A CIO Do Not Call List

Written by Todd L. Michaud
February 11th, 2010

Franchisee Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 16 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

The number of calls I get from IT service providers each week is mind-boggling. It is not uncommon for me to receive more than 100 calls from various salespeople in any given week. It is to the point now where I am unable to answer my office phone; I have to screen all my calls. The downside is that, on more than one occasion, important messages from important people have been lost in the shuffle. Something has to change.

I used to have a personal rule that said any vendors making unsolicited calls to me would have to call me five times without any callback before I would agree to take their call. If you think that sounds rude, then you haven’t had to deal with this type of problem. But I have been forced to abandon even this practice because so many different companies call that I can’t tell which ones have left a message before and which haven’t. I’ve just stopped calling back all together.

And a lot of these aren’t even quality calls. Some of them are just a waste of long-distance charges. Here are some hints for all of you tele-salespeople out there reading this article:

  • You had better know exactly who you would like to speak to. “The person in charge of making IT purchasing decisions for hosting services” is not it.
  • If you do happen to reach a new prospect, do not act like you’re an old pal or imply that we know each other when we don’t. “Hey, it’s so great to catch up with you” is pretty close to lying in my book.
  • For crying out loud, if you know the name of the person, you had better pronounce it correctly. When people butcher my name, it’s a dead giveaway that it is not going to be a conversation I enjoy. Here’s a hint: My name is French.
  • If I say, “No thanks. We’re not interested right now,” that is your queue to end the conversation. If the next words from you are longer than “Thank you. I appreciate your time, have a nice day,” then you are being rude in my book.
  • You may be surprised to learn that, contrary to your beliefs, I do not care to know “that this other company in my industry saved millions of dollars by utilizing your solution” the very first time that we talk. A first call should be an introduction only, not a sales pitch.

Note: If you are in the “Structured Cabling” business, your space is far too over-saturated in my opinion. If I were you, I would consider a different direction for your business or career (no offense).

On my continuing quest to help IT service providers become better at helping their customers, I think we should officially launch a new CIO Do Not Call (CIO-DNC) list. I am going to put my name right in the top spot. By signing up for the CIO-DNC list, you are saying to service providers: “I do not want any more unsolicited phone calls from people who I either do not know or already do business with. I view unsolicited phone calls as an invasion of my time, which is my most valuable asset.”

I can hear the service providers saying, “But wait! How am I supposed to engage with customers who really need my product or service but just don’t know it?”

As the self-appointed chairman of the CIO-DNC list, I will provide some guidelines for how to properly engage with anyone on this list:

  • If you would like to introduce yourself, you should do so via E-mail. The E-mail subject should start with “INTRO: .”
  • If you have gotten my E-mail address from a colleague or someone who I know, you must copy that person on the intro E-mail. If someone bailed out of a conversation with you by giving up my name and contact info, I want to know who it is and for them to own up to it (we will talk later).
  • In your intro E-mail, you should attach a one-page sheet that outlines who your company is and what services it provides. Information for whom to contact, should I want to know more, should be clearly identified.
  • If you do not receive a response from your intro E-mail, you are allowed to send up to two additional E-mails to the same person, requesting a phone call. If after three E-mails you do not receive a response, you should mark the lead as “DEAD” and move on.
  • If you ignore the CIO-DNC list and make unsolicited calls anyway, you will be placed on the “Do Not Do Business With” list. This list will be updated and shared by all members of the CIO-DNC list. All RFPs will be screened for “Breached CIO-DNC Protocol.”
  • If a particular sales rep repeatedly breaches CIO-DNC protocol, they may find themselves without protection from the Viagra E-mail Mafia (it’s not a threat, I’m just sayin’).

Once we get the CIO-DNC list up and running, Phase II will include the launch of the IT-IN. This new portal will operate liked LinkedIn, only for IT service providers. Companies will establish links between themselves and their providers. They can provide recommendations for service providers, rate their service (star ratings) on specific projects, etc. This approach will allow CIOs to find providers based on relationships they already have and trust. (Example: “I’m looking for a new hosting provider and it appears that five companies in my network use VERYGOODHOSTING and have given them great reviews. Let me see if I have an INTRO E-mail from them.”)

Who’s in? Please leave a message in the comments below. Or E-mail me at


22 Comments | Read A CIO Do Not Call List

  1. John Says:

    Great Suggestion. This list and process is needed. You left off one thing, the cold caller that gets someone in the business to transfer the call to get past caller id… automatic on the list.

  2. Mike Says:

    I’m in. Let’s get started.

  3. Jeff Says:

    I wonder if this is the same Todd Michaud that is now the CEO of Revionics… one of those darn IT Service providers…

    I wonder if his tone is different today? Or if he was just hoping that only HIS calls would get through?

    Why yes, their site DOES say it can save a retailer 5-10%, why do you ask?

  4. Evan Schuman Says:

    Editor’s Note: Nope, Jeff, it’s a different person. Our columnist is VP/IT for Focus Brands. Clearly, we wouldn’t have a vendor (especially not a vendor CEO) as an IT columnist. But I’ve talked with our Todd and it is pretty statistically unlikely that there are two Todd Michauds in this space. Indeed, both were on the same conference call once. Fairly freaky.

  5. Jeff Says:

    Yup, my bad. Mea culpa.

  6. Della Lowe Says:

    Made my day. I know all vendors (including my company) deal with this double edged sword – how to acquire new leads but not annoy folks. My favorite was the young woman who called me, would not take a breath so I could question her and then yelled at me because I said her solution was way out of my budget.

  7. Mike Romano Says:

    Welcome to the real world of capitalism. This is the US, not China.

    We all get these calls. I get 100/week too. Deal with it! Hire an asistant or manage your calls better so they don’t fall through the cracks. There’s plenty of call filtering sofware out there. I’m sure one of them called to sell it to you, but you didn’t answer the call!!

  8. Frank Urbaniak Says:

    Having sat on your side of the desk I appreciate the problem, and the rudeness that is shown by many vendors. I get these calls and e-mails, and I am a consultant, which highlights the quality of the research they are doing on their contacts.
    On the other hand, sitting on the consulting side, I am amazed by the number of retailers that send out RFP’s to companies, or request additional information, and then don’t have the courtesy to say ‘Thanks’ in an e-mail reply, or ‘We’ll get back to you if we’re interested”. This after contacting you and requesting infomation/a proposal ASAP, which takes time and money to prepare. Vendors call often because they are left in the dark, don’t even know if you got their requested response, and have numbers to meet just like retailers.
    A little courtesy and consideration from all parties would go a long way towards improving the situation.

  9. Todd Says:

    Amen Brother Todd!! This is so annoying and 99% of these callers took zero time to understand who I am or what my company’s needs might be. I used to hate being rude, but I’m over it. Sign me up as a charter member.

  10. Todd P. Michaud Says:

    Todd L. Michaud has written a brilliant article about common sense professionalism, says Todd P. Michaud, CEO of one of those “darned I/T services providers!” I am certain that I would at least pronounce his name correctly. :->

    Todd P. Michaud
    President & CEO
    Revionics, Inc.

  11. Todd L. Michaud Says:

    Todd P. Michaud you will always have a pass on my DNC list. Call me any time.

    Just please don’t call my wife…

    …that would be awkward.

  12. Cranston Snoard Says:

    Excellent article and suggestion! Count me in!

    I’ve been dealing with a pesky sales rep from a leading firm that offers log monitoring / management capabilities who just can’t accept we are not interested in her product line. For some reason, even though several managers, including myself (security and risk), our auditors, our vendor relations manager, our CIO, the PCI business owner, etc. have all told her we are not interested, she insists on sending each of us e-mails or making calls every month or so. From some discussions with other areas, it seems she is now trying to find other people in the organization to use to get a foot in the door. But all she is doing is ticking everyone off.

    I’ve gotten to the point where when she next calls I am no longer being polite about it. Next time, I am just going to hang up on her.

  13. Evan Schuman Says:

    Interesting perspective, Cranston, but may I make a suggestion? No need to hang up on her. Why not simply tell her precisely what you just posted? That her efforts to pursue after having been told “no” are alienating people at the company and that’s it dramatically reducing her change for getting business in the future. May I ask if you’ve, well, been too nice in the past? Instead of saying “Nope. Not interested,” did you try and be nice and say something like, “This is very interesting, but I’m not in a position to move forward right now.” I’ve seen this retailer-vendor disconnect a lot.
    The retail says words that, to his/her mind, are explicitly telegraphing “Go away. We have no interest,” but it’s ambiguous enough that the sales rep–who is trained to be optimistic and persistent–hears as “Very interested, but need a little more time.” My suggestion: Being nice is great and all, but the nicest thing is to be honest and say “No interest” if that’s the case. Not saying that you were too nice, but it happens a lot.

  14. Todd L. Michaud Says:

    I have talked/emailed with quite a few people since this article was published and it appears to be a very big disconnect between “the problems that a CIO is trying to address” and the “solutions that the provider is selling”.

    Take it from me, most CIOs have too much on their plate already. The last thing that they need is someone solving a problem that is not on their Top Priority list. It may be a great system/solution that will save or make the company money, but if it’s not part of the current burning-platform, there simply are no cycles to think about it right now.

    Evan, I agree with you. I am also guilty of the “sounds great, but not right now” response or when someone makes it through to me live on the phone, “sounds great, but I’m swamped right at the moment, so call me next week and we’ll talk”, knowing that I hope that my screening methods catch the conversation the next time. It’s better to just be brutally honest and say “No thank you. Please don’t call back.”

  15. Evan Schuman Says:

    Regarding the “trying to be nice,” I’ve heard from sales reps who engage in the exact kind of persistent conduct described here. When asked why, they say that a company exec said that they WERE interested, but not right then. So the rep not only feels the need to continue to push, but the rep has a fiduciary obligation to do so. If you tell a sales rep that you’re interested in their product/service, you can’t really blame them for relentlessly pursuing. If you don’t want them to pursue, just say that your company doesn’t want the product. Anything shy of that and you’re actually inviting the conduct you’re trying to avoid.

  16. Cranston Snoard Says:

    I have told the sales rep exactly that information — on at least 3 separate occasions. She has also heard the same thing at least twice each from 3 others, including the senior VP. So she has been told at least 8 or 9 times in total, by 4 different people. And 3 of those times were in e-mails from 3 different people.

    At this point we all regard her continued calls and e-mails as rude and disrespectful — she has completely ignored and annoyed the very people who would be deciding whether to acquirer her company’s product.

  17. Chad Symens Says:

    Here is a practical solution that works well for me. Don’t answer your phone but on your voice mail provide a “if you have a product or svc you want me to consider email me at” and then provide an email address like vendor@. Then when you are looking for a solution you can search that box based on key word and see if anything is helpful to you. It works pretty well for me. If you have an assistant they can direct sales calls to the email address as well.

  18. Gian Verri Says:


    I like your article. A good sales person should always know his/her audience and be respectful.

    Please help with below if you can. It is a true story as we are a very small vendor for Focus Brands today for local telecom services. It is a very competitive telecom industry and there are myriad telecom products (as you know) so we are probably your biggest culprits.

    How can I introduce myself to you if my Company is “already a Vendor of Focus Brands” but the deal was done prior to you coming on board and today represents a very small part of your business(es)”locations” telecom budget.

    If we can now offer better price/value on the existing service with a solution to expand to all “locations” we don’t support today, how do I communicate that to you if I don’t have a relationship with the person or I don’t know the person at Focus Brands that governs that particular IT/Telecom responsibility today?

    The sales person that originally sold the service to Focus Brands left my Company and my Company will give me the responsibility to reinvigorate the relationship.

    Now I want to introduce myself to you, find out what your needs are short term and long term, and set up a short meeting to discuss them with you. I suppose the meeting could be a 30 second e-mail correspondence with your blessing on who I should contact that would be most qualified to review my offering. How do I do that?

  19. Carlos Cherubin Says:

    I am in. I completely empathize with Todd. I also do not answer my office telephone and am bomparded by repeated, irrelevant, and more often than not arrogant emails, to the point that I am now starting to set them up in my junkmail filter.

  20. Tim Davis Says:

    My outgoing phone message while I was CIO at Popeyes: “Hi this is Tim, please understand that I get dozens of sales calls every day. Do leave a message and if you are selling something that aligns with one of our current projects I’ll call you back otherwise I do hope you understand, Thanks”

    We also setup a IT vendor voicemail that the switchboard routes calls to when salesman calls for IT but knows no names. That is checked monthly by a team member.

  21. Nike air max 180 Says:

    have talked/emailed with quite a few people since this article was published and it appears to be a very big disconnect between “the problems that a CIO is trying to address” and the “solutions that the provider is selling”.

    Take it from me, most CIOs have too much on their plate already. The last thing that they need is someone solving a problem that is not on their Top Priority list. It may be a great system/solution that will save or make the company money, but if it’s not part of the current burning-platform, there simply are no cycles to think about it right now.

  22. Salesman Says:

    I say all salesman stop calling him and boycott his company. Where would he be then? He wouldnt have any software, hardware, consulting. Todd, you’d be screwed. This street works both ways pal.. learn to deal with it and hire an assistant like most professionals do. The CIO’s I work with know better than to shoot their mouth off at the hand that feeds them. This is a two way street jack.. if you can’t stand the heat.. get out of the kitchen. you knew working with vendors was part of the job description.


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