Update: A Success with Vendor Spam

Photo: Chris Garrity - www.flickr.comphotosgarritylex4479671291

How I'm managing vendor e-mails and phone calls...
I’m posting this to suggest that my peers may want to try it, also!

For the past few months, I’ve been setting aside Thursday afternoons from 4-5 to take vendor phone calls.  This was my response to the problem I wrote about as "Thank You for Your Sales Call/e-mail... Here's Why I Didn't Respond".

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Disclaimer: All of the ideas expressed in this article are my personal statements and opinions, and do not reflect the opinions/statements of the City of Urbana.
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Setting aside this one hour has proved to be a success on several levels:

  • I feel zero guilt about ignoring the tsunami of incoming phone calls and e-mails.  (Note #1) What led me to write the first blog were my mixed emotions about the waste of human effort vendors were expending - and that I was simply deleting. Now, I mark the senders as “junk” and then they receive an e-mail response explaining that they can contact me during the specific time. Also, my outgoing voicemail message also tells them about the one-hour window, so I delete all vendor phone messages without hesitation.  My conscience is now clean!
  • When I do talk to a vendor, I give them up to 30 minutes to make their pitch. (30 minutes if the vendors schedule with me. If someone simply calls me on Thursdays, I’ll hang on the line only as long as they can hold my interest.)   It’s led to better conversations, and a more meaningful two-way discussion. As I alluded to in my blog, if the real goal of these calls and e-mails is communication, then they weren’t succeeding. But you can get a lot of information in 30 minutes - on both sides!
  • The vendors seem happy about this process. First of all, it gives them a chance to actually talk to me, which they weren't getting before. Also, it gives the good ones a chance to shine. The bad ones are still reading their scripts, but a rep who really knows their product can make an effective pitch in 30 minutes.
  • I feel in control of my schedule; it lets me work the other 39 hours of the week without interruption from vendors.  (Note #2)  When I do miss a Thursday afternoon call (because I’m on a call with another vendor or for other reasons), I can call them back at a time of my choosing. I’m happy because I’m not being interrupted, and they’re happy because they’re not getting a crabby person on my end of the phone!

Notes

Note #1: The tsunami has only gotten worse during the pandemic with “use our service for free…”  offers.  As I’ve had to explain to many people: there’s still an implementation, there’s still user support, and at the end of the free offer you either need to extricate yourself or start paying. So, nothing is "free” – everything has a cost in time and effort. (Credit here to my Dad... who always said "there's no such thing as a free lunch"!)

Note #2: Another pandemic observation: working without interruptions from my co-workers has been a huge productivity boost. My current employer’s culture has a drop-in mentality and I try to oblige when people come to see me, even though it can be disruptive when I’m deep into a task.  Managing the balance between getting work done and being social is hard for me, but it's been much easier working from home. Maybe some day this will become another blog post…