How Humor and Eavesdropping Combine To Win Sales


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I was in midway through writing an article with the dour title “Prospecting Doesn’t Matter” (owing to Nicholas Carr’s 2003 Harvard Business Review article “IT Doesn’t Matter”) when I serendipitously uncovered something that debunked my premise–at least for now.

A New Jersey company, Hammerhead Advertising (, has created a campaign for new business by combining time-worn voice mail technology with an edgy message. After listening to the six samples available on the company’s website, I was stunned by the power of the deceptively simple–but wildly innovative–approach. What makes the messages so powerful? It’s not what you might think. There’s no “value message,” no glowing customer references, no gratuitous branding. It exploits an unvarnished, visceral approach that combines subtle humor with voyeurism.

The messages are delivered to the voice mailbox of the intended recipient, the Chief Marketing Officer, but are created to sound as if the CMO is actually eavesdropping on a recording of his or her company’s receptionist thwarting yet another unwary and untalented ad agency salesperson. (It’s worth five minutes: go to the company’s website, and click on “our work” and then on “radio” to play the messages.)

What does Hammerhead’s innovation mean for CRM? In our buttoned-down, ROI-obsessed, prove-the-business-case, new media, B2B sales world, the connections that we have with others are often closer than we think, and it’s possible to use these connections productively if we can break out of our cultural and technological boxes. Many salespeople bemoan that they “can’t get through the gatekeeper,” and some develop compensating tactics that violate ethical boundaries. It’s great to know that it’s possible to exercise the adage “If you don’t have it, feature it!” so effectively.

Andy Rudin
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