Digital cold callers and the end of civilisation
You know that LinkedIn message you receive out of the blue, either through inMail or a new connection? Or the email you receive on the back of a conference announcing its delegate list? Or the barrage of emails you get by virtue of your company having email addresses that are way too easy to guess?
The email is usually formulaic and short.
Hello [Insert Name Here]! It says.
We are a digital something or other and sell digital services for your delectation.
We may be a start-up.
A revarnished body shop or a subsidiary of an analogue giant.
This is what we do and I think you need this thing even though it may be exactly what your firm also does or entirely irrelevant to your business. The message is written in a way that is light, airy, friendly and digitally aligned with the zeitgeisty language we now know and love. But that is where the alignment stops.
Because the message is evidently boiler plate of the worst kind.
It is evident no research has gone into who gets sent the message. No matter: it’s a numbers game and you’ve been chosen to be a witless target.
If you are like me, you delete those without thinking.
That’s not actually true.
In fact, you delete them thinking that it is sad someone sits at a desk all day sending irrelevant emails to irrelevant people and loosely wonder whether they get enough business back to warrant continuing this carpet bombing, by human means or bot. And why and how can they think they can get away with peddling intelligent digital services and personalised design in the most impersonal, unsophisticated way possible and not get called out or at least see the irony.
And then they email again.
Usually, it’s the same message topped and tailed with a lament that they haven’t heard back from you, a concern for your well being (you haven’t responded, said one I got recently, is that because you missed my first mail, don’t care or are being chased by a hippo? It was complete with a picture of a man being chased by a hippo. Is that not what you had in mind when you mentioned human-centric tech and personalisation?).
So you ignore it. But wonder.
I wish I could be in one of their sales meetings, seriously. Where they agree on a sales approach appropriate to their brand, business targets and sales ethos, sign off on it and implement against KPIs and conversion targets. Someone somewhere came up with this as a good idea and someone else went “you know what, Kyle, this will work, bro”.
Whatever else you may think of it, this strategy is all about persistence and your resistance.
Because even if you don’t reply to the hippo jibe (are you made of stone? Not even a smile? No. I thought so), they come back. This time the email comes from someone else. It’s more personal. Upbeat. Faux familiar.
People like us, the email says, we understand each other.
“I am not selling, I am just reaching out to a like minded individual to talk about transformation, leadership, life long learning oh and that thing I am selling.”
And if you still don’t respond, and admittedly most will have left you in peace by now, there are some that go for the final assault. If you don’t want to buy my service, would you at least hire me? Mentor me? Date me? Will you at least consider helping me do what you do but for a competitor? In the name of community.
You spelled “business” wrong
Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with cold calling.
I have done it. And I have responded to it.
Mentees. Industry contacts. Although seriously, not dates. What’s wrong with people?
I have done business via cold calling on both sides of the fence. It works. Just not like this. You can’t be this lazy. You can’t reuse your assets to this extent.
You need to do some research, do some work, give people a reason to respond by targeting them for their needs, position and organisational function and by curating your message to show that you have done that work and chose to reach out to them despite not knowing them because you feel you have something specific they may want to to hear.
Cold calling works. Assuming you do a little bit of legwork.
Could I be totally wrong about this?
If this blanket carpet bombing keeps happening, it means it works enough times to make sense to keep doing it. Be it badly paid humans sitting in a low-rent office, in a minimum wage town or bots churning out nonsensical messaging, if it keeps happening (and it does keep happening) then it will work enough to justify spending the money on still doing it.
In which case the industry is in more dire need of reform than even I thought.
And although I hope these are bots, down deep inside I know its humans going through the motions. Badly paid, uninspired humans. Who have no idea what they are sending to whom and why, who have no visibility of how they could make it better and no understanding of the irony of peddling digital services, in the era of intelligent orchestration and human centred design, in a way that is dehumanising, formulaic, undifferentiated and opportunistic.
You see a cold caller who is as persistent as they are annoying.
I see the biggest challenge to the promise of the digital future we all strive for.
Not that we will get it wrong. But that we will forget to do it for and with everyone. Opportunism trumping the art of the possible every single day of human history and sending our civilisation accomplishments careering back to the start line.
Because this way of selling the garden variety, non-boutique digital services shows we don’t eat our own dog food, we don’t leverage our own capabilities, we don’t consume our own analytics, we don’t believe in the value of personalisation any more than the cynical bankers do. If we do this because it works then we are no better than what came before. And come on… wasn’t that the whole point?
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption as chief of staff at 11:FS and CEO of 11:FS Foundry.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!