Inbound sales messages, emails, and phone calls aren’t new. The proliferation of social networks made sending SPAM easier. Despite attempts by federal and state governments to corral SPAM, things haven’t really improved.
I’d argue, things have actually gotten worse. There are 3 things, in particular, that helps explain why they’ve gotten worse:
- Cyber Breaches: Did you shop with company X? Did they have really bad security around their consumer data? Were they hacked? Was your email address exposed? If so – you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a lot of SPAM.
- Registration: Have you ever looked at the nitty-gritty terms and conditions of many registration forms? For example, are you signing up for a promotion or a chance to win something? What about signing up to attend a conference or to gain access to white paper? Many of those registration forms automatically opt you in to have your contact information shared with all of their sponsors and vendors.
- Social Media Connections: To some, the idea of becoming a follower, friend, or connection equals permission to try and sell you. You’ve seen this play out a million times on LinkedIn. You’ll receive a connection request. You accept the connection request. 5 minutes later you have a message from the new connection offering to sell you something.
I’m a firm believer that you can only control, what you can control. To mitigate cyber breaches, I try to never register for an account with the retailer and I try to avoid using my credit card. Where possible, I use Apple Pay to mask my account info and my credit card info.
To avoid SPAM coming from registration, I make sure to check the box opting me out of communication, when they’re available. When they aren’t, I either don’t use a primary email address or I use a dummy email address. Sometimes, you need to use a real email address. The minute I get that auto-confirmation, I click the unsubscribe link. This doesn’t work 100%, but it makes a difference.
Social media connections are the most challenging. I’ve tried to educate salespeople. I’ve tried to make it clear in my profile that I’m not interested in inbound sales and/or I am interested in hearing about certain things. For example, there was a point, several years ago, where I did want to hear from different programmatic buying platforms. You can choose to ignore them, but many are very persistent. You can remove the connection, but what happens if, at some point in the future, you actually do what to hear from them?
I’m at the end of my rope with social media SPAM. So, as an experiment, I decided to create a templated response that would be as random, unwelcomed, and off-topic as their original message to me. My hope is that seeing such a random message will help train/teach inbound salespeople to be better. My response to every inbound, unwelcomed, random, and off-topic message is:
Are you looking to sponsor youth sports teams? I have a girls soccer team in need of a sponsor. Could that be you?
As you’d imagine, I haven’t received many follow-ups. Actually, I’ve only received two follow-ups.
As you can see in the exchange above, salespeople are very persistent and almost seem to be bot-like. In sharing the above, I’ve made every effort to anonymize the message. It’s often not their fault; they’re typically being forced to follow a script. Additionally, while youth sports sponsorships are great, I’d never trade sponsorship for a meeting or anything else. That type of quid pro quo is wrong and unethical.
My hope is that by offering something random, that also makes an appeal, it will drive inbound salespeople to reflect on their actions. We’ll see how the experiment goes, but I’m not optimistic.
By design, the LinkedIn’s of the world need spammers. Spammers equal users and users are how valuations are set. Additionally, it’s the spammers that are likely paying for the “advanced” features that average users don’t buy. It’s an unhealthy symbiotic relationship that’s unlikely to change in the near future.