Don’t get spooked

Desperate times don’t call for desperate or deceptive measures. SUE BARRETT

Sue Barrett

By Sue Barrett

As markets tighten and people’s sentiment can tend towards the negative, it is critical that we don’t get spooked. As mentioned before in Watch who you let near your mind, we need to examine all the evidence at hand, make informed decisions about our market and continue to ensure that our prospecting and sales efforts are targeted and at the forefront of our business activities. We also need to make sure that we continue to conduct ourselves in an ethical and professional manner, working with our clients not against them.

However in desperate times (and maybe it is all the time for some) some people stoop to new lows to try and get a sale. Here are a few examples of unethical and fraudulent behaviour masquerading as sales activities. So beware.

For instance, last week, Carla, our client services admin manager, took a phone call from a man who said: “Your fax machine is up for a maintenance review and I am wanting to organise a time to come in.”

There had been no mention in our business about a fax machine review. We are small enough for most things to be in our public domain so Carla knew something wasn’t right. She passed the call on to our business manager Jobst, who deals with all our office equipment.

The man tried the same line on Jobst who, of course, was having none of it. The long and the short of it was this man was trying to get an appointment to see us to sell new equipment, but did so by deceptive means.

As Carla mentioned to me later, what if you were new or not very experienced or were not kept in the loop. you could have inadvertently let a person into your business who had not earned the right to be there in the first place. Why couldn’t that person have been upfront and told us what they wanted? Because sure as anything if they had got in our front door we would have kicked them straight back out again for trying to trick us.

I call this “Hit and miss – spot the victim”. They try and find a “victim” who they can trick into seeing them and then try and bully them into buying something. While these types of stories do not make the news, they are at one end of an ugly spectrum of lying and deception.

At the other end of this spectrum are the tragic stories we hear and read about in the press of the elderly and vulnerable letting people into their homes for some sort of maintenance work only to be robbed or worse, badly injured or killed.

It’s bad enough that these people try getting in your front door by deceptive means but some companies don’t even call you and still try and get your money.

One of our clients informed me recently that some companies don’t even bother trying to see you, instead they just send you a bogus invoice hoping no one will notice and that you will pay it along with all your other accounts.

He mentioned two specific examples he had happen to him. An industry magazine in his market send his business an invoice with a fictitious order number for a $600 advertisement he never ordered.

In applying for a trademark through his lawyer (who always invoiced all work done via his law firm) our client received a separate invoice for $1200 from a company claiming to be a trademark firm. The official looking invoice arrived on his desk ready for payment, having been approved by his accounts department.

Knowing that he received all invoicing via his lawyer, he rang his lawyer and found that this “trademark” company was probably tapping into the trademark office database somehow and sending out fraudulent invoices to people applying for trademarks hoping that the people were not vigilant.

It made me wonder how many of us have paid an “invoice” for work we never authorised and received. How many have slipped through the net?

These types of examples just remind us of the importance of being vigilant and to properly assess the credentials of anyone or any invoice claiming to do business with us.


Sue Barrett is founder and managing director of BARRETT, a boutique consultancy firm. Sue is an experienced consultant, public speaker, coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating high performing people and teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. Click here to find out more

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