10.08.08

A Day in the Life of a Manual Spammer

Posted in And Now for Something Completely Different, Behavior at 12:34 am by justakim

I’ve had some interesting experience with two insurance companies. I find the contrast in their business models to be quite interesting and their relative behaviors of economic note.

The Subjects

Insurance Company 1 was extremely professional, very polished, respectable, and downright thoughtful. When I came in for an interview, the manager had water on the table, sitting on coasters. He knew I had a bit of a hike to get there. It didn’t take long for both of us to realize that this job was not for me, but he and the front desk treated me with the utmost respect. If I ever want to buy financial services, I would go to this company.

Insurance Company 2 seemed to find things like honesty and integrity to be irrelevant criteria for picking employees and in business practices in general. They may even be a hindrance. I made the mistake of having my contact information available and I received a call, offering me an interview. The phone conversation moved very fast, and deliberately kept me off balance. Long story short, I ended up cold-calling to book interviews for a day.

Manual Spam

The job is pretty simple. You take a stack of names and phone numbers from Monster or Craigslist etc, of all the recently updated resumes. There is absolutely no weeding or grooming. You call. You tell them you’re from the company of a very vague name and want to set up a personal interview. You put in a few questions to see if they are open to selling insurance in the most general sense. You ask a couple questions to strengthen legitimacy. You consider if they will actually show up if you book them. Most likely, you tell them they have an interview tomorrow at some specified time. Here’s the address. Dress well. Have a nice day.

So basically their job is to trick people to come in for interviews, ideally without letting on that the business has anything to do with selling insurance and that the company is interviewing tons and tons and tons of people in group interviews, anyone they can convince to show up.

Booking Incentives

The pay schedule for bookers works like this: A flat fee for every interview you book, an additional flat amount per person that actually shows up, and bonuses for the first two hires that month. They expect a certain percentage of booked individuals to actually show up to the interview.

A booker wants to hit the percentage of shows, but maximize the number of interviews booked from their pile. They want to convince as many people as they can to show up. They are not selecting for people who are best suited to the job. They aren’t looking for those who are particularly inquisitive, bright, or interested. They’re selecting for those who are either complacent or coerceable.

Contrasting Strategies

The strategies of these two companies couldn’t be more different than night and day. The first company while they were willing to speak to anyone, were highly selective and conveyed a sense of integrity. They are looking for people who will have faith in both the company and the product.

The second company relied on less than honest means to bring people in. Neither did the company select for integrity nor did their employees self-select for integrity. They were merely going for quantity hoping to find adequate individuals.

This same strategy applies to the lowliest individual. Bookers are not selected for their integrity. Instead, they must be tolerant of some underhanded tactics. Consequently, the managers cannot trust the bookers. No-shows may have been faked. The management does not quite endorse a sense of honesty in whom they train. I watched one say one thing, then smoothly transition into the opposite, followed by “I believe that honesty is important here.” Oh really. It’s even possible that she lied about how many people showed up. I wouldn’t normally think this, but given I was paid in cash, all the alarms were already going off. Hoo boy.

There are two kinds of salespeople: those who sell products they believe in, and those who sell products they don’t believe in. The ones that are good at selling products they believe in tend to do poorly when selling products they don’t believe in. However, they tend to do better with a product they believe in than the other kind of salesperson with the same product. The first company is looking for those salespeople who will believe in the product. The second company is looking for salespeople that can sell anything.

In the long run though, it is hard to imagine that the second company is going to survive. It’s one thing to look for salespeople who will sell things they don’t believe in. It’s another to pick only from the candidates that have been duped by the booker selling them the interview, free as it may be.

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