My Calvin Coolidge Squirrels

Nothing in this 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.
Calvin Coolidge
30th President of the United States (1872 – 1933)

This quote has occupied a spot on my desk for years. Okay, I’ll grant you Calvin Coolidge will not go down in history as one of our greatest presidents. But, I do like his thinking on persistence and determination. Here’s another quote I like.


They worked hard for it. They never gave up. They deserve it. Let ’em have it.
— Betsy Harper (upon viewing squirrels feasting on the birdfeeder who have, after much effort, successfully leapt over the baffle and onto the feeder.)

Watching squirrels try to get onto the birdfeeder in my back yard, I continue to be amazed at how undeterred and persistent they are in the pursuit of sweet and tasty sunflower hearts. They have kept me entertained as I watch them, quite literally, strategize which vantage point will propel them up to the feeder. So, I can’t begrudge them their prize when they finally clear that baffle and start their feast.

Winter is the only time of year they can maneuver over the baffle because the snow is so high. Still, twelve months of the year they are in hot pursuit of those tasty seeds. They’ve never figured out that their success is truly seasonal. I like their spirit!

Look for Salespeople with Squirrel Persistence

When I interview sales candidates, I look for people who have a bit of the squirrel in them. I think persistence is an invaluable trait for most things in life, but in sales it is critical.

When I’m interviewing, here are four ways that I identify the true squirrels:

  • Cold Calls to Appointments Ratio – In the interview, get a clear picture of phone activity at the beginning of the sales process. This is important to determine how many calls your prospective salesperson makes in order to get that important in-person meeting or web demo. Find out how many times he calls a prospect before moving on to the next prospect. If he only made two or three calls per prospect, you could be hiring someone who’s going to blow through lots of valuable leads to get his sales results.
  • How Long is the Sales Cycle – Ask your candidate to give you examples of the shortest time, and the longest time, it’s taken him to make a sale. Get an idea of the activity in between first call and wrapping up the deal. If it’s a large deal and a long sales cycle, watch for indications of how persistent your candidate was in each step of the long sales process.
  • Ask for an Example – That’s right – just ask! Tell your candidate that persistence is a pre-requisite in a salesperson and ask him for an example. If he has to think longer than a few seconds, he may not have a good example. If not, you are talking to the wrong person.
  • Watch Carefully What He Does During the Hiring Process – Good candidates know that finding a new job has the same dynamics as making a sale. Good candidates ask for a clearly defined next step. They follow up. Watch for this persistence in your own dealings with them. If they call you a day after the interview as a follow-up, that’s a good sign. If you tell him you’ll get back to him in a timely manner and you don’t, the persistent candidate will be calling you for the next step. Persistence during the hiring process is a clear indicator of how persistent they will be in the sales process.

My mother was showing me her fancy new bird feeder last week. The bottom of the feeder is rigged so that when something heavy, like a squirrel, jumps on the feeder, the feeding holes shut. “What?,” I said to her, “No food for our flying rodent friends? Now, where’s the fun in that?”

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