When I first moved from software engineering into semiconductor marketing, I was given the assignment of promoting a new technology (FireWire). This technology had been slow to take off and management was running low on patience. For a couple of years, they had been told that success was imminent. Soon we would start giving them some return on their considerable investment. With a small marketing team assigned to make this happen, we had to be careful how we spent our time. The rule of thumb was that we should never talk to anyone who did not have the potential of placing a 100,000 unit order. There were plenty of small start-ups that wanted to develop FireWire enabled products, but we simply lacked the resources to deal with all of them. Besides, it took exactly the same amount of time to send samples to Sony or Dell as it did to send samples to Bob who is developing a new product on his kitchen table. Chances were good that Sony or Dell would eventually order 100,000 units. Chances were equally good that Bob would never amount to anything.
It was with this mindset that I answered my first phone call from Andreas. He wanted samples and was willing to pay for them. However, he worked for a company I’d never heard of. I brushed him off. The next week, I received another phone call from Andreas. Same request. Same friendly, unassuming tone of 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. “I would like just a few samples. I am willing to pay for them. Please call me back…”
One day at our staff meeting, one of the other marketers said, “Who is Andreas? I am getting a phone call from him every week asking for samples.” I responded, “Me too!” The other marketing guy responded that he also got weekly calls from Andreas. Somehow, Andreas had figured out who the three FireWire marketing guys were and made weekly phone calls to each of us. We all agreed that we admired his persistence and that he was always nice about his request, even though it had been going on for a few months with no results. One of us said, “We should just give him some samples. Don’t charge him…just give them to him. He has been so nice about it and he obviously wants them badly.” We all agreed and Andreas got his samples.
As it turns out, Andreas was the president of this small company we’d never heard of. He was developing a debugging tool to help people who were designing FireWire into their products. This was something we’d never even thought about. And, as it turns out, was vitally important to the success of the technology. If Andreas had never gotten his samples, the roll out of FireWire products would have been delayed again and my management would have pulled the plug on the whole project.
Andreas went on to become a major player in the FireWire industry and to build a successful company which he sold for a small fortune. Years later, I was in town on business and gave him a call to see if he wanted to get together for dinner. He was delighted and picked me up in his shiny red Viper. As we drove to dinner in his $65,000 car (this was a few years ago), I related to him the story of the staff meeting where we decided to send him the samples he’d requested so many times. Then I asked him, “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.” The tone of his voice let me know that he was still that guy. Viper not withstanding. He was still that guy I heard on the other end of the phone so many years ago asking once again, nicely, if I would please sell him some samples.
Andreas did two things right. He was nice and he was persistent. When you come across that great job that you really want, you should persist. Check out the company Facebook page. Web pages give you business information (product lines, sales locations, press releases, documentation….) Facebook (if it is 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 for a much more interesting interview.
Check out the company on LinkedIn. If the company is a small one, you will probably be able to figure out who just left the company, making the opening you are interviewing for. Do a “People” search, but enter the company name instead of a person’s name. This will show you who works for the company and who worked (past tense) there. If you determine who your predecessor was, look them up on LinkedIn. Tell them you are interviewing for their old job and invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. Then set up a call. I have done this twice and found the people to be willing to talk and ready to share extremely useful information.
Once you actually have the interview, mail a “thank you” note ASAP. Call a few days later. Invite the hiring manager to LinkIn with you. Even if they turn you down, stay nice and keep in touch. I heard somewhere that 30% of people who are hired, leave after 3 months. I am not sure if that is the case in the current economy but I have seen a number of people return to Southlake Focus after a few months because the job was just not right. Mail or email a note to the recruiter and the people with whom you interviewed a couple of months after your interview. Let them know that you are still interested in the company.
Follow them on Twitter and retweet them. Comment on their blog. There are so many things you can do to keep in touch. Be persistent and be nice.
Good luck and Godspeed.
Business Development Director