A Solution to Vendor Spam (Bite Sized Version)

Courtesy: Totally Rudy - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNchvOIMWcY

I usually write LONG blogs, but I condensed my "Vendor Spam" solution down to just 500 words for this website: https://www.govciooutlook.com/cxoinsights/a-solution-to-vendor-spam-nid-1784.html 


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.


You’re reading CIO Outlook, so you probably suffer from the deluge of vendor emails (and *ugh* cold calls) marketing their products & services.

Look, I get it. Salespeople have a job: reaching out to prospective clients and asking for business.

However, as a target of that outreach, can you agree that the current sales process is horrible communication? Spamming us with white papers that we ignore is not delivering their message effectively.

Technology improved sales efficiency but squeezed the value out of the sales process. Yes, call centers make sense to screen contacts, and emailing a PDF is cheaper than sending paper mail. But bulk e-mail and automated calling are what broke the sales process; no CIO can process this torrent of information.

I’m sharing my approach to this problem, hoping it helps people like you – and creates value from the sales process for both sides.

Wait… Value from the Sales Process?

Consider why Procurement rules exist: to ensure that we slow down and review options before buying every shiny thing we (or our users) see. The sales process creates a dilemma here; it’s both scourge and opportunity.

One horn of the dilemma: Unsolicited calls and e-mails undermine procurement by creating demand for products our users may not need. As CIOs, our focus should be identifying our users’ needs and then finding the right solution for them.

The other horn: Technology moves fast. Spend all your time looking inward for technology needs and you won’t learn about new tools and ideas. Sales engineers can teach us and answer questions – often more honestly than the sales rep expected!

So how does a CIO respect the purchasing process and learn about fresh solutions in a way that doesn’t consume all our time?

A Solution

I set aside Thursdays from 4-5 for “vendor time.” Vendors can schedule for 30 minutes - and I encourage them to book me with sales engineers for a meaty discussion. If someone simply calls me during this time, I’ll stay on the call until I lose interest in the conversation or invite them to book 30 minutes another day.

30 minutes gives good vendors a chance to shine and gives me time to listen, ask questions, and learn. We have meaningful communication - the real goal here. Vendors like it because I’m attentive, open, and ready to learn – the opposite of how I’d be if I answered the interrupting phone call.

Here are my procedures:

  • I tag vendor senders as “junk” email and periodically run a rule that sends a response explaining my process, with a link to my online calendar. Then I delete the unread junk mail.
  • I let all vendor calls go to voicemail, and my message tells them about the designated time to call. Then I delete all vendor phone messages without listening.
  • If I miss a vendor call during my Thursday hour, I have a different voicemail message telling them to leave their info - and I call them back… but at a time of my choosing.

Please consider something similar for yourself! It’s working for me because I feel in control of my schedule and I’m much more open to receive during my “vendor hour.” More importantly, the rest of the week I can focus on my work – and feel zero guilt about ignoring and deleting the tsunami of incoming vendor spam.