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Asking Strangers For Favors Is Not Good Business


What is up with sales people lately? Although it sounds like the opening to a Seinfeld joke, I have had a rash of email messages lately from sales people who just don’t get it. They act as if we are old friends, schoolmates, or grew up in the same neighborhood. By the second sentence, they are asking me to introduce them to the appropriate person in my company for whatever it is that they’re selling. I’ve had one person start by telling me that we’ve never met, just in case I didn’t realize that part. I had another ask why I didn’t respond to the first message he sent, but assured me that “it’s not a problem.” Well, it’s not my problem, but it soon became his.


I did finally reply to their barrage of emails. I decided to forego the pleasantries and cut straight to the point. I sent back a version of the, “damn kids, stay off my lawn” message, letting them know that, A] I don’t appreciate their approach; and B] the only result they will get is me telling everyone I know how inappropriate they were to ask me for a favor when I don’t know them or their company, at all, and certainly wouldn’t be doing them any favors. Also, I make sure to cc: the CEO of their company in the reply. Many may not care, but if I found out that my sales team acted that way, I’d be less than thrilled and probably looking for new sales people.


I don’t owe you if I don’t know you. And, even if I do know you…


If you don’t understand the basics about business—about life—then how can I expect you to represent my company appropriately? Social media and digital business have changed much about the way we live today, but not all of it is good. We’ve all seen the very amusing videos about real life facebook and the conference call in real life. The problem is, they are funny because they are ridiculously true, and it’s mostly bad behavior that we somehow seem to accept in the online world. We have an entire generation of “business professionals” who don’t seem to know much about either business or about being professional, and really nothing about relationships.


Advice? Successful people are authentic. They are genuine. They take interest in other people. That’s how relationships work in life and in business. And, as an interesting byproduct, if you put in the time, effort and energy to develop an actual relationship, you might actually find that you have someone on the other side of that relationship willing to return a little time, effort and energy. No guarantees, but, maybe. At least, it’s a better business approach than the current path of a sales person finding a name or email online and acting like you have some obligation to them because they have access to your contact information.


Once upon a time, I was an adjunct professor. The first day of class each semester, the first thing I would tell my class is that life is all about relationships, and if they remembered nothing else from the class, they should make sure that they remembered that. Life is all about relationships. Sales people, please take note.

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