There was an extraordinary article in the NY Times in early December (December 6, 2010-David Segal). The article reports the arrest of Vitaly Borker, who perpetrated sales fraud through his Brooklyn-based web site DecorMyEyes.com. He did this by manipulating Google technology and subsequently intimidating and threatening his customers.
Mr. Borker’s fraud involved sales of fake designer eyeglasses with the express intent of generating negative Internet publicity. Mr. Borker purposely set about enhancing his Google profile by escalating the many complaints he received through threats and through cyberbullying of his Internet clients. This in turn generated more Internet complaints and bad publicity. Thus, counterintuitively, he boosted his sales of DecorMyEyes because Google’s algorithm was unable to distinguish between praise and complaints. The large number of negative postings translated into buzz which pushed DecorMyEyes high in search results and boosted sales. Amazing. Immoral and reprehensible, but quite brilliant actually.
Being a certified Luddite and technology dinosaur, I am of course drawn to the negative implications of accidental technological consequences. (Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the efficiencies and wonderment of cutting-edge technology. My virtual executive sales firm, Corporate Rain International, could not exist without high-level technology much beyond my ken.) However, there is a danger in placing too much faith in the new magicalism of technology.
Sales remains basically a human function. People hire who they personally like and trust. There can be a dangerous seduction for the salesman in becoming too wedded to his PowerPoint, his GoToMeeting, and his Salesforce. These technologies and many of their cousins and brothers, can add a template coldness, a common-denominator oversimplification to the sales process. Brilliant technology can also breed an emotional distance and creative rigidity in the salesman. Much of a salesman’s work, by necessity, involves rejection. This rejection can feel very personally painful. It takes energy and courage to forthrightly deal with keeping yourself open to the sometimes harrowing, but healthy and honest, personal sales process.
There are at least two treacherous seductions of technology that come quickly to my mind. One is simply just getting too enamored of the groovy. It feels cool to be using the latest app, whether it provides a real sales efficiency or not. But the other real danger is that technology can breed both spiritual and work-a-day laziness. For example, last week I took a sales meeting about a new sales technology. The salesman wanted to share the technical brilliance of his product with an extended PowerPoint. But, when I asked him to simply first tell me in practical terms the outcome per my specific issues, he got a bit defensive and uncomfortable, like the proverbial deer in the headlights. He knew how his product worked but couldn’t or wouldn’t help me cross the customized bridge I needed to judge his product’s practical efficacy for me.
Likewise, I consider Mr. Borker’s scheme, as reported in the NY Times, to be a crime ultimately grounded in laziness, albeit with a very clever understanding of manipulating the Internet. Successful sales remains essentially a human interaction that can be and is enhanced by technology, but technology is a tool and will always remain a tool for the real work of good salesmanship, not its essence.
Charles M. Allen said, “If the human race wants to go to hell in a hand basket, technology can help it get there by jet. It won’t change the desire or the direction, but it can greatly speed the passage.”
Or, as my friend Tom Chenault, CEO of Chenault Systems in Dallas, Texas says, “Sometimes good technology just makes the same old mess go around faster and faster.”
Thanks, Charles. Thanks, Tom.