Monthly Archives: December 2011

10 Ways to Persuade Me Not to Take Your Cold Call

My job, IT Director, is a cold call magnet. Generally 9 voice mail messages out of 10 are cold calls from someone I’ve never done business with, who’d like “just a few minutes of your time” to tell me about their wonderful products and services and to quiz me about our upcoming initiatives. My phone rings many times a day, but I don’t answer it if I don’t recognize the number. When I review my voice mail, I delete a message as soon as I recognize it’s a cold call. You’ve already taken a few minutes of my time by making me wade through voice mail that’s 90% useless to me.

I did a Google search for inspiration on a voice mail greeting that would discourage cold callers without discouraging the welcome callers. My concern is that any greeting that says that some messages are unwelcome would discourage those I really want to hear from.

I didn’t have any luck with the intended search results, not that I expected any, but I ran across a site that offered 10 Ways to Persuade Someone to Take Your Cold Call. I read through it and mostly shuddered. This is what they’re telling cold callers to try? Yeesh. Let’s review…

“Name dropping.” Um, no – not unless it’s a real referral. It’s not a real referral if you cold-call Jane Doe, and she gives you my name. Pretending she has endorsed your call just about guarantees I won’t want to do business with you. It’s a real referral if Jane Doe tells me she recommends you.

“Offer information of value.” Nice idea, but I’ve never once heard a cold caller offer me information of value. You have no experience with me, so you wouldn’t know what would be of value to me anyway. Telling me you’re running a special or that you’ll be in the area isn’t of value.

“Phone ahead.” Darn tootin’, you’re wasting your time if you show up unannounced, but cold calling ahead of time isn’t going to get you a meeting either.

“Make them smile.” No, don’t. It’s a cold call, so by definition, you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’d find amusing. The moment I realize your attempt at humor was just a ploy to trick me into listening to a cold call, I won’t want to do business with you.

“Ask for information.” No, sorry, I’m not going to do your homework for you, and I’m not going to start sharing details about our IT environment with a total stranger. Ever hear of social engineering attacks?

“No selling today.” Fine. I agree. You’re not selling me anything today.

“Know your client.” Good advice. Many cold callers fail to do this. This is one of the two listed suggestions that don’t make me shudder. If you know nothing about us, I’ll have no patience for you. If you’re a well-informed cold caller, just maybe I’ll think you weren’t so bad. I can think of only one time in the past year or so when a well-informed cold caller had me thinking he was worth keeping in mind. We’re still not his customer, but if I’m in a market for his product, I’ll be willing to contact him.

“Peak their interest.” Okay, the word you want is pique (as in “Brightly colored objects pique a baby’s interest”). You could say, however, that my interest in your company did in fact peak in the first second or two, and then it was downhill from there. Anyway, how would you know what’s of interest to me, if you’ve never met me? In any case, an attempt to pique my interest with “Did you know” material could wind up looking like another ploy, which means you’ve annoyed me and wasted my time. I won’t want to do business with you.

“I’ll be back.” Oh great, threaten to keep calling until I return your call. Make it a contest of wills. That’ll win my business every time. There was one time this method got me to return a call, because the cold caller was leaving voice mail once or twice a day every day for a few weeks, letting me know he’d call again later. I was getting so annoyed I finally called him back. Do you think I called him back because I wanted to be his customer?

“Email introduction.” Now you’re talking. If you’ve got a good business relationship with someone whose recommendation I trust, and that person recommends you, I’m willing to consider you – when we need your products and services. However, if Jane Doe forwards an email saying “Got this out of the blue, passing it along in case you’re interested,” I don’t consider that an actual introduction.

Cold callers apparently use a mosquito larvae strategy: Crank ’em out by the zillions, and if a few survive to adulthood, that’s success. I understand that, but it means I have a pest control problem.

My advice to cold callers: Don’t call me. Do your homework about what kind of organization we are. Send me an email that gets to the point of what you’re offering that’s relevant, and tell me where I can get more info. If I need your stuff, I’ll consider you. Done.

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Liberal, Lefty Hollywood or Stodgy, Conservative Hollywood?

“Hollywood” often has a liberal, left-leaning reputation.

But an interesting take on this is the Bechdel Test. It looks in particular at the female presence in a movie. It involves three simple requirements. The movie must have 1) at least two women, 2) who talk to each other at least once, 3) about something other than a man or men. Some versions of the test go a little further and ask that it’s two women with names, or two major female cast members. Notice that the test doesn’t say anything about whether the movie is any good, or what the women talk about outside of men, or how the movie portrays women. It’s only an indicator of the female presence in a movie. A badly done, boring movie that portrays women very negatively could still pass the test. A timeless classic with a great female character could still fail. All the test asks is whether the movie has enough female presence to let two women talk to each other about something other than men, at least once. It seems like a pretty low hurdle to jump, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t lots of movies pass?

Well, it turns out that lots of Hollywood movies fail the test – not just war movies, but also movies like Bambi, Shrek, Ghostbusters, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Princess Bride, The Lord of the Rings (all three movies) and Toy Story.

How many movies should pass or fail the test? The answer is in the comparison. Flip the genders, and look at whether a movie includes 1) two men, 2) who talk to each other at least once, 3) about something other than a woman or women. If movies pass at about the same rate for both genders, the movie industry would seem evenhanded. If not, movies are overrepresenting one gender and underrepresenting the other.

Guess what. A lot more movies pass the “two men” test than the “two women” test. Try it yourself. Pick ten movies you’ve seen, or the next ten movies you watch, or pick from one of the AFI top American movie lists. Ask yourself which ones pass the male version of the two-character test and which ones pass the female version.

You’ll probably find a lot more male presence than female presence.

How about basing the test on race or some other ethnic group? You might consider a test like 1) two characters of a given race, 2) who talk to each other at least once, 3) about something other than a member of another race or race relations in general. Few movies pass … unless you’re talking about whites.

What would be fair for black representation vs. white representation? According to the 2010 US Census, the US is 72.4% white (“white alone”) and about 12.6% black (“black or African-American alone”). That’s about a 5.7 to 1 difference. In other words, if movies that pass a “two whites” test outnumber movies that pass a “two blacks” test by about 5 or 6 to 1, the movie biz represents blacks and whites fairly (in proportion to the overall population). If the results are very different from that, moviedom is lopsided.

Take the AFI Top 10 American Sports Movies, for example: Raging Bull, Rocky, The Pride of the Yankees, Hoosiers, Bull Durham, The Hustler, Caddyshack, Breaking Away, National Velvet, and Jerry Maguire. It seems to me that all ten pass a two whites test. Therefore, a result of two for the two blacks test would be the evenhanded result. As near as I can tell, 0 out of 10 pass. Lopsided.

What it comes down to is that mainstream movies are largely about white men, plus some others who interact with white men. Liberal, left-leaning Hollywood can still be very stodgy and old-school. Some would claim that movies just reflect what the public wants to see, but to me that’s like the excuse that “all the other kids were doing it,” as if that gets you off the hook for being unfair to someone.

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Invisible afflictions

A Facebook status that sometimes makes the rounds tries to make people aware of invisible afflictions.

Here’s my invisible challenge: My hearing is mostly gone in my right ear, as of a couple of years ago. My right ear also has a constant, maddening 24×7 hum.

Most of the time, my hearing friends and colleagues wouldn’t notice the difference. My left ear hears just fine (“for someone your age,” as one specialist put it). As long as my left ear can hear you, all is well.

However…

If you’re speaking quietly on my right side, I probably won’t hear you.

If you’re speaking normally on my right side, but there’s noise to my left, I might not hear you. You might not even notice the other noise, tuning it out automatically. For me, even a smallish noise to the left can start canceling out what you’re saying on my right. Have you ever been on a conference call, calling into a room where people were gathered around a speakerphone? It’s like that. If someone shuffles papers near the speakerphone, people in the room barely notice, but you have trouble hearing whoever’s talking because those little noises drown out the rest.

One weird effect of unilateral hearing loss is that all sounds come from one direction – my left side, the hearing side. In other words, I don’t know which way a sound is coming from, unless there’s some visual hint. In the car, when I hear a siren or a horn, I have to look all around because I don’t know where it is. If I hear someone say my name, I have to look all around if I don’t already know where you are.

If a cell phone or wireless handset rings and I don’t know where it is, I can’t follow the sound. I can experimentally move in a random direction to see if the next ring seems closer or farther, but that takes longer than instantly knowing which way to look.

Stereo and surround sound don’t do me any good.

Noisy rooms are very challenging. With all sounds coming from one direction, a noisy room becomes a large, undifferentiated cacophony of sound. I have a terrible time trying to focus on any one person talking, and I might have to lean my left ear closer to the speaker’s face. I become desperate to get to a quiet space.

Here’s another weird thing. If you talk to me when I can’t see you, I might not realize you’re talking to me. Apparently, normal bilateral hearing helps one come to that realization quickly. Without it, I keep failing to realize that someone is talking to me. I hear the sounds of someone talking, but it doesn’t sink in that it’s aimed at me. While that could happen to anyone with normal hearing, I find it happens to me a lot more often since my hearing loss. It takes longer for me to realize that the words are intended for me; in effect, I’m ignoring you, but it’s unintentional. People wind up looking at me funny, wondering why I didn’t respond sooner or why I don’t know what they were saying. Even though I try to be alert to this because I know it can happen, it keeps on happening. It’s a weird and frustrating effect. So here’s a tip: If I can’t see you, say my name to get my attention, or I might not realize you’re talking to me.

Sounds are sometimes harder for me to identify. For those of you with normal hearing, you know which way a sound came from; you look that way and see a likely candidate for making that sound, so you quickly figure out “That book fell over” or whatever. In my case, I don’t know which way to look, so there may be a lot more candidates that could have made the sound, which makes it harder to figure out which one it was.

Anyway, there’s one silver lining. If there’s noise while I’m trying to sleep, like heavy wind and rain, I sleep on my left side. My good ear is mashed into the pillow, and my right ear is pre-muffled. Personally, I’d rather just have normal hearing, but I’ll take the silver linings where I can.

I have no idea if this is going to get better or worse. The good news is that the doctors “ruled out some very bad stuff,” but the bad news is that we’ll just have to see how it goes over time.

Jim

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