Monday, September 13, 2004

When Will They Ever Learn?

I just got off the telephone. One of the customer service people at my office put a call through to me and, gentleman that I am, I took the call. The conversation went something like this:

Caller: Hello, is this Sieg?

Me: Yes.

Caller: How ya doin' Sieg? Keepin' ya busy? I hope you remember me... I'm ____, from ____.

Me: Uh... (clueless)

Caller: I'm the guy you hung up on a few months ago.

Me: Uhuh... (still clueless)

Caller: This time I got sumthin' for ya, ya can really use. It's...

Me: (Finally cluing in that this is a salesman) No thanks.

Caller: It's sumthin' that will make people aware of your company.

Me: People are already aware of us.

Caller: But...

Me: No thank you, we don't do that sort of thing...

Caller: But...

Me: No thank you.

Caller: OK, then, bye.

During the conversation, I remembered who the caller was. On his previous call, he had tried to sell my company some doodads, with our company name engraved on them, at some ridiculously inflated price. I had listened to him politely, tried several times to get out of the conversation with a modicum of grace, finally asked him if he had ever heard the word 'no,' and when he persisted in goading me even after all that, I hung up on him.

I must have been really, seriously, hugely pissed off to do that. I am usually polite to a fault. My employees, my management team, my wife, all wonder why I am so polite to others when politeness is such a rare commodity anymore.

That is precisely the reason. I am trying to change the world.

OK. I know that isn't going to happen. Simply put, I was taught to be polite by my parents. I also know how grating it is to deal with bozos all the time, so I try not to be one.

The caller had behaved improperly on his first call. I hung up on him in desperation.

Here is some free advice for anyone who reads this and who does any telephone solicitation.
  • Never call anyone you don't know by his or her given name. I know that is what Herb Tarlek at WKRP Radio would do, but let's stipulate that you don't wish to be perceived as a loud, inconsiderate boor with the IQ of a turnip. If you are invited to be more familiar, that's fine. If not, it's Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc., until instructed otherwise.
  • Can the chitchat. The person you are calling is likely very busy. He or she wants to know who you are, what you want, and then wants to get rid of you as quickly as possible. Even if she is reading Popular Mechanics or he is painting his toenails, you may conclude that you aren't supposed to know that. State your name, your purpose, say that you would be happy to call back at a better time if necessary and don't waste anyone's time.
  • Throw the manipulative tools that you were taught in sales courses out the window, at least if you can tell that the person you are trying to sell to is smarter than you, which is very likely unless you are speaking to a government bureaucrat. Do you honestly think that anyone with half a brain can't see through the salesperson's feigned interest in their family, pet, hobbies, etc.? Or my favourite: "Of course, if you can't afford 10,000 shares, perhaps you can afford a smaller number."
Give me a break.

I left school several times during high school to travel a bit and to get some work experience. I remember returning to grade 12 after an absence and being approached in the hallway by the vice-principal during the lunch hour. He asked me what I had been up to. I gave him my work history. He asked if I had taken any courses. I replied in the affirmative. I don't know why he asked me specifically if I had taken a Dale Carnegie course, popular at the time, something like How to Make Friends and Influence People. I hadn't. But I remember exactly what I said to him.

I said: "No. I don't like that sort of approach because it is less about using your strengths to get what you want but more about taking advantage of other peoples' weaknesses."

I still believe that today. If you manipulate people, shame on you. Tell your target what your product does. What its features are. What the benefits are of using the product. Then, get lost. If he or she wants your stuff, you will get a call with an order. If not, at least you haven't offended them and can call them again in the future.

There. That is a million dollars worth of free advice. And I won't charge you a penny, Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones.

Thanks for visiting.

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