A CIO Do Not Call List

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

The number of calls I get from IT service providers each week is mind-boggling. It is not uncommon for me to receive more than 100 calls from various salespeople in any given week. It is to the point now where I am unable to answer my office phone; I have to screen all my calls. The downside is that, on more than one occasion, important messages from important people have been lost in the shuffle. Something has to change.

I used to have a personal rule that said any vendors making unsolicited calls to me would have to call me five times without any callback before I would agree to take their call. If you think that sounds rude, then you haven’t had to deal with this type of problem. But I have been forced to abandon even this practice because so many different companies call that I can’t tell which ones have left a message before and which haven’t. I’ve just stopped calling back all together.

And a lot of these aren’t even quality calls. Some of them are just a waste of long-distance charges. Here are some hints for all of you tele-salespeople out there reading this article:

  • You had better know exactly who you would like to speak to. “The person in charge of making IT purchasing decisions for hosting services” is not it.
  • If you do happen to reach a new prospect, do not act like you’re an old pal or imply that we know each other when we don’t. “Hey, it’s so great to catch up with you” is pretty close to lying in my book.
  • For crying out loud, if you know the name of the person, you had better pronounce it correctly. When people butcher my name, it’s a dead giveaway that it is not going to be a conversation I enjoy. Here’s a hint: My name is French.
  • If I say, “No thanks. We’re not interested right now,” that is your queue to end the conversation. If the next words from you are longer than “Thank you. I appreciate your time, have a nice day,” then you are being rude in my book.
  • You may be surprised to learn that, contrary to your beliefs, I do not care to know “that this other company in my industry saved millions of dollars by utilizing your solution” the very first time that we talk. A first call should be an introduction only, not a sales pitch.

Note: If you are in the “Structured Cabling” business, your space is far too over-saturated in my opinion. If I were you, I would consider a different direction for your business or career (no offense).

On my continuing quest to help IT service providers become better at helping their customers, I think we should officially launch a new CIO Do Not Call (CIO-DNC) list. I am going to put my name right in the top spot. By signing up for the CIO-DNC list, you are saying to service providers: “I do not want any more unsolicited phone calls from people who I either do not know or already do business with. I view unsolicited phone calls as an invasion of my time, which is my most valuable asset.”

I can hear the service providers saying, “But wait! How am I supposed to engage with customers who really need my product or service but just don’t know it?”

As the self-appointed chairman of the CIO-DNC list, I will provide some guidelines for how to properly engage with anyone on this list:

  • If you would like to introduce yourself, you should do so via E-mail. The E-mail subject should start with “INTRO: .”
  • If you have gotten my E-mail address from a colleague or someone who I know, you must copy that person on the intro E-mail. If someone bailed out of a conversation with you by giving up my name and contact info, I want to know who it is and for them to own up to it (we will talk later).
  • In your intro E-mail, you should attach a one-page sheet that outlines who your company is and what services it provides. Information for whom to contact, should I want to know more, should be clearly identified.
  • If you do not receive a response from your intro E-mail, you are allowed to send up to two additional E-mails to the same person, requesting a phone call. If after three E-mails you do not receive a response, you should mark the lead as “DEAD” and move on.
  • If you ignore the CIO-DNC list and make unsolicited calls anyway, you will be placed on the “Do Not Do Business With” list. This list will be updated and shared by all members of the CIO-DNC list. All RFPs will be screened for “Breached CIO-DNC Protocol.”
  • If a particular sales rep repeatedly breaches CIO-DNC protocol, they may find themselves without protection from the Viagra E-mail Mafia (it’s not a threat, I’m just sayin').

Once we get the CIO-DNC list up and running, Phase II will include the launch of the IT-IN. This new portal will operate liked LinkedIn, only for IT service providers. Companies will establish links between themselves and their providers. They can provide recommendations for service providers, rate their service (star ratings) on specific projects, etc. This approach will allow CIOs to find providers based on relationships they already have and trust. (Example: “I’m looking for a new hosting provider and it appears that five companies in my network use VERYGOODHOSTING and have given them great reviews. Let me see if I have an INTRO E-mail from them.”)

Who’s in? Please leave a message in the comments below. Or E-mail me at [email protected]