Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I've Got the Cold Calling Blues

Readers: An important update! I just exchanged email with Elizabeth Cutler, Group Vice President, US Conferences at IDC. IDC is not having a 2009 conference IT Expo/CIO Summit, so the calls I've been receiving are a scam. That explains the reason they would not email me any materials about the conference. I have not experienced cold calling scams as a CIO before. My apologies to IDC. When I receive my next cold call from the company pretending to be IDC, I'll play along and forward the info to Elizabeth. Life as a CIO is never boring!

Today in the middle of a meeting, I received my 5th cold call from IDC trying to sell me a registration to the 2009 IDC IT Expo and CIO Summit

I'm always kind to cold callers, and I explained that I know it's their job to sell me products and services I have not specifically solicited and do not want to buy.

In this case, I explained that I travel 200,000-400,000 miles per year and keynote all over the world. My goal in 2009 is to travel less, so I will not be attending any IDC conferences which require travel.

I also said that I would be happy to read about their conference and circulate it to my peers. However, this particular IDC marketing campaign seems to prohibit email communications. I've told the callers 5 times to email me an overview and they've explained that they cannot. Must be part of the sales pitch.

As a society, we have declared unwanted email to be Spam and various states and localities have tried to restrict the flow of spam with legislation.

At what point will cold calling a business to the sell the CIO an unsolicited product or service constitute telephone Spam or even harassment?

In the case of IDC, they have somehow obtained my private, unpublished office number that only my assistant and direct reports are supposed to know.

My phone rings about once a month, so I always answer it, assuming its an urgent call from someone close to me.

Today, I replaced my standard desk phone with a caller ID enabled phone so that I can screen unwanted sales calls. This strategy has been very effective at home, where my unlisted number is called several times a day by

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The Boston Ballet
The Massachusetts Fraternal Order of Police
The Boston Symphony Orchestra
Marketing and Survey organizations
The Unknown Caller (whoever that is, 8am on a Sunday morning is popular)

They never leave a message.

I have politely asked that my name be removed from all future fund raising lists and I am on the do not call list. Unfortunately, I made small contributions years ago to some of these organizations, which technically gives them the right to call because of a pre-existing business relationship.

Here is my action plan:

1. Sign up for every do not call list, do not mail list, do not send catalog list etc.
2. Put an embargo on donations to any unsolicited caller or visitor to my home.
3. Create an department wide ban on sales to any company making unsolicited calls to any IT staff member at BIDMC or Harvard

And of course, my blog can serve as a public wall of shame for these cold calling companies. I'll ask my staff to send me lists of company names for publication. I see that is available from

CIOs are very busy people. They are providing complex services to demanding organizations and are given limited resources. They last thing they want is

"Hi, I'm Bob and I need to tell you about the best widget ever from"

when they are in the middle of a meeting, negotiating a contract, or writing a strategic plan.

As I tell all my vendors - I'm a voracious reader and when a new product is announced or a new need arises, I'll call you. Until then, tell your cold calling salesman to chill!
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