Every so often, I get emails or phone calls from security vendors following up on an article or whitepaper that I apparently downloaded from their website. When they call me and mention it, I indicate that I did not make such outreach, and that they may have received bad leads from one of the lead generation lists that they subscribe to.
I understand that the people who sell us products have families and need to make a living just like everyone else. They have the same basic needs we do. The last thing I want to do to someone who is really trying hard to close a sale is to be rude or condescending. I do want to make sure they’re not wasting their money on services or goods that won’t help them, and I don’t want them to continue to give money to people who falsify information and pass it on. That I completely abhor.
When I point these issues out, some do go back and have discussions with their sales and marketing teams over the lists or services they purchased. I am concerned because there are a number of bad actors selling the same bad data, and a lot of these companies fall for it.
On the other hand, I’m not a guidepost to internal resources. I am not happy with the current trend of sales professionals blindly contacting people in companies and asking to be pointed to the person in charge of a specific product or service. I consider that to be taking advantage of my position to attempt to leverage me as a free sales resource.
I had a co-worker at my last job who would answer every single one of these calls. The reason I knew is because the first words out of the rep’s mouth were that person’s name referring me as someone who may be interested. This person was not well-liked, and this was one of the reasons why.
In the security world, our team’s entire job is predicated upon trust. One of the former CMIOs I worked with likened it to being a priest, because your customers would tell you items of the greatest confidence.
The second I become that conduit for salespeople is the second I lose the confidence of my customers. I will not blindly refer someone I do not know to one of my customers. While I do make referrals to them, it is from people who I know well and can trust to deliver, and with whom I have a previous relationship built upon past successes. If someone I do not know well contacts me on LinkedIn, emails me, or calls me, I will throw that message in the trash.
For the people that do this, please stop. You’re making yourselves and the companies you represent look very unprofessional. The idea of hustling to make a sale is romanticized by social media; but in reality, it leaves a bad taste with its targets, especially when asking for internal referrals.
Our job is not to be referrals for people who blindly contact us. We know you’re excited about your products and want to see them used. We have a common human instinct to help others. I don’t like seeing others take advantage of that to attempt to make a sale, and not understand the consequences of changing the dynamics of a customer relationship because of that.
Asking for a blind referral without a previous positive history is self-centered, ignorant, and inconsiderate. It’s not mindful of the relationships that the targets have, and is potentially destructive to established customer and work relationships.
However, I ask that you also do due diligence with leads. If a company promises results that seem too good to be true, double-check the company and their processes. Nothing replaces relationships built upon mutual understanding, respect, consideration, and hard work. You can’t shortcut it with “hot leads” or by asking others to do your work for you.
We want to see you succeed. Asking us to do your research, or using bad data, makes it harder for you to do so.