Friday, October 12, 2007

Do you REALLY call people you don't know? 

Years ago in one of my previous careers, I attended a week long marketing training session for field sales reps. The course was designed to acquaint all of us with the latest software in the finance industry. About 20 sales people from around the country were present, along with Maurice, a fully-bearded, older gentleman from one of our development sites.

We all introduced ourselves, including Maurice who told us he was from one of our great labs and was attending the class to get information to help develop artificial intelligence (AI) applications for the finance industry.

One day, over lunch, a few of us found Maurice sitting by himself at a table. Being outgoing, marketing types, we asked if we could join him. He welcomed us. We went through the normal chit chat then I said to Maurice, "We're sales people and we depend on the products you all design. Is there anything you would like to ask us?"

Maurice's question must have been one the lab people discussed regularly because he immediately asked, with a tone of skepticism in his voice, "Do you people really call people you don't know?"

Although we explained to him that of course we did, all the time, he seemed unconvinced. The idea that someone would find it easy to pick up the phone and initiate a conversation with someone you didn't know was totally foreign to him and his coworkers, yet he had talents we could only dream of.

What brought this to mind was today I received an email that Mrs. Fields would not use the word "Christmas" this year so as to not offend anyone. This didn't make a lot of sense to me for a number of reasons so I called the Mrs. Fields 800 number. The rumor is not true; they have posted a number of Christmas products on their website (they have the Happy Holiday stuff, too), and will be updating the Christmas portion most likely after Halloween. It's easy to call, especially 800 numbers. The worst that will happen is they will say "no" in some manner or another and they have no clue who you are.

When these events happen, I always think of Maurice. We didn't get the AI but he had some great stories to take back to his coworkers.