The Billion Dollar Phone Call….that I ignored

Lightning Bottle

When I first moved into marketing, I was assigned to an emerging technology that was slow to take off. Years of failed promises had management out of patience. Our small marketing team had to be careful how we spent our time. Rule #1: ”Never talk to anyone that can not place a 100,000 unit order.” There were plenty of small start-ups that wanted our attention but it took the same amount of time to send samples to Sony or Apple as it did to send samples to Bob who was developing a product on his kitchen table.

With this mindset, I answered my first phone call from Stefan. He wanted samples but he worked for a company I’d never heard of. I brushed him off. The next week, I received another phone call from Stefan. Same request. Same friendly, unassuming voice. Same result. I brushed him off. This went on for months. I quit picking up the phone and let it go to voice mail. Every week, I heard the same friendly, humble request. “Please call me back…”

One week, at our staff meeting, someone asked, “Who is Stefan? I’m getting a phone call from him every week.” We all responded, “Me, too!” Somehow, Stefan had identified all the marketing contacts for this technology and made weekly phone calls to each of us. We all admired his persistence and the fact that he remained pleasant, even after ignoring him for months. We agreed to just give him some samples at no charge. He obviously wanted them badly. It was my job to call and let him know.

As it turns out, Stefan was the president of a small company developing a debugging tool to help people design our technology into their products. This was something we’d never even considered. It was vitally important to the success of the technology. If Stefan had never received his samples, the roll out of this technology would have been delayed again, my management would have pulled the plug and I never would have spent 15 years traveling the globe to promote this technology.

Stefan went on to become a major player in this billion dollar industry and to build a successful company which he sold for a small fortune. Years later, I was in town and gave him a call. He was delighted and took me to dinner in his shiny red Viper. As we drove to dinner, I related to him the story of the staff meeting where we decided to send him the samples. Then I asked, “How did you remain so nice after we ignored you for so long?” He responded, “I was nobody from a company you’d never heard of. I desperately needed your product to be successful. I had nothing to offer you and you had everything I needed. All I could do was to be nice and ask again.” His tone of voice let me know that he was still that guy. Viper not withstanding.

Stefan did two things right. He was nice and he was persistent. When you come across that great job that you really want, persist. Check out the company social media sites. Web pages give you business information (product lines, sales locations, press releases, documentation….) Facebook et al. (if done right) will give you interesting information about the company (charities they support, corporate team building events, mentions in the major press, industry trends…) which will make you a much more interesting candidate to interview.


About jamessnider

James Snider is the Vice President of Business Development for Engstrom Trading, LLC. Engstrom imports products from Scandinavian countries and builds a market for them in the USA and Canada. View all posts by jamessnider

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