Not “Kelly”

Yesterday, I started telling the story of a pushy cold-call I received from the University of Michigan’s Football advertising sales people. In particular, I spoke with a young woman whom we are calling “Kelly”. While, cold-calling is certainly not networking, the very best of cold-calling has a lot in common with good networking.  We’re taking a look at the number of networking rules that Kelly broke in our brief conversation.

Back to our story.

Now, she never actually said so in so many words, but there was a strong implication that by advertising with them, I would really increase my chances of getting more contracts with the University (because the ad would be seen by IT managers and folks from Procurement and I would be seen as a supporter of the school).

She then followed up by asking me which size would be the right one for me.

Broken Rule #4: Always Follow Through on What You Promise. While she didn’t actually promise anything, what most people would infer is that buying into the advertising, I would be more likely to win future contracts. After I got off the phone with Kelly, I called my contact in the U of M Procurement Office to ask him if this were true. I know you are as shocked as I was when I found out that advertising in the football program had absolutely no bearing on my success in the University bid process. None!

Well, as you can imagine, I’m not a big one for advertising. I’ve grown my business purely through word of mouth. I let her know politely that, thank you, but I wasn’t interested in the offer.

Then she began to get pushy.

She proceeded to tell me that while word of mouth is a good way to grow your business, it couldn’t compare to advertising in their program. After all, it gets you in front of all of these people. And which would be a good size ad for me?

Broken Rule #5: Making Them Wrong Does Not Make Them a Friend. At this point, she is trying to tell me that she knows what’s good for my business? I know for a fact just how booked with work I am right now. I bet my sales conversions are better than hers!

Broken Rule #6: Ambassadors, not Customers. If I get all my business through word of mouth, it stands to reason that I have a fairly strong network. Instead of antagonizing me to try to get a sale that will never come, wouldn’t it be a better idea to recruit me to help sell you to my network?

Once again, I told her that I didn’t see any value in what she was selling for my business. We then went into the loop about how great the advertising was. Each time we returned to “which size would be best for you?” At one point she got a little exasperated and wondered why I wasn’t as excited about this opportunity as everyone else.

Broken Rule #7: Be With the One You’re With. Don’t compare me unfavorably with other people you’ve dealt with, especially in a patently false way. I somehow find it difficult to believe that anyone was getting that excited about buying a sixteenth of a page of advertising.

Finally, I had to get a little less polite and told her in no uncertain terms that I was not interested in her advertising and that I wanted her to remove me from their list and never called me again. Her parting shot was to wish me luck in the coming year, though in a tone that seemed to indicate that she would be surprised if I had any.

Broken Rule #8: Leave Them Liking You. If she had been polite and respectful of my time, I would have forgotten my conversation with Kelly within minutes. Because she decided to be a “bulldog” about it, though and finally forced me to be firm, I’m now closer to an active adversary.

Now, I know there are a lot of people who make their living through cold-calling and I’m sure that this style of high-pressure, pushy sales talk actually works at least some of the time. I have a harder time imagining anyone who actually enjoys doing it. The young woman whom I spoke with was obviously just doing her job. She was given a script and was simply following it.

That script, though, was thirty years out of date. Would you want your company reading lines written for a different era?