Paul Graham wrote this blog about successful vs. unsuccessful teams. The sentence that grabbed me was “The startups that do best are fire-and-forget in the sense that all you have to do is give them a lead, and they’ll close it, whatever type of lead it is”. As I read the rest of his blog post, I agreed with the points raised, but waited to read something that he didn’t include, and it separates successful people from unsuccessful people in general, not just startups.There are people whose basic philosophy is that things should “come to them”, whereas other people naturally go out and seek what they desire. I’ll call the former people “Incomings”, while the seekers are “Outgoings”.
A quick example – let’s say your VC (or boss) sends you an email that says “I have a lead for you to accomplish the YYY problem we discussed yesterday”. An Incoming says “that’s great, I’ll shoot them an email” – and does just that. They then forget all about the conversation – so if the lead does not get back to them, it becomes a dead lead. The VC (or boss) would have to follow up to see if a connection was made, or else that opportunity is lost.
An Outgoing would do multiple things. First, they would learn as much about the lead as possible – who else they know that might know the lead, how/why the lead can help them, how the lead likes to be approached by 2nd degree people. Then, an introduction will be made (perhaps by email, but perhaps not depending on the research above). The Outgoer would then make a note to follow up after a short time (I typically do 2-3 days but can be a week depending on the circumstance) if they have not heard back. The Outgoer would let the person who gave them the lead know where they were with this introduction. In other words, they would “go after” this opportunity with rigor and zeal.
What’s fascinating to me about these different approaches, is that the Incomer will look at an Outgoer and wonder why they are always getting phone calls/emails/etc requesting meetings and follow ups. They figure that this person has some “Je ne sais quoi” – some appeal that people just want to talk with them. The truth is that there is no magic, and anybody can get this – it’s just a matter of becoming an Outgoer. Realize that people do not owe you anything – that you need to create your own reality and the way to do that is be relentless in your approach to making things happen. Do not wait for people to come to you – they will not. They are busy leading their own lives, solving their own problems, and fighting with people who disagree with them. Returning your call/email will likely never be in the top 3 things they need to accomplish today. So if you really need that person, you better figure out a way to break through. Waiting for them to “get it” isn’t a high percentage strategy.
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