We tried to recruit these 2 people for 5 years. It was worth every minute.
Show up. Follow up. Follow through. The Hustle Formula. If there’s any real “secret” to success, that’s it.
But it’s not exactly a secret. After all, most people know the first part. Showing up’s easy. It’s just making that initial connection: Picking up the phone, sending an email, attending a conference, going to a meeting, you get the idea. You do it every day and so does everyone else.
But following up and following through? That’s where fortunes are made. Anyone can show up, but it takes a truly committed person to follow up and follow through.
In the past, I’ve covered how to use the power of the follow-up to close deals, overcome rejection, and achieve the impossible. Today, we’re going to talk about how to harness that same power to recruit the unrecruitable, or how to hire amazing, talented, transformational people for your startup.
But instead of just telling you what to do, I’m gonna show you how to do it. Close is what it is today because of our team, and this team didn’t come without a fight. Each person here was fought for, some for years. In practically every case, it was worth the wait.
I’m going to share two stories from the Close archives that truly illustrate the importance of following up and following through. But before we get to that, let’s make sure you’ve got the right hiring mindset.
If you can’t commit to a decade, don’t commit to a day
In recruiting, you’ll come across three types of candidates: Those who do good work, those who make a difference, and those who make all the difference.
The first two are in good supply. But those who make all the difference? They’re almost impossibly rare. When you find someone you believe can make all the difference in your business, hire them, no matter what it takes or how long it takes.
And it’ll probably take a lot. But that’s okay, because as Naval Ravikant, the CEO of Angellist said, “If you can't see yourself working with someone for life, don't work with them for a day.”
So forget hiring people to meet the demands of the next 6, 12, or 24 months. Look for people you can see yourself working with for the next 10, 20, or 30 years. That’s playing the long game, and it’s the only way to hire the best of the best. (If that describes you, we're hiring.)
Once you find these people, invest in them relentlessly. You probably won’t win them over today, tomorrow, next week, or next month. Maybe not even next year. But continue to follow up and follow through and you will. Because eventually they will be ready, and you want to be there when they are.
Besides, what’s another two years’ pursuit if it leads to a ten-year relationship?
But that’s enough theory. Let’s talk about what this looks like in practice. Here are two true stories of transformational hires made possible through the power of relentless follow-up.
A 3-year recruiting process (that started by getting drunk at a party)
Today, Phil Freo heads engineering and product here at Close, so it’s not an understatement when I say our inside sales CRM wouldn’t be what it is today without him. In fact, it might not exist at all.
But long before Phil and I worked together at Close, he and I were just friends. At the time, we were both involved in educational startups. I was founding my own and Phil headed engineering at another.
Even back then, I knew I wanted to work with him and I made sure he knew that, too. I remember getting drunk at a TechCrunch party one night and saying (read: slurring) something like, “Phil, I think you’re really amazing. I love your energy and your intellect. Someday, I want to work with you. I need to work with you. I will work with you.”
He said he felt the same, though maybe he was just being nice. After all, what are you supposed to say in a situation like that? Either way, the whole thing was hypothetical. I wasn’t in a position to make an offer, and he wasn’t looking for anything new.
Even so, I made my intentions clear: One day, in some way, I would work with him. And so began a recruiting process that would span years.
The worst decision of Phil’s life
Fast-forward a couple years: My startup had failed. While I was figuring out my next move, Phil was helping a mutual friend of ours brainstorm ideas for a new app.
Eventually, I was pitched the idea and, knowing Phil was advising the startup, jumped on board immediately. Although not an “official” part of the team, Phil was an incredibly helpful advisor. In fact, he even let us use his apartment as our first headquarters.
With Phil’s help, we launched our product, found some traction, raised money, and even got accepted into Y Combinator. And as soon as we could afford to, we pushed hard to hire Phil.
There was this 3-month process where we were inviting him to breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at least once a week. We were calling him, emailing him, showing up at his apartment … We even had a few Y Combinator partners pitch him on working with us. We tried everything.
Even after all that, Phil broke our hearts. The answer was, “No.” He wasn’t ready to leave the startup he was working with.
But what happened next is critical: When most people are rejected after this level of investment, they cut ties and give up. We refused to do that. In fact, his rejection only made us more committed.
That’s not to say the rejection didn’t hurt, or that I didn’t give him shit for it. In fact, I remember texting him a photo of that day to commemorate what I called the, “Worst decision of your life.”
But even with that disappointment, we continued to invest in the relationship. More importantly, we continued to make our intentions clear: One day, one way or another, we would work together.
The best decision of Phil’s life
Fast forward another year-and-a-half: Our startup pivoted and became ElasticSales, the predecessor to Close, and we’d begun to develop a track record of success.
As our situation changed, so did Phil’s. He’d spent the last year-and-a-half building a highly-efficient team that had become less dependent on him by the day. And once he felt comfortable doing so, he started flirting with the idea of working with us again.
You’d better believe we pounced on that. And this time, it worked. After a few months of discussions, Phil joined the team. I’m not gonna lie: It felt amazing.
Years of investment finally paid off. But was it worth it?
Phil came in and built the technology that allowed our salespeople to succeed. He then became the first real champion for releasing that technology to the market, the technology you now know as Close.
The cost and ROI of following up
Recruiting Phil didn’t come easy and both sides had to invest a lot. But because of that investment, there was a richness to our relationship that really allowed it to thrive.
Imagine what would have happened if we’d given up on Phil after the first year, or if we’d become defensive or discouraged by his rejection. Most likely, it would have cost us a hugely successful startup, and the market an exceptionally powerful product.
Remember: When you find someone you believe can make all the difference, pursue them relentlessly. When they’re finally ready for a change, you want to be the first person they think of.
I truly believe that the follow-up is one of the most under-appreciated high-impact areas in your life. I say that because I hardly ever meet anyone who’s really great at it. It applies to all areas of life. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve got a dedicated feature to help you manage your follow-ups with our sales software.
Speaking of people that can make all the difference …
Winning, losing, and (finally) winning again
In a different vein, here’s a story of someone who left Close, only to come back years later because we never gave up on him.
Nick Persico initially joined us back in the ElasticSales days. He was an amazing talent who quickly rose to the top of the leadership team. When we pivoted and launched Close, he was the first to sell and market it. The success of our launch was largely thanks to his efforts.
Nick became so successful so quickly that he got an amazing job offer from one of our clients. And although we did everything we could to keep him, Nick ended up accepting the offer and leaving Close, which was a loss that cost us dearly.
But even so, we weren’t angry or bitter. We knew we wanted him back, needed to have him back, so we did everything we could to help him succeed in his new role.
As a result, Nick’s company became one of our biggest clients, and he ended up becoming a vocal advocate for Close on the East Coast; helping a number of companies adopt and implement our inside sales CRM.
The hardships of entrepreneurship
A couple of years passed, and Nick decided to leave his role to co-found a startup of his own. It would have been easy for us to become discouraged by this. Instead, we doubled down on our investment efforts.
We became ad hoc advisors to Nick’s startup and did everything we could to help him succeed. But even as we did so, we made our intentions clear: One day, we wanted him back.
Some time later, Nick’s startup began to struggle. I remember having these odd monthly calls where we’d spend the first 30 minutes discussing strategies to save the startup, and the next 30 minutes telling him that it probably wasn’t going to work out and he should come back.
Nick rejected our offers over and over again for two years, but we never gave up.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), Nick’s startup didn’t make it. And when it didn’t work out and Nick found himself needing a job, what was the first thing on his mind? Where did he know he could go where he’d be welcomed and supported?
Close. Because we never stopped following up and following through with Nick, we were there when he was ready.
As of writing, Nick has been back only a few weeks but he’s already changing the ways we operate. In fact, the things he learned in his time away have made him even more valuable to us than before.
So it doesn’t matter that it took three years to win him back. It was worth it, and I’d do it over again in a heartbeat if I had to.
Can your startup afford not to have amazing people?
If there’s a single lesson here, it’s this: When you find amazing people, follow up and follow through with them forever.
Invest however you can, whenever you can, and keep in mind it doesn’t always have to be something major: Collaborate with them on a blog post. Invite them to join you at a conference. Or just hang out, have a beer, and take an interest in their career.
And as you invest, never let them forget: You want to work with them. You need to work with them. You will work with them. Whatever it takes, however long it takes.
Because you know these relationships are about decades, not months or years, and you’re in it for the long-haul.
Don't like reading? Watch the video where I outline how to use the follow-up to recruit the unrecruitable.
The Sales Hiring Playbook
Want even more hiring advice? Our new book, The Sales Hiring Playbook teaches you how to recruit, interview, and hire the best salespeople for your startup. Get your free copy here.
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