I got a calendar invite from a vendor this week. Several of my colleagues were included, but not ones that I would normally meet with. I had never met this vendor before. I had never exchanged emails with this salesperson. I checked with my colleagues and none of them had ever had a conversation with this individual either. As I wrote in Part One of this post, this technique is similar to many social engineering tactics, and takes advantage of a natural inclination to just blindly accepting meeting invites, particularly when other people have been invited because you’ll assume someone else arranged the meeting and you may not want to look stupid for asking why. And this sales tactic of getting your foot in the door has become all too common,

Ironically, this particular vendor’s name comes from a latin word meaning “truthfulness”.

In J.R.R. Tolkiens’ The Hobbit, the first chapter is called “An Unexpected Party”. He calls it this because the hero of the story, Bilbo Baggins is busy with his own life when a wizard and a troupe of dwarves invade his space without an appointment. They eat all of his food and drink all of his wine. They expect him to go on a journey with him and need him to perform the most important part of their plan. They go on this amazing adventure, Bilbo does things he never imagined, and develops deep friendships with the dwarves. Sound familiar? It’s the dream every salesperson is pitching.

The difference between the first scenario and the last? Bilbo knew and trusted Gandalf for years before the wizard burst into his home and connected the hobbit to some of his other friends. Without the wizard in this story, the dwarves would just be a bunch of thieves. Back to real life…if I don’t know you, I don’t know the difference between you and a hacker. And I’m just going to go ahead and assume you’re a hacker until I’m convinced otherwise.

As I indicated above, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this tactic to get your foot in the door. This isn’t a technique that seems to be limited to big companies or small companies or startups or any particular industry. Tricking someone into meeting with you won’t start a long term productive relationship, which tells me that’s not what you’re interested in. This is the social equivalent of lying about your age to a person you’ve just met to get them to go out on a date. It probably won’t end up being a long term trusting relationship. It seems like you’re expecting to have a one night stand.

For some salespeople that have made a particular nuisance of themselves, sending messages to lots of people without doing the homework of finding the right person to talk to, I’ve blocked them from sending email, not just to me, but from anyone in the company. I’ve blocked whole companies from sending to our company in very egregious cases, particularly where the salespersons emails don’t conform to the CAN-SPAM act. Just like Bilbo, I can put on the ring of power and disappear. But I really don’t like doing that.

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