11/10/2014 01:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

You Lose One-Out-of-Five for Being Too Aggressive


…but you get the other four!

When I was in real estate there was this mega-successful mortgage broker named Mari Mahoney. She did more business than any ten “successful” mortgage agents combined.

I asked her how she did it. What was her key to success? She rapidly responded, “I lose one out of five for being too aggressive—but I get the other four!”

That statement changed my life.

Before then I was overly concerned about being too assertive or overbearing. If someone got mad or called the broker (my dad!) to complain that I was calling too early, too late, or showing up on their doorstep too often, I was horrified. After my lunch with Mari, being aggressive became my goal.

I was at my in-laws this past weekend. One of my brothers-in-law is currently looking for a job. I asked him how it was going and he responded, “I sent out 42 resumes, but no one has gotten back to me.” I asked him how many times he had called each employer and how many drop-ins he had made. I asked if he had sent any employer his favorite book. Had he sent a valuable article or press clipping on the organization or competitor? His response? “None, none, and no.”

I offered him some advice that you, too, might find valuable—whether in finding a job, recruiting top talent, capturing a dream client, or winning business away from a competitor.

1) Shock and Awe—Narrow your list to your highest-priority targets. Then unload every bit of arsenal you have. Call, fax, email, FedEx, telegram, show up, court the gatekeeper, bring lunch, send gifts (books, magazine articles, swag, etc.), and network their contacts (peers, underlings, superiors, vendors, attorney, CPAs, etc.).

Here is the magic: Don’t be afraid of being too aggressive. You might be for some, but who cares? You have a thousand times better shot at the others on your list. Get some people to call you, your boss, your association, your congressman, whatever, to complain that you are becoming a nuisance. You will then know you are on the road to victory.

I get solicitations every day from people who want to be featured in SUCCESS or want a job with the magazine. I either don’t respond or “brush off” the first attempt or two. Why? I want to know the character behind the solicitation. If someone persists, even if I am initially sure I am not interested, I will give an audience. If they are creative in their persistence, I am usually an easy sale.

2) Get Referred In—Cold calling is for weenies. Winners get referred in by other winners.

When I interviewed Bob Beaudine, author of The Power of Who and owner of the leading executive recruiting firm in sports and entertainment, he made this point abundantly clear: “In the last 30 years I have received over 80,000 resumes. Do you know how many jobs I have placed off a resume? Not one.” Beaudine will tell you that you already know everyone you need to know to get anywhere. You just have to ask, network through your relationships, and make new relationships.

If you don’t know anyone who knows your target contact directly, find someone who knows somebody one to two degrees away. Make a new friend and climb the rings on the daisy chain to your target.

If I am interviewing someone who was referred and endorsed by someone I have respect for, the interview is very different than the one who came from a posting and a resume. The latter person really never had a chance.

3) Do the Unexpected—In my book The Compound Effect I tell the story of Alex, a friend of mine, who was up for a big job. He lived in California; the job was in Boston. He was one of twelve final candidates. The company was going to interview local candidates in person and conduct video conferences for those out of the area. Alex called me to ask if I knew how to facilitate a web videoconference.

“How badly do you want this job?” I asked him.

“It’s my dream job,” Alex replied. “It’s everything I’ve spent forty-five years preparing to do.”

“Then get on a plane and show up in person.”

“No need,” Alex said, “They’re flying in the final three for a last interview.”

“Listen,” I told him. “If you want to be in that final three, you should separate yourself by doing the unexpected. Fly across the country on a moment’s notice and show up in person. That’s how you make a statement.”

I also suggested Alex pull out all the stops—attack from every possible front and do it relentlessly: Research all the people in the organization. Take that list and run it by his entire network to see if anyone knew somebody in the organization. Search every name against his LinkedIn database. Find a few people to connect with. Talk with them and ask them to put in a good word for him. Send them gifts or notes and ask them to hand-deliver them to the decision-makers. Phone, e-mail, fax, text, tweet, connect through Facebook—do whatever necessary during the process.

I suggest you do the same.

Could this be overly aggressive? Heck, yes! But I have found that you may lose one out of five for being too aggressive, but you get the other four! And when it comes to capturing dream clients, you only need a few.

Now, no more namby-pamby, soft peddling around. Straighten your spine, get aggressive, and get after it!