Vendors and hawkers
About two or three times a month, I meet someone who wishes to leverage my contacts to sell something. I know this is far fewer than many in the social media government circles and that it comes with the territory as a person reaches certain milestones in his or her career.
At first, people would come up to me during conferences. I was a target of opportunity. They would see that I was in attendance. They would see the uniform. They would hand me a card and that would be that. Later, when I began presenting at conferences, the vendors and hawkers would suddenly become more interested. I wasn’t just someone to flirt with, I was worthy of a date. They would hang around after a presentation and, amid those asking questions and wanting to learn more about social media (the reason why I attend conferences), they would also strike up conversations, then lead into their pitches. Many of them were pretty good at this. I wouldn’t catch on that I was being pitched to right away, until the point in the conversation emerged where I was asked to either commit to purchasing their product, or giving them the name and number of someone who could.
Some vendors were graceful with this transition from rapport building to selling, many were not. Some were outright rude or insistent, like an online dating stalker.
Still later, when I became a fixture at several conferences, I would get cold calls from vendors who had heard my name mentioned by others. Some would mask their pitch by inviting me to a seminar or offering to meet somewhere for drinks, some would just start reading from their scripts. While it was flattering in a way to be seen as a gateway to riches and sales, I was always up front about my position: that I was a mere staff sergeant—a man of humble rank and position, who had simply been at the right place at the right time. My charisma, for what it is, had been shaped by my training and my proclivity for stage theater. My disposition had been shaped by my spirituality. Most of the time, I was a pretty easy guy to get along with, always eager to teach others and engage in conversations that would teach me something as well.
But I’ve begun to wear thin on the vendors and hawkers who don’t even try to ease me into a conversation. And it’s too bad. As a journalist, I always look forward to new conversations and new people. It’s the one area that we don’t normally grow cynical toward. Now, however, when someone comes up to me, calls or emails, I have to eye that with a level of suspicion. Am I being played? What is it they want? It’s an attitude I’d hoped to avoid, but a lesson probably better learned now than later.
Some vendors are so bad that they call, flatly asking me to solicit government employees for them. Some ask me for my contacts just a few seconds into the conversation—as if I have the friends and colleagues I do because I flood their inboxes with spam. Some ask how I would run their marketing if I were them.
And while I might be willing to give such data to even them, were they to not just brazenly demand it; I’m also taken aback by how little they engage me, as a person. During these conversations, I wait for my turn to speak, and routinely get little more than a chance to say “yes” or “that’s good” while they run down their bullet points of reasons why I should make them money.
There are exceptions. I have met a few start-up ventures that I do believe in. Those who man these businesses are a lot more mature in their approaches, even if ultimately they need the same thing from me. They offer to make me a part of the team. They ask for my input. And while there is the ever-present sense of urgency, it’s not a hard sell. I don’t feel guilty for taking lunch that day and going to bed that night without shoving their product down my friends’ throats.
In the end, maybe it’s all in the pitch. And maybe that’s a lesson for all of us “selling” social media to our coworkers and counterparts. Running across the vendors and hawkers at these conferences reminds me that, even with a product I believe in, I cannot neglect the community and rapport that is needed to transfer enthusiasm from me to another. While it may take time to engage the influencers in my life, I can either put in the work to listen to their needs and work with them to overcome obstacles, or I can be like these vendors and just shotgun blast everyone I see like the stereotypical car salesman.
About salemonzBorn in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.
Hey there! I'm a former Army print journalist and DoD social media zealot. I spend my days in the public relations and marketing worlds, chatting about technology and working on fun side projects.
I write, dance and do most things.
- Ruthven78 on Sometimes, let people be wrong
- FreyaFyre on Sometimes, let people be wrong
- Abbey on My utter failing as a human as told by my lawn
- Salmons on My utter failing as a human as told by my lawn
- salemonz on This is my bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine
- Ted Salmons on This is my bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine
- Ted Salmons on New Years New Years hooray for New Years
- salemonz on The mind’s remembering
- Meghan Kathleen (@meghankathleen) on The mind’s remembering
- salemonz on Sometimes, let people be wrong
- via @futurism // Chernobyl Is Being Transformed Into an Immense Renewable Energy Farm ow.ly/2SYY50g8xpy 8 hours ago
- via @arstechnica // Whatever causes fast radio bursts is sitting in an intense magnetic field ow.ly/sTBN50g8vps 9 hours ago
- via @futurism // Machines Just Beat Humans on a Stanford Reading Comprehension Test ow.ly/j3sy50g8jwV 14 hours ago
- via @futurism // Humans Share Genes With Lampreys That Repair the Fish’s Spinal Cord ow.ly/e24650g87q7 20 hours ago
- via @futurism // NASA-Funded Research Will Let Unmanned Spacecraft “Think” Using AI and Blockchain ow.ly/XCVh50g7Pup 1 day ago
- via @arstechnica // A gene that keeps track of how often it’s made into a protein ow.ly/gstA50g7OIO 1 day ago
- via @futurism // Panasonic’s Grand Plan for a Futuristic Smart City is Taking Shape ow.ly/nsGt50g7Hiy 1 day ago
- via @futurism // Scientists Coax Human Stem Cells Into Becoming Touch Neurons ow.ly/Is3A50g7ma9 2 days ago
- via @futurism // Leaked Draft of Landmark Climate Change Report Pours Cold Water on 1.5°C Goal ow.ly/oS7I50g7eFD 2 days ago
- via @futurism // This Week in Tech: Jan 6 – 12, 2018 ow.ly/d2Q250g76T4 2 days ago
- December 2014 (1)
- November 2014 (5)
- October 2014 (7)
- September 2014 (2)
- April 2014 (1)
- March 2014 (2)
- February 2014 (2)
- January 2014 (4)
- December 2013 (3)
- November 2013 (2)
- October 2013 (3)
- September 2013 (7)
- August 2013 (3)
- July 2013 (8)
- June 2013 (2)
- March 2011 (2)
- October 2010 (4)
- September 2010 (2)
- August 2010 (1)
- July 2010 (7)
- June 2010 (1)
- May 2010 (3)
- April 2010 (1)
- January 2010 (3)
- October 2009 (2)
- September 2009 (5)
- August 2009 (6)
- May 2008 (8)
- February 2008 (3)
- January 2008 (7)
- December 2007 (5)
- November 2007 (7)
- October 2007 (10)
- September 2007 (8)
- August 2007 (8)
- July 2007 (11)
- June 2007 (9)
- May 2007 (11)
- April 2007 (7)
- March 2007 (6)
- February 2007 (3)
- January 2007 (6)
- December 2006 (5)
- November 2006 (8)
- October 2006 (12)
- September 2006 (11)
- August 2006 (14)
- July 2006 (11)
- June 2006 (11)
- May 2006 (13)
- April 2006 (8)
- March 2006 (7)
- February 2006 (17)
- January 2006 (15)
- December 2005 (12)
- November 2005 (14)
- October 2005 (19)
- September 2005 (7)
- August 2005 (19)