Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You are… and you want what?

I’m Tom Petrocelli. I’m about to be an independent consultant (more on that in the future). If you want to know about me, my profile is available right here on-line. I write this blog because I like to write. I also admit that I like to pontificate and, on some level, hope it attracts some positive attention. There. Doesn’t that make things easier?
You would think it would be dogma by now that you owe any person you contact the courtesy of identifying yourself. Identify who you are, who you work for, and what you want to talk about. Yet, I’m constantly surprised how often this doesn’t happen. I can’t tell you how many times, in any given week, I’m contacted without any identification. Someone calls, asks for me (mangling my name of course), and starts talking. No “Hi, I’m Jim and I work for the League of Animal Lovers.” Not, “Hi, I’m Greg and I’m in sales at Acme Catapults. May I speak to Mr. Coyote please?” either.
Instead, they immediately ask for someone and start a pitch. Or even worse, they start asking questions. For example:
Caller: “Hi, is Tom there?”
Me: “Um. This is Tom. Can I help you?”
Caller: “Don’t you want to save money on your personal hygiene needs and help abused farm animals at the same time?”
Me: “What the ….?”
No introduction. No sense of context. Nothing. I’m supposed to sit and answer your questions when I don’t even know who you are? Doesn’t seem likely.
Now, if you think this is all the workings of some sleazy boiler room operation, think again. With the advent of the “Do Not Call” list, fewer and fewer of those type organizations are calling with high pressure pitches. Instead, these are not-for-profits, political organizations, and people who I might actually do business with and probably have already done business with. For example, I’ve gotten calls from various telecommunications companies that ask for me by name then start pounding out the questions. Just before writing this I had a call from my local political party. They forced me to ask three times who they were before they decided to tell me*. I almost hung up on them and I support them! I’ve even had some situations where I had to aggressively interrupt and demand that someone tell me who they were and what company they were from. In a few cases, the caller actually hung up rather then answer. Would I do business with these people? The answer is “Never!”
This type of behavior happens in a variety of contact situations, not just in cold calling. At trade shows and conferences, folks will practically leap out of the booth and ask questions or start pitching before they even say “hello”. You would think it would be harder with social media but a lot of people do the equivalent of it with blank profiles. In some cases it’s intentional (really bad) but a lot of the time it’s laziness. I summarily reject comments to my blog from people with blank profiles unless I know them personally. I can’t tell if they just forgot to fill it out or if it’s spam. Whether technique or lack of attention to detail, it has the same effect. No Id, no comment, no conversation, and no sale.
Sometimes, this is how the contact person is taught to behave. It seems counter productive to me. First off, if I don’t know who you are and what organization you are with, I have no context. That would seem important if you want to get good answers to your qualifying questions. The point of asking someone these questions is to qualify their need and see if they are someone you want to spend your time on. How can you do that if they don’t understand the questions they are answering? Worse than no data is bad data.
You also risk having the listener misunderstand your intentions. Let’s face it, it’s not the social norm to start a conversation without an introduction. To not identify who you are and what you want leads to a lack of trust. That works against the sale. Normally you won’t do things for people you don’t trust. And sales, politics, and charitable giving is about getting someone to do something for you. I don’t have to listen to your sales pitch. I don’t have to put your candidate’s sign on my lawn. And, I certainly don’t have to give you money unless I want to. Given all the people who are asking something from us, we tend to filter out those we don’t trust. Not saying who you are – and I mean right away – undermines your efforts to gain someone’s trust and get them to do what you want them to do.
Part of the reason some salespeople (and other callers/emailers/tweeters/etc.) do this is so that the person won’t say no or hang up. Get them talking and you’ll make the sale! That’s a load of … baloney. People are not stupid and will figure out pretty quickly that you are selling them something. They might be too polite to hang up or tell you to go pound salt, thereby wasting your time. That doesn’t help you accomplish your mission. Instead, build a bond, make them want to listen to what you have to say. That begins with them knowing who you are. And if they still don’t want to hear your pitch, so be it. Better that you move on to the next person than waste time on someone who will never buy or give or whatever you want them to do.
So identify yourself, your organizations, and your intentions first. Then we can talk. You might even get something from me that way.

* I’m aware that political parties are often required to make sure of who they are calling. But would it hurt to say “I’m Ted from the local <Name of Political Party> party. May I speak with Mr. Petrocelli?”


Howard Marks said...


I agree this is an issue but it's also true that some callers need to make sure they're talking to the right person before they can disclose the nature of the call.

Health professionals under HIPPA and anyone attempting to collect a debt which includes the credit card you're 1 day late on for example.

- Howard

Tom Petrocelli said...

Thanks for commenting Howard.
What you say is true enough.
However, these are the rare and special situations. Even then I've heard doctors office's call and say "This is Dr. Spock's office. May I speak to Tom?" What I don't see is someone calling to ask something of me and not telling me who they are. I can't see how that works. I haven't decided yet of it's poor training, laziness, or a sales technique that smells of deceit. Thinking about that...