What is a Networked Cold-Call? And How do We Handle It?

A “networked cold-call” is a promotional message, sales pitch or invitation that comes through networking channels.

It’s like getting a direct marketing piece in the mail except that a networked cold-call is much more awkward to deal with if you’re not interested. Got a direct mail pitch? Not interested in the product or service? Just toss the catalog, letter, or postcard in the mail and no one is the wiser.

Even a cold-call that comes over the phone seems to be easier to deal with. Either you’re interested or not, but no one has any kind of emotional investment in the conversation. You tell them “No, thank you” and then you end the call. Unless you are someone who takes telemarketing calls personally.

And that’s what I think makes “networked cold-calling” so uncomfortable. It’s delivered personally, either face-to-face at a networking event or through messaging channels on the social media sites. And it’s probably someone you don’t really know, but they know someone you know or you’ve met them at a networking event and exchanged a few words. So now it feels personal in that there's no separation. If you're not interested, it feels like you are rejecting them. Most people don't like to do that in person.

What do you say? How do you respond? Do you respond when it comes through the social media channels? I’m no expert, I’ve certainly made a few blunders in this area, but here are a few thoughts on handling it:

  • You can ignore sales pitches that come via DM in Twitter. It’s probably an autoresponder and there’s no one real on the other end. They are throwing tons of spaghetti to see what sticks.

  • I’m experiencing less message selling on Facebook, except for event invitations that come through the groups I’ve joined. I signed up for the groups because I wanted to know what’s going on, but if you don’t like the messages, just drop out of the group. And if someone is a relentless promoter, you can hide all their messages.

  • LinkedIn seems to be a challenge but I think you should take these messages seriously, especially if they are personalized. Respond as graciously as you can, but make sure you respect the salesperson’s time by making it clear that you are not interested.

  • Face to face at a networking event. This is the hardest one of all. There is a range of techniques, from passive aggressive (agree the whole time but don’t do anything) to passive (just blank stare) to educational (invite them to participate in a Little Miracles PAK).
I’m interested in your thoughts, of course and I’ll have another post later this week going into more detail on handling face to face “networked cold calling.” (If you don’t want to miss the post, sign up for Google Reader and subscribe to my RSS feed.)

1 comment:

  1. I used to feel really uncomfortable in these situations. They actually happen to me a LOT. Every day, almost.
    I say, arm yourself with all of your most important information about yourself, your company or organization, and your product or service.
    Then, in the middle of the pitch, stop them, and ask "Can I interrupt you for a minute? How successful have you been at doing this?"
    Let them go on for another 30 seconds.
    Interrupt them again.
    "Sorry to interrupt again, but do you mind if I take about 10 minutes of your time and tell you about what it is I do and how I believe, with just a very small investment - the cost of a cup of coffee a day - I can benefit your business? You can decide whether we're a good fit and say yes or no at the end. Would that be okay?"
    Now you've turn an awkward situation into a business opportunity, or an opportunity to walk away, or an opportunity to practice your material on somebody. Win, win, win!
    P.S. This isn't even scratching the surface on my deviousness.