Time for a Boycott.

Last Updated May 22, 2007 10:31 AM EDT

What is with Hollywood? Can't they make a movie or TV show that doesn't depict the sales pro as either a sleazeball or a bonehead?

That's how I was going to begin today's blog.

I was going to tell you about a newly released movie called "The Last Time" that features (according to the New York Times) "a topnotch salesman with a fractured heart and a filthy mouth" who fast-talks himself into the arms of the girlfriend of a "lunkhead" sales new hire. I was going to point out that buyers stopped buying from slick fast-talking sales types 50 years ago and that today's sales positions are too important to staff with obvious lunkheads. I was planning to explain how those negative stereotypes make it more difficult for sales pros to do their jobs, and then suggest some ways to counteract those tired cultural stereotype.

But I'm not going to post that blog entry because the front page of Sunday's New York Times had a true-life story that is so horrible, and reflects so terribly on the sales profession, that it completely dwarfs any damage that Hollywood could ever hope to wreak.

If you've been in Sales for very long, you've probably made cold-calls based on a prospect list provided by InfoUSA, a publicly held company that bills itself as "the leading provider of business and consumer information products, database marketing services, data processing services and sales and marketing solutions." It turns out that InfoUSA has apparently been selling contact lists to companies that, according to government investigators, InfoUSA knew were actively under investigation for fraud.

The lists were used to target sick, gullible senior citizens, some of whom, like the 92-year old WW2 veteran featured in the article, lost most of their life's savings to the list-buying con-men. Here's a link to the NY Times article. Read it. Get angry. Then come back to this blog, because we're going to do something about it.

LINK TO NY TIMES: BILKING THE ELDERLY, WITH A CORPORATE ASSIST
Here's the problem. Whenever a story like this hits the major media, it makes every sales pro in the country look bad. And when it involves a company that's a strategic data provider to millions of sales reps, it's hard to argue that the scumbags are just bad apples in an otherwise positive profession.

Sure, you and I both know that 99 percent of the sales professionals in the country (especially in B2B) are highly ethical and truly committed to helping customers achieve goals and solve problems. But none of that matters if our public image is based upon true stories about supposedly reputable sales service companies helping steal retirement money from grandma and grandpa.

It's time to take action, so I'm proposing a boycott. Here's what I'd like you to do:

  1. If you're responsible for buying prospect lists, stop buying them from InfoUSA. Switch to their competitors: Acxiom, D&B, and Experian Americas, for example.
  2. If you have any say in the matter, refuse to use lists sourced from InfoUSA.
  3. Email InfoUSA's CFO, Stormy Dean, at ir@infousa.com and let him know that you don't appreciate his firm giving the sales profession a bad name.
  4. Email the URL of this blog entry to every sales and marketing professional that you know. If we can get enough people to email InfoUSA's server, they'll have to take notice.
Let's keep this up until the CEO of InfoUSA posts an apology on this board and tell us exactly what he's going to do to make certain that his company never again sells contact lists to crooks, especially those who steal from gullible, mentally-ill senior citizens.

Let's get the reality of our profession into shape before we ask Hollywood to stop with the negative stereotyping.