Ever wonder how people feel confident to write you eerily personal emails, or ring you up and talk as though they are your best friend? Well, apparently, this is one of the things psychopaths are good at. But now you, too, can be good at it, through an equally eery website called Crystalknows.com.
Signing up is very simple — they are so confident that you’ll like it that they don’t even want a credit card number up front, which, naturally, makes you much more confident to try it. After a few brief intros, it allows you to start looking people up. If the web knows a lot about them, it will offer you a profile which it would claim is perhaps 95% accurate. You can improve the accuracy by answering questions about the person.
Of course, after you’ve looked up your work colleagues, friends, partner etc, which is a sort of emotional-intelligence version of watching reruns of your favourite TV shows on Netflix, the most fun thing to do is to look up yourself.
So, I looked up myself.
Some parts of it are very accurate.
When speaking to Martin (it recommends): use self-deprecating humour, emphasise the future, and don’t trust that he will follow specific verbal instructions. Well, ok, that’s me. On the other hand, it also says Don’t ask him to explain something in detail. I suspect that this recommendation is aimed at winning my trust. How little do they know! As anyone who knows me will attest, I love explaining things in detail. In fact, my enthusiasm for explaining things in detail goes far beyond most people’s enthusiasm to listen.
When emailing Martin (it goes on): use an emoticon, write with short, casual language and abbreviations, don’t ask him something that will require a long, thoughtful response. Don’t provide lots of detailed information and instructions.
Say what? If you are reading this, and intending to write an email to sell some product or service, may I advise you of the following things. First, do not use emoticons. If you want to text me or converse by Facebook, I’m fine with emoticons. In an email? Seriously? Likewise, unless the abbreviation is NHS or possibly BBC, do not use abbreviations. Overuse of TLAs (Three Letter Abbreviations) is one of my pet hates. Short, casual language? You’re welcome to. I also revel in the long, baroque, exotic sentence, replete as it is with the frisson of the sub-clause and and extended chiasmus, perhaps supplemented by iteration and closing with a cadence. However, whatever you do, do not address me in short, casual language as if you are my best mate unless I actually know you. I will simply press the Junk button.
Again, I’m not sure if the long, thoughtful response is for your safety or mine. If you want a long, thoughtful response on something that I’m not actually interested in, then, no. But, on the other hand, if you want a short, snappy response, it will still be no.
I love detailed information, and I really, really like the instructions to be precise if I need to follow them. On the other hand, if you’re telling me how to get somewhere, just give me the address. I have Sat Nav, as does almost everyone. Only try to explain the route if there is a reason why Sat Nav will get it wrong, and explain carefully that that is why you’re doing it.
When working with Martin (it now tells me): Recognise his achievements verbally. Well, purr. Yes. Please do. You can also tell your friends, write articles in the local paper, and include a chapter in your forthcoming book. Confront conflict in person, rather than via email. Indeed. I’m not sure what ‘confronting conflict is’, but, generally, I would recommend to everyone in all situations that you are more likely to resolve things face to face, and more likely to make them worse by email.
Don’t expect a long time to earn his trust. Don’t take time to work out logical conclusions. I’m not sure how to take these. If you are emailing me out of the blue, you do, indeed, have very little time to earn my trust if you want to avoid my internal ‘Junk’ button. I’m a little hazier about ‘Don’t take time to work out logical conclusions’. Certainly, don’t labour the blindingly obvious. As authors remind themselves, RUE — Resist the Urge to Explain. On the other hand, don’t pitch me something that doesn’t make sense. Seriously, just don’t.
When selling to Martin (its next section) Focus on the future plans for your product. Yes, definitely. I will want to know if your company is still going to be around in two years time. Use hyperbole to make a point (“This is the best product in the world!”) I fear CrystalKnows was designed by Americans. Notwithstanding my own personally ebullient nature and constant desire to enthuse people, hyperbole of the ‘this is the best product in the world’ kicks me straight into a rather biting British sarcasm (see What shall we do with irony). I know I shouldn’t indulge in it, but I do.
What is baffling me slightly here is that the profile begins with — see above — Use self-deprecating humour (don’t take act like you take yourself too seriously) [sic]. How does that fit with telling me that your product is the best product in the world? We move on. Don’t worry about asking for permission before calling. That’s fair. Well, it’s sometimes fair. Do your research first. I remember the time that someone from Google Advertising rang up to explain that with Google, my organisation’s services could be much more widely known. I explained I worked for the NHS. The caller, who claimed to be calling from Manchester (though it may well be from a different Manchester) was quick enough to say “oh yes, the NHS is a good company, but think how much better known it would be with Google’s help”. He didn’t make the sale. Don’t leave detailed voicemails. Actually, don’t leave any voicemails. This has nothing to do with my personality. For some reason O2 is unable to provide voicemails on my current phone. On my previous phone it allowed me to set them up, but, living in a rural area, it wasn’t actually possible to retrieve them. Provided that your phone leaves a number, I will try to ring you back. Otherwise, I will delve into the TuGo app to try and hear what you had to say, but it’s not exactly reliable.
It comes naturally to Martin to… (it now tells me) Make a quick purchase decision. I’ll often consider something for a year or so, and then make up my mind in less than a minute. So, half right. Focus on deep, close relationships rather than high quantity. Oh dear. I do have some deep, close relationships, that’s true. I also love meeting new people. Some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met have been on trains (a former England netball captain, a TV presenter, a film director, an ontologist (yes, they exist). I have 1,337 Facebook friends, and, yes, I am secretly and guiltily proud of this figure. Trust someone quickly. Yes, or not trust them. Make a decision more quickly than most people. Often true, often not. It depends on the evidence.
It does not come naturally to Martin to… Review all of the facts before making a big decision. Make decisions based purely on logic. Have a well-organised desk. Pay close attention to all of the details. Half right. I did, for a short space in my career, have a well-organised desk. Then my boss took me on one side and suggested this wasn’t entirely appropriate and gave the impression I had nothing to do. I have not made that mistake again. Most people who know me would say I don’t do details, but when we did the Myers-Briggs tests I came out borderline between Sensing and Intuiting. It depends a bit on what the issue is. When it comes to ‘making decisions based purely on logic‘ I would agree, very few decisions can be solved by logic alone. I would be very troubled, though, if I made an important decision and it turned out that it was not logical. As someone who checks three different train routes and eighteen prices before deciding how to get to London, and considers as the likelihood of having to cancel before buying an advance ticket at a discount, I’m really not the type to say ‘that looks the most fun, let’s go for it’. And that definitely goes for reviewing all the (available) facts before making a big decision.
You may be saying that CrystalKnows has got more right than it gets wrong. You’re probably right. For a piece of software that just looks at my LinkedIn profile and then tries to marry it up with other things about me on the web, it has sketched a fairly accurate caricature of the kind of person many people think I am.
The problem, though, if you are about to hastily scurry off to CrystalKnows to assist you in penning that all important email to me about buying a new photocopier, changing my house insurance or signing up with your employment bureau, is that all of the guesses it got right and wrong were eerily (that word again) similar to the way that salespeople have been ringing me up for years.
With the exception of the Google guy, who was badly briefed, salesmen have tended to fall into three distinct groups.
Type 1 are the hopeful but under-researched. When I worked in Communications in the NHS, I used to get regular calls from people who wanted to sell me telephone systems. A reasonable assumption, you might think, but in NHS terminology, Communications has a very specific meaning, and it has nothing to do with telephones, which are usually run by Information Technology or by Estates. Some of these people could be awfully persistent, but, ultimately, there was only one way the conversation could go: I didn’t have the authority to negotiate phone contracts, nor the expertise.
Type 2 — who could have been working off the briefing given by CrystalKnows — are the chummy, over-familiar people who use the telephone version of emoticons. “Hello Martin,” they often begin, “how are you today?” If they were Americans, they got a free pass on that one, because everyone knows that Americans have to engage in social niceties first (there was some incident with a load of tea at a party once, and I think they have been on their best behaviour ever since). For anyone else, the conversation has immediately taken an irreversibly terminal direction, unless I actually knew them with the same degree of intimacy that they were implying by the warmth of the telephone manner.
The same type of people, as often as not, make reference to having talked with my boss and been recommended to me, to the good work I’ve been doing, to my past projects, and so on. Exactly as the profile suggests, they don’t expect to need long to win my trust. As often as not they will use hyperbole. They very often talk about the future prospects of their product.
These are the people you can emulate if you use the profile that CrystalKnows gives you about me.
In twenty-five years, I have never bought anything from these kind of people, though I have — and I know I shouldn’t have — allowed some of them rather a lot of rope.
Type 3 are the people who have actually managed to sell things. They tend to be quite soft-spoken, have a very specific offering, and they always have data to back it up. Generally speaking, these conversations have gone one of three ways. Sometimes I tell them that it’s not an area we’re considering, for reasons which they couldn’t have worked out by decent research (otherwise, type 1). Sometimes I tell them that we’re not considering that particular product or service at the current time, but would be glad to have their information on file, and would they send us something. Just occasionally it turns out that this really was a Type 2 person, who wants to take me out to dinner, send a free gift, come to my office, and so on. More usually, the Type 3 person is very happy to send their materials, confident that when the time is right, we will buy. They have often been right. The third thing that has happened — not too often, but often enough to count — is that a Type 3 person rings up with something which we are interested in. We immediately want information, data, and, almost certainly we’ll want three quotes. They run the risk of giving us all the information we need to make a purchase decision, and that decision then going to someone else. That’s a risk a Type 3 salesperson is willing to run.
I have three maxims on which I buy, and if you follow these, you don’t need CrystalKnows, or a psychopathic salesperson of Type 2 who is able to generate pseudo-empathy with hundreds of people a day.
- One buyer, many suppliers
- You get the suppliers you deserve
- You can get a small discount on the market value by asking for it, and a bigger discount if you are an expert buyer. Anything more than that, and it falls into the category of ‘if it sounds too good to be true…’
Which brings us back to CrystalKnows. Because, really, it does sound rather too good to be true…