Intrusions are, by nature, intrusive

We’ve got about fifteen people working at least part-time now, but are still not big enough to have someone sitting at a reception desk. And, because we’re not "in business" yet, there’s no reason to do so.

Before working in such an environment, I never realized how bad solicitors were– we get them constantly. And, since there’s no receptionist to stop them, many just trapse right back to the inner sanctum, often interrupting a meeting or conference call to start selling their junk. It’s frustrating, annoying and, frankly, costly.

The worst and most brazen was last week, when within fifteen minutes of each other, two different reps from Canon came barging into our office unannounced and started some ridiculous patois about how they didn’t want to sell anything — they just wanted to introduce themselves and get to know us.

Gary tried to dispatch the first one, and he stubbornly insisted that he wanted to get to know us. Gary said "Let’s go," and started to lead him out. "I’m not a dog!" the salesman exclaimed.

Frankly, had he been a dog, he would have gotten a warmer welcome. We like dogs.

When the second one came, I called building management and had him ejected. I then called and left a voicemail for the person whom I was told was the supervisor of these two gents, explaining to him that this was the wrong tactic if he wanted to sell us copiers. I elaborated that while we needed no copiers now, down the road maybe six months we might need four or five and that we would certainly buy them from someone who understood that barging into our office unsolicited and unannounced when we have a small staff and scant time was not the way to help our business.

I’ll confess that we’ll probably only need one or two copiers, but I engaged in some heat-of-the-moment hyperbole to make my point.

This morning, we got the following message on our answering machine:

Hi. This is Justin Stafford with Canon. Stopped by your office last week and we got off on the wrong foot, but I understand you’re in the market for five copiers and I’d like to sit down and meet with you — civilly. And if you could please give me a call back at your earliest convenience. Alright– you have my card. Thanks. Buh-bye.

The voice was over-the-top cheerful, save for an obvious chill on the word "civilly."

Two points:

  1. Right now, the only way I would consider buying a Canon copier was if they were the only brand available and we absolutely had to have one to do business. And that ain’t the case.
  2. How different is this type of intrusive sell from the type of pop-under flash advertising many news sites are using today? Not very.

As media multiply, time and attention becomes more scarce. We, as a society, have less and less bandwidth for irrelevant messages. And marketers — from door-to-door salesman up to the boardrooms of Madison Avenue — had best catch on quickly.

The sad thing is, this Justin fellow is probably a decent guy. I suspect he’s got a sales manager that made him call us to prove that he’s a real salesman. I’d recommend a heavy dose of Purple Cow.

Mike Orren is the Chief Product Officer of The Dallas Morning News; President of Belo Business Intelligence; husband to Crystal Orren; and a Mungarian at Munger Place Church in Dallas, TX. All opinions herein are mine alone.