Unsolicited Email, Cold Calling, Prospecting, Nurturing


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So this is what’s happening this morning. I start the morning looking at email. Craig Rosenberg of Focus.com has posed an interesting question: “Isn’t sending an unsolicited email to someone the same thing as cold-calling them?” There’s an interesting discussion with thoughtful responses from people I respect. The responses are trending to “Yes it is the same, and it’s bad practice.” Hmm, interesting…..

I keep going through my email. Today I received two emails that are a direct result of my attendance at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco last week. They are just layered on the other emails I am getting from exhibitors and sponsors to the conference. Supposedly, thought leaders in sales and marketing best practices. I never “opted in” or expressed any interest in follow up information from them. I think they, perhaps fairly, think that since I attended the conference, I would be interested in these “Dear Occupant” emails. I’ve learned this is a hazard of any conference I attend. For several weeks afterwards, I get the “Dear Occupant, it was great to see you…..” even though I don’t recall meeting them.

I delete those, and keep going through my email. I’m still getting those emails from that marketing company—two a day. I don’t recall opting in, but I did once comment on their blog. I may have asked for a white paper. None of what they send me is meaningful content, though they think it is, it doesn’t seem to be tailored to my interests, but they have never bothered to determine my interest or disinterest. But I get two emails a day from them, I suppose they think it is nurturing—that’s what they talk about all the time–along with putting together meaningful content strategies tailored to the recipient. Hmmmm……….

I continue through my email, I know I missing others from similar marketing and sales companies–I’ve already set filters/rules to move them into my delete folder (somehow my unsubscribes aren’t working).

Then, I start looking at the email coming in from LinkedIn. Just got one from a recruiter I don’t know, but he and I are members of the same group. He’s asking for my help in identifying candidates for a search he’s doing. Earlier, I had another from someone who wants to re-do my web site.

Then I go back to the Focus discussion, reread the answers and think…..

I think about what I do. I prospect vigorously. I do cold calls. And (drum roll please), I send unsolicited emails. I also engage in unsolicited conversations–I speak with people I meet at conferences. I want to get to know them, learn what they do. I’m interested in people, but I’m also interested in finding people that might use my services. I speak with people in airplanes, at the gym, other place. I initiate lots of unsolicited conversations. People opt-out by ignoring me or walking away.

People engage me in unsolicited conversations as well. If it’s interesting, I’ll participate, if not I won’t. I just got off the phone on something that was completely unsolicited, but very interesting and well worth my time.

I do unsolicited calls into organizations. I call the switchboard and ask, “Who has responsibility for this…..?” “Could you connect me with that individual?”

So I think this whole issue of unsolicited is really a little unrealistic and silly. All of us do things that are unsolicited–whether we are the solicitors or the solicitees.

I think a large part of the job of a great sales person is to do something that’s unsolicited–not to wait for the customer to approach you, but approaching them with new ideas, opportunities, and ways to help them better achieve their objectives.

I tend to think the issue has nothing to do with whether the contact is solicited or unsolicited–though if a person is interested, you should respect that. I think the core issue is being unprepared, uninformed, totally blind, or totally irrelevant.

Nothing we do should be unprepared, uninformed, blind, or irrelevant. If I am, making a cold call (and I’m not really interested in debates on the differences between cold and warm calls, let’s just call them cold calls.), it is always well researched. If I can leverage an introduction, or reference, it’s better. I research each call vigorously, I use all sorts of web based tools, I talk to people in similar jobs and industries, every cold call or contact is carefully researched. I do the best I can to anticipate what the target person might be interested in, and how I might connect with them.

Likewise, I send unsolicited emails, not 10?s or 100?s of thousands or millions with preposterous schemes or offers. I carefully segment the groups and people I send emails to, I research them and try to reach them with information that is meaningful and relevant. Apparently it works, I get reasonably good open and response rates. I also get unsubscribes which I honor, though those rates are less than 0/1% (Yes, I know some people just delete or add me to their spam filter). Yes, I know I’m probably violating CanSpam.

What about the stuff, I have opted into, the stuff that “technically” I have agreed to have inflicted on me? 70% of what I get is irrelevant. 90% of the frequency is too often. Do I really need to be nurtured with a “Dear Occupant” (Technology allows us to substitute a name, but to still send a Dear Occupant note) email every day? I’m not making a decision, the stuff they are inflicting on me is not so time sensitive that I need it inflicted on a daily basis. Is this really nurturing, or is it permission based SPAM?

Where do resources like Jigsaw (with the full weight of SalesForce.com and their Data.com offering behind them), or companies like ZoomInfo, Insideview and others fit into the whole solicited/unsolicited picture? In various forms, they “broker” email addresses and “guess” at those they don’t have. Why are they doing this, how will they be used? It would be naive to think that people aren’t leveraging them for unsolicited contacts. I’ve used them to find the email address of a person that I have wanted to contact–I’ve used them to identify people I’ve wanted to contact.

There are great tools and methods available for us to tailor our communications. Some of the folks in the Focus discussion are among the best in thinking about these issues. These are important issues, but let’s be neither naive or unrealistic. I’m not sure the issue is really solicited or unsolicited, permission based or not. I think the issues are deeper, we shouldn’t lose site of them.

Am I off base? Should I be turning myself into the CanSpam folks?

For a free eBook on Coaching For High Performance, email me with your full name and email address, I’ll be glad to send you a copy. Just send the request to: [email protected], ask for the Coaching For Performance eBook

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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