For anyone not up on pop culture, CATFISH was a film about a guy named Nev (pronounced Neeve) who believed he found true love on Facebook only to later find out she wasn’t all she claimed to be. At the end of the movie, we hear a story about how commercial fisherman sometimes place catfish in their tanks in order to keep the other fish moving around – or on their proverbial toes – and hence the title was born. Catfish has since become a term to represent a person you meet online that claims to be one thing to hook you but is actually not that thing at all, and the recipient of that deception has been catfished.
That was a pretty loose description since I just wanted to give you some background info if you haven’t seen the movie or watch the TV show Tuesday nights on MTV. Not all catfish totally lie, there are some partial truths in the mix, and not all those who have been catfished are completely innocent either. The point is the computer screen gives you the power to be whomever you wish to be, for as long as you can get away with it.
And now, my story begins. Names and titles have been changed, some embellishments to fill in the blanks – but you know who you are.
Several weeks back I received an email through LinkedIn from a Business Development guy at a mid-sized printing company. I clicked into it more out of habit than interest quite frankly since 96% of the time the content is a blind solicitation for print work, or something completely irrelevant to my world – i.e. trying to sell me a web to print system for my printing business – yes, the one I don’t have. In this case however, what I found after I clicked was a fun, creative and inspirational email! The gentleman had taken on the persona of “Glark” the President of a Planet in the Printerverse, and just wanted to say he enjoyed the information I share, and thank me for my efforts. I thought – wow, that was cool! – A fun and creative person who didn’t want anything from me other than the time it took to say thanks!
As the Intergalactic Ambassador to The Printerverse, I felt it was my duty to respond Glark and find out more about him and his home planet. We had several fun exchanges, never mentioned work, and I was happy to find a “friend” to play with. Then the asteriod hit. Glark suddenly became very interested in my connection to the print buying and marketing community. Without warning he made a “suggestion” that perhaps we could help each other. At this point I knew we were heading for an Extinction Level Event!
“Perhaps we can help each other” is, in MY experience, one of the more sleazy lines thrown out to Print Buyers. The subtext is simple – give them prospects and/or send jobs their way in exchange for: a finders fee, a brokers fee, or some other arrangement. Even after being slapped in the face by this offer, I politely declined explaining I couldn’t refer people to someone I never worked with (and worked with for a a significant amount of time or on a serious one-off speciality project). And more than that, I would never sell out my Print Buying colleagues for any amount of cash as I would basically and personally ruin my own reputation by doing so.
Glark was very apologetic and I believed – based on our prior correspondence – that he understood why I felt he crossed a line, and that his intention was void of sleaze. I replied that all was cool, and although I couldn’t send prospects or work his way, his initial approach to make contact was so unique that it would make a great blog post for PrintMediaCentr. I asked him for a time we could set up a call to chat so I could learn more about him and his company. It’s been a few weeks and I have not heard back from Glark.
Was I CATFISHED?
Glark told me all the things I wanted to hear, knew enough about me to be conversational without seeming stalky, never made human contact, put the bait in the water and when I didn’t bite, swam away. So yeah… I think so.
Glark is not the only sales catfish out there. There are many swimming around who are nice and want to help you and be your best friend – up until the point they want you to bite – and if you don’t, they are gone. It might not be you, but might be someone you work with, or someone who works for you. How salespeople conduct themselves matters in the bigger picture as far as the reputation of the company goes. Since in this case I was catfished by the Business Development guy, I would have a hard time trusting that company. He was after a recommendation, but now if I was asked about his company I would be more likely to offer a warning about Glark, than say nothing.
What is the moral of the story? For me, it’s a reminder to never take for granted the amazing salespeople, reps and CSR’s I have had the pleasure of doing business with over the years; that even with the demand and convenience of communicating through technology, a screen can be just as much a disguise as it is a door; and I’d much prefer to swim with sharks – there is no mistaking who they are!
Got any catfish stories to share?