wanted to know if there was a need for this product amongst experts and teachers.
I put together a list of experts from a couple of different subject categories and got on the phone. The first person I spoke to said he wasn’t interested unless they could integrate with their Google Calendar, so in my next call I added to my pitch that you could integrate with Google Calendar. Every time someone rejected my offer, I would ask them why and then add this objection as a new feature to this fictional product. I kept on doing this until someone was interested enough in the product to give me a meeting."
Scott Phillips is co-founder of Rise Art, and he set a lot of store by getting people’s advice. "This meant taking mentors out to lunch and getting their advice. I found that a lot of people were really receptive and eager to help which emboldened me to hound further. I’ve found that that the best way to get people involved is to be courteous, honest, punctual while always respecting their time."
He advises that entrepreneurs should be aware of the lengthy timeline when it comes to arranging meetings with investors. "Often, I’ll reach out when we aren’t even fundraising to say hello and introduce myself to someone who I would love to have as an investor. I’ll research what they are doing and craft a personalised and well researched email as a means of introduction, usually after a reference by a third party. I’ll then ask them to a 20 minute coffee, and will respect their time when I am with them. Following the meeting, I’ll send a handwritten note as a thank you and follow up."
Phillips suggests making the most of opportunities, and to connect with people you wouldn’t normally try to in a normal circumstance. His top tips for new SME founders are to be professional and targeted. "The people you want to meet are busy, and unless you cut through the noise in a meaningful way, you won’t make progress.” He advises respecting people’s time, and come prepared to meetings too. Only ever take the time you’ve asked for. Finally, he can’t recommend paying it forward enough. “Random acts of kindness generally pave the way for greater rewards."