November 20, 2006

Gone In Sixty Seconds: Taking On Telemarketers

At the office, our desk phones show how long you have been on a call from the time you pick up the receiver, to the time you put it back in the cradle. From "Hello", the seconds begin to tick forward, and often, this clock can be used as a challenge, to see how quickly I can get the person off the other line, especially when their goal is to sell me.

Though I respect professional telemarketing and the need to promote products, I'm way too busy with real work, and way too accessible via other methods to be troubled by the typical cold-caller. Therefore, I make it a goal, as soon as I realize I've fallen into a trap of talking to someone random, to get them off the line in less than a minute. If I haven't succeeded in that task, it's because they have something I might actually be interested in, or I've flat-out failed.

For the last six years, my phone number at the office has gone unchanged. Lucky for outside salesmen, this means that my contact information in any list from the beginning of the decade still works. Over the last four years, my name and number have been on our Web site, or on our press releases, and easily indexed by Google or other Web spiders, and I've found my data in pay-for-download directories.

I know I'm easy to find, so since I've made that part easy, I don't feel any special need to reward the cold caller with my time just because they achieved the very minimum of research, and too often, there's no way we would be buying what they're selling in the first place. So, we use a variety of methods to throw people off the scent, ranging from abruptness, occasional rudeness, to flat-out lies, if I'm too much in a hurry to deal with the morality of truth.

The easiest way to ditch potential vendors is to thank them for calling but say we are happy with our current vendors and aren't interested in taking on any more at this time. In other cases, I'll say our budgets are frozen this year, and to call back in three to six months. However, this delay tactic often means I'll get piled on later, when their sophisticated CRM tools remind them I said to call back. Those calls are obvious. "Hello, Louis, we spoke in May, and you said to call you in November to talk about..." Great. Do I owe you money because you took a note, and got an Outlook reminder? Thank goodness I'm not bound by that rule.

Alternatively, I'll bounce them to somebody else in the organization, but as I'm just as cognizant of their time as I am of mine, we'll just throw people off course completely. "Oh. Our IT guy? Well, we had a contractor, and he just left. I don't know who handles that now," or... "We don't have a full-time events person on staff. Try calling the main line." After a while, they usually get frustrated, and go away. You can tell which ones are good salespeople, and which ones would rather be running their own printing companies, design houses or ad sales. The ones that start off timid and scared are easy bait. They know you own them, and you can make them feel like dirt. "Oh, you're in luck! You know why? Because we've already got a vendor who does that, and you won't have to waste your time talking to me!" Lucky them, huh?

I know. There's probably a special circle of hell for people like me. But down there, next to the lawyers, we'll have the telemarketers, and we'll finally be meeting face to face.

Listening to ''Flesh'', by Jan Johnston (Play Count: 5)