Dear Vendor: Do you know what we do with your unsolicited emails?

Dear Vendor: Your unsolicited email strategy is just annoying. You should know what we do with your emails.

Dear Vendor: Do you know what we do with your unsolicited emails?
Photo by Hannes Johnson / Unsplash

We've all received these, right?

Hi {last name because their CRM leads import mapped the wrong field}, 

{name} here with {vendor} - 

{colloquial phrased paragraph about how you got my email}

{attempted informal language aimed at getting just {x} minutes of my time to introduce your product}

{vendor who I still have no idea what they actually do or how they got my info}

And then the follow-up(s), which usually are sent about 2 to 3 more times:

Hi {still wrong name component which tells me it's an automated process and the sales person doesn't even know this was sent},

I just wanted to {bubble/nudge/prompt/remind} this back to the top of your inbox because 

{same info as before, possibly now with different tense}

{vendor who is getting dangerously close to getting marked as spam}

...and maybe a final attempt:

Hey {my actual first name because this one is really from the sales person and not a bot}

I've sent you {x} emails but you haven't written back. Have you received them because they are super important and could help with your {random markety-slang or technobabble terms} efforts. 

If you aren't the decision maker for {subject matter} can you tell me who I should be reaching out to instead?


Which brings me to the point of this post: you really want to know what we do with your unsolicited emails?

When we go to conferences, or when we attend webinars, it's obvious that our emails are being sold off to lead-generation companies, who resell them a few times over. It's expected. We get it. It's fine. It's why if possible, I use Google's + addressing approach so I can tell which conference/service sold my email address. If you don't do that, you should....all you need to do is add a "+blah" before the @ symbol in any Gmail or GSuite/Google Workspace email address. Example: becomes and then I can set filters or see when someone sends an email to it, i'll know where it came from.

So...step one is we know where you bought our email address from, sometimes at least. Next, here's a few things we actually do with the emails.

Scenario A: If you're selling something I am actually responsible for:

Even in this case, I'm likely ignoring your email. I have way too much on my plate to engage another vendor on a fishing expedition. At most I may file your name away for future when there's a project or migration to a new service that you might be in the running for.

It's rare that I'll get an unsolicited email that I'll reply to. Ever.

If there's prior context (we actually spoke at a conference booth, or you spoke to a colleague of mine at another university etc), then I'll engage. But other than that, your chances are slim.

Scenario B: If you're selling something I have nothing to do with

This is 99% of the emails I get. I work in IT, so I'll get emails about EVERY SINGLE KIND OF TECHNOLOGY. Trying to sell me an ERP system? Yep. Trying to sell me student conduct tracking software? Yep. Trying to sell me the latest laptop model? That too. Security Awareness Training or HIPAA Compliant SaaS systems? For. Sure.

IF (and this is a big IF) your domain/subject-line gets me to read the actual content of the email, then I will forward it to the responsible person in my organization. BUT, and please remember this,


I'm not going to divert you onto someone else and have you contact them. Because I know what you'll'll say "Nick said I could talk to you about X" as if I actually referred you with some kind of weight to it.

What I will do, is send the person your info, and say "I have no idea if this is good or not, but if you wanted to talk to someone about X, here's a vendor." That way, it's on them to reach out to you (the vendor). And you don't get another person's email to add to the spam-cannon :-)

If I tell you that I've forwarded your info to someone, but don't hear from them, don't bug me about it. Just take the L. Move on to another lead.

I don't think I'm the only one who does this. In fact, I'm sure the vast majority of people do the same thing. We don't perpetuate your unsolicited email approaches by palming you off on our friends and colleagues, because then they'd do the same thing to us.

Do Better.

I'm not a marketing genius, though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once. But I'm sure there's logic in your approach. I'm sure you have some kind of success, right? That's got to be why you keep doing it. Or maybe you don't have success, or don't care, or don't measure it and that's why there's so much churn in sales positions.

Dear Vendor: Knowledge Transfer = Continuity = Happier Higher Ed
Knowledge transfer and continuity in vendor:school relationships is vitally important for vendors who want to partner with Higher Education.

How about focusing on getting better contacts, or leads through conferences, partnerships, organizations/approaches like EDUCAUSE and Internet2, or listening to online communities related to the things you're selling. At least then, you have some kind of context if you know someone's posting on twitter about wanting to talk to a vendor about the best way to tackle a particular problem.

One last thing...

Don't take this as permission to switch from unsolicited emails to sending even more unsolicited LinkedIn connection requests. That might bug me even more than the unsolicited emails.