Technology has driven a wedge into the profession of sales in a way that industry wasn’t prepared to deal with. On the one hand, you rely on it to keep you connected, but on the other hand, you also want it to protect you and keep your life private as well. Salesmen look to utilize every bit of accessible information to help them drive revenue. In the meantime, they create a lot of noise in your inbox that for the most part, you couldn’t care less about.
We have a unique perspective on sales because we are the purveyors of technology for our clients, and like every other business, also need to sell in order to grow as a company. This allows us to see how businesses are set up and how the technology can be taken advantage of in order to drive more sales. What we have learned is that there are a few ways to hide in plain sight so that you can only be reached by people you care about while remaining invisible to the rest of the world.
Problem #1: Email
Let’s start with email, the most important means of communication for businesses today. Except for when everyone knows your email address; then it becomes a time sink to delete thousands of emails just to get to the handful that are important. How does this happen? It starts when you set up your email address for your company. You choose your domain along with a format so that everyone in the company has basically the same email. This looks professional but the downside is that it is very predictable. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org might be the owner while email@example.com might be the receptionist. Meanwhile, you can find the names of all of the key decision makers in your company on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook or Google search. Companies will happily give away contact information to lower level employees while not realizing that they are actually giving away every contact in the company.
You are playing with smoke and mirrors. If a salesman doesn’t know your email address, he or she is going to guess and they will likely figure it out by sending an email to the most common variations of email addresses that businesses use until they don’t receive a kickback email. The best bet is to have more than one email address. Have one that you use to get your work done and another that serves as a filter to catch all of the unwanted emails. Make your filter email predictable and easy to guess and use an uncommon variation as your important email. Additionally, you can also purchase another domain and use that for your important email separate from your web address domain. If a salesman is relying on guess work to get your email, it will be very difficult to put this together.
Problem #2: Phone/Voicemail
The second biggest issue is the dial by name directory and your personal extension. You may have hired the toughest gate keeper in the world but if a sales person knows your name and can use a dial by name directory, they might as well have your direct line. Even if you forgo the dial by name directory altogether, it is important to remember not to start your voicemail with “Hi, this is John Doe at extension 222” which accomplishes the same thing as far as any sales person is concerned. More often than this small human error, is the error built into your auto attendant that says “Hello, you have reached John Doe at extension 222. Please leave a message at the tone”.
If you are going to opt into the dial by name directory, you should make an effort to hide your name on all of your social profiles, especially LinkedIn, by setting your profile to private. Be sure that you are not giving away information for free by putting your email address and extension in your voicemail. Lastly, think carefully the next time you purchase a phone system and look at each feature to see how it may be used by a salesman to contact you. Many of these features can be customized, however, most of them are set to default which gives away the most information.
Problem #3: Social Media
Social media is making it very difficult to hide from people who don’t know who you are. It makes you look good to have a striking LinkedIn profile with lots of connections, but while you are advertising yourself, remember that that information is accessible to everyone. If a salesman stops by a company to leave some information and the gate keeper won’t give them the contact information for the decision maker, there is no need to lose sleep over it. It is more than likely that all the information they need will be right at their finger tips as soon as they log into their computer.
If you are going to have a LinkedIn profile, be sure to keep your profile private. In most cases, all a salesman needs is a correct name to get your email and to start flooding your voicemail inbox. The goal is to be easily accessible by those who already know who you are and by the people who you want to contact you, not by those who are looking to sell you something. It is also important to remember that companies like LinkedIn are playing both sides. While you can set your profile information to private, you can also pay for a Sales Navigator account to remove those privacy settings. The ultimate truth is that if you are going to put your information on the internet, it will be used by people who want to get in contact with you, even if you don’t want to hear from them.
It has gotten to the point where it is almost astonishing to not be able to find contact information for prospective clients online. Combine this with the human tendency to be predictable, and there are no barriers keeping your inbox from getting flooded. This can be troubling and can cause many distractions in your work life if you do not develop a strategy to keep your privacy under control. One way you can benefit from working with an IT partner is by setting up the systems that connect you so that they also protect your privacy.