Every day I delete 50-100 emails from people I don’t know asking me do to business with them. You know the sort, they act like they know you. “Hey Sarah, I was hoping you could help me out…” This umbrella opening is generally followed by asking something along these lines: “If you’re not the right person, could you forward this to the individual in your company who handles toilet paper purchases?” I’m guessing that someone must be responding to those emails or the companies that send them wouldn’t waste their money, right? But I am an aggressive deleter. If I don’t recognize your name, your company, or the topic in the subject line isn’t relevant to me you’re trashed. Period.

Taking such a hard stance enables me to focus on what’s important. And a big part of what’s important to me is, in fact, helping people. I enjoy introducing good people who may wind up forming a good connection. If your approach is solid, and you’ve done your research and gotten an introduction or demonstrate a connection, there’s good chance that I will help you out.

So, when I got an email earlier this week that said “PSE Referral” I did not delete it. I’m on the National Council of Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE), which is an organization for college students interested in selling, sales management and marketing. The reference to PSE made me curious, and I had just attended the PSE national convention, so it wasn’t unusual. But the weird thing was, the message was sent to me from an admin on a special email account who saw it in his junk folder. He recognized my name and forwarded it. Here’s the email:

I read the first line “We met briefly…at the Career Panel.” Really? Who sent this? The email address meant nothing to me. And, guess what? I didn’t sit on the Career Panel. My flight was delayed. My colleague subbed for me. Now I’m thinking, a) we have a liar on our hands; or b) we are dealing with an inexperienced person who is trying to make a connection with me and the execution is lousy.

Now, normally, it would have ended right there. But, because I’m involved with this organization, I cared whether the answer was “a” or “b.” Did some enterprising sales person decide to go prospecting and grab the conference program at the hotel? After all, who remembers who they met at these things, right? So, I decided to dig deeper and I called PSE. Had they ever heard of the company? Had they ever heard of the person sending the email?

It turns out, YES! Not only that, she’s an alum. Her employer is reputable. So she is who she says she is, and she won’t be getting my business. Here’s why:

  1. She did not do her homework. As a fellow member of PSE, she could have easily gotten my contact information and a correct email address from any one of a number of sources. She actually staffed a booth at the Career Fair my colleagues attended! A simple walk down the row to our booth would have provided her with a great introduction. Instead, she obviously tried a short-cut, and who knows how she wound up using an obscure email extension where I don’t have an account.
  2. She did not remember the person she actually met. I’m guessing here, but I think she probably met my colleague who sat on the panel when my flight was delayed. She didn’t remember her name, and didn’t collect a business card. So she took another short-cut and referred to the conference program.

The irony here is that this young woman had all of the right access to me at her fingertips! She knows people who know me well, I’m a dedicated board member of an organization she belongs to, both of our companies were involved in the conference, where she met people who work with me. Instead, she opted for short-cuts, indicating she’s not the sort of person I want to do business with or “help.” If she had handled her approach differently, I would have have helped her. Oh well!