How to Repel Friends and Annoy People

| April 9, 2013 | 9 Comments

Grow Your List Without Annoying PeopleI recently attended a meeting where one of the prizes was a copy of my book. One of the attendees approached me, and seemed very interested in getting one of my business cards. For the purpose of this story, we’ll call him Kash.  I am always willing to provide feedback or input to anyone who asks.  But, I feared my business card would end up in the bowel of spam purgatory. I asked him “You are not going to add me to a list or anything, are you?”  He said “No” with a smile.

Guess what happened next

A few weeks later, I received an email from Kash. I unsubscribed.  A week or so later, I received an SMS message to my mobile phone number.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt, and sent a message asking him to please remove me from his list.  About three weeks later, I received another SMS message from Kash with a link to attend a live webcast.

What’s wrong with that approach?

OK. You already know what’s wrong with it. Just because someone hands you a business card, does not mean they have given you permission to add them to your list. You may not add them to your newsletter list, your automated email system, and especially not your SMS engine. Why not?  Well, they did not give you permission.

Think of it this way, if someone invaded your privacy and broke into your home, would you invite them to dinner? Of course not. If you violate someone’s privacy, what makes you think you are going to ever have an opportunity to engage in business with them? But there is another element that many overlook.

If you believe it is all about numbers, just play the lottery

Here is the real problem with adding people to a list without permission. Beyond building a reputation as an annoying jerk, at some point you need to take the time to weed through all of those people to determine which ones might be worth your effort. When you add people who do not want to be on your list, you are just delaying the inevitable. Most organizations do not lack potential leads. Rather, they lack the resources to properly attend to each opportunity. They waste too much time on leads that never should have made their way into the system.

How do you fix it

When I called Kash out on this violation of basic etiquette, he left a voicemail message saying he didn’t know how “things got messed up like that.” If you make a mistake, own it. A better answer might have been “I apologize for adding you to my list and then not removing you on request.  We are reviewing our procedures to avoid this type of mistake in the future.”

What’s the next move?

If you have a newsletter or other mailing list, when you get someone’s card just ask “We also have a newsletter that covers these topics.  If you’d like me to add you to that list, we’ll just put a “Y” on the card so we don’t forget to add you. Otherwise, you will not receive the articles unless you ask for them.”

When you meet someone at a networking event, take the time to understand what they do, and try to diagnose whether or not you might be able to help them. If it is a good fit, connect genuinely. In each business interaction, you can either be seen as someone trying to sell something, or someone there to help address specific challenges. Kash came across as a slimy salesperson, and the impression he made was not the one he envisioned. If you let your prospects ask to be put on your list, it will be a good indicator that you have something they might value… and then you’ll know you are seen as a valued resource.

Your Turn

How do you feel when you end up on a list without being asked?

This article also syndicated in:

The Huffington Post Washing Business Journal

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Category: Consultative selling, Grow Revenue, Networking, Sales Eduction, Sales Tip, Upside-Down Selling

Comments (9)

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  1. John Yager says:

    I am not inclined to do business with anyone from whom I’ve received email spam. It’s a business ethic that I would never support, let alone SMS. SMS spam infuriates me to no end. It’s very close to being lumped in with SMA scamming…

  2. Ian,

    Since so many people are already drowning in email, being added to lists you didn’t request is, as you say, annoying at the very least. I find that when I am added without permission, even if I was potentially interested in doing business, I just unsubscribe and assume that they would be just as sloppy in their business as they are with their lists.

    SMS messages are just taking it to an entirely different level of intrusion.

    • Ian Altman says:

      Terry – thank you for joining the conversation. I’ll be sure to add you to my SMS list now that you took the time to comment :) I appreciate you for taking the time to share your wisdom.

  3. This is a major pet peeve. For every person who might appreciate being on the receiving end of this tactic, and possibly/maybe/doubtfully even engage as a potential client … there are 1000 others who will be left feeling annoyed at best.

    A few months back, I spoke for a trade association and at the end of the presentation their President (in front of the 45 attendees) handed me a copy of their day’s roster containing everyone contact information and suggested I add everyone in the room to my listserv. Understanding that my message isn’t for everyone — and that each person should be able to choose what and how much info they receive — I instead suggested that those interested parties simply leave their card with me. One attendee later advised, “You should have taken advantage of that opportunity.” I’d love to have your thoughts on this, Ian.

    • Ian Altman says:


      I get that offer all of the time. You hit the nail on the head. The goal is not to fill your list with meaningless contacts. Rather, You want to identify people for whom you might have a good fit. I think you made the right call, and knowing how impeccable you are, the ones who expressed interest will likely read each article within 10 minutes of it hitting their inbox.

      Thanks for sharing!


  4. Ian says:

    Hi Ian – I often see a similar scenario with LinkedIn requests. A lot of the connection requests that come through, which can be deemed tenuous, inevitably are followed up with an assumed newsletter subscription. Fortunately, the SMS messages aren’t yet an issue.

    It’s simply a pushy assumptive approach which doesn’t impress anyone and as you rightly say repels friends and annoys people!

    Great article.

    Another Ian.

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