One of the best pieces of advice I received about cold calling when beginning my career as a recruiter was to approach conversations with prospective candidates as "strictly exploratory."
I had a conversation like this today. The executive was pretty sure that he would not be interested in making a move, but he was willing to at least talk. As we talked, it became apparent that he was approaching the conversation as a learning experience. He was the curious type. It didn't surprise me as we continued talking that he had a few entrepreneurial irons in the fire. In fact, he gave me the link to a Kickstarter page for one of these projects. I laughed at this turn of events -- he was selling ME! In this particular instance I was not recruiting for a job at a startup, but I realized that this was someone who showed the potential to make the shift to a startup. He would definitely be hearing from me again.
This conversation reminded me of some of the qualities that indicate to me that someone is "startup material." I look for people who are deeply curious. I also look for a sense of adventure. Even better if addicted to learning and discovery. They live in a world of possibilities. They will almost always be willing to have an exploratory conversation. That word exploratory gets their attention.
If you live in a world of possibilities, you are more likely to find them. People who work at startups are really into possibilities.
Sure, the person who is not interested in a "strictly exploratory" conversation may just really love what they are already doing. I'll buy that. But if I am recruiting for a startup, I am going to take this as indication that they may not have been the right person in the first place. (True of sales recruiting, too.)
So this is not meant to be an exhaustive list ...or foolproof. Just some indicators. Do you agree?