The answer could very well be “yes”. As robocalls become more and more widespread, many salespeople and business owners are not seeing the true catastrophe they represent. But even as robocalls continue to rise, human connections can still be made. Join Doug C. Brown as he speaks with Alex Quilici, the CEO of YouMail, about the nature and perception of robocalls, the true cost they can present to your productivity, and how you can keep people answering the phone when you call.
Alex Quilici is the CEO of YouMail. Prior to YouMail, Alex co-founded and was the CEO of Quack.com, which provided a consumer voice portal service that was essentially SIRI over a 1-800 number back before there were smartphones. AOL acquired Quack for $200 million in August 2000, just 18 months after it was founded. At AOL, Alex was a Vice President of Voice Services, where he helped drive the division to multiple product launches, over 1 million paying subscribers and over $50 million in annual revenue. Alex holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA and is the co-inventor of 4 patents.
Visit his website: www.YouMail.com
Alex and his team are offering discounted plans for powerful call protection to grow your business. Check them out here! www.youmail.com/ceosales
We are going to talk about how robocalls are catastrophic to your sales. They are costing you money, time, and energy. It’s adding stress to your life but we don’t think about it. It’s something that comes through. We’re going to break it down on the numbers. We’re going to show you how you’re probably losing hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of dollars over a period of time due to distractions, interruptions, and lost time, as well as all the stress and aggravation that comes along with that.
Certainly, it’s an easy fix but we want to bring you this episode because people are out there saying, “I want this type of episode.” We’re going to bring what you are looking for to the show. Alex is an expert in this field. There is a lot of interesting stuff, so I think you’ll get a lot of great information and ideas out of this particular episode. Let’s go talk to Alex right now.
Alex, welcome to the show. I’m grateful that you are here.
Thanks for having me on. I’m excited.
I love what we’re going to be talking about in this episode because it’s one of the most aggravating things in the world. It’s robocalls. You and I have talked about how catastrophic robocalls have become now to the actual sales process, no matter what size company you are. You can be an enterprise-size company, a mom-and-pop shop, or whatever it might be. These robocalls are impeding the sales process to the point where it’s causing people to lose sales. Why don’t you explain it?
What’s happening is there are so many robocalls that people are simply not answering the phone anymore. As you said, that’s catastrophic. If you’re trying to call somebody to complete a sale, get questions answered, or overcome some objections they had, they’re not going to pick up the phone. How do you get ahold of them? We all know that the phone and those real-time conversations are effective as part of sales.
There’s nothing that replaces human contact. It’s one thing to send an email, but I get spammed on email or not even spammed. It’s a legitimate email that’s coming out, but there’s so much email going on. What I do love about the pandemic is that it cut down the number of calls. The calls I get, I look at more now than I ever have. Take me through, if we can’t make calls, what do we do?
I’m a little bit of an optimist that we can get to the point where people can make calls. Let’s see, you’re going to answer the phone. You need to understand if that number is safe or not. If there’s a way that most of the unsafe calls get blocked and you’ve got a pretty good chance that a call coming in is real, then you’ll answer it again. We think the key here is going to be technology, which is a couple of things.
One is getting enforcement and everybody in the regulation area to do what they can to have fewer of these robocalls out there. Less of a chance that it’s a bad guy, but the sales guys need to run some app or other technology on their phone that can filter out a lot of stuff for them. If the odds are 1 in a 100 it’s a bad guy, you’re going to answer it. If the odds are 1 in 2 it’s a bad guy, you’re not going to answer it. We think there’s a technological plus enforcement solution that ultimately makes this better.
I can relate to every salesperson out there who has been getting robocalls. They look at the number and they don’t know what it is. The number is coming in. I’ve done this when I was running corporate sales full-time as my job to support my family. When calls came in, I had so many calls coming in. I had 62 incoming calls a day coming into my phone because I was out there creating a massive storm of activity. When I didn’t notice the number, I didn’t pick it up. The few times where you pick it up and it’s like, “This is Joe from this and that. We noticed that you might need a fence in your home or whatever.”
The problem is that a robocall is much more annoying than a spam email because it feels important. Click To Tweet
You know, it’s one of those recorded things that are going on. “We’re here for your mortgage or we’re here for this. Have you seen your doctor lately?” or whatever the thing is coming in. I wouldn’t answer it, but once in a while, it was a client who was like, “I’m ready to go.” The challenge that I see is from a sales perspective. We’ll talk from an owner’s perspective, but from a sales perspective, you miss that call that’s timely. If you’re busy, you don’t go back to your voicemail until maybe the end of the day or even the following day. By then, they may have already gone to the other people they’re already talking with and already purchased.
That’s an excellent point. We need to look at the robocall problem in two ways. One is if you’re trying to get ahold of somebody, they’re a lot less likely to pick up because there are so many robocalls. They don’t know if your number is good and there are techniques. Some people will text somebody ahead of time and say, “I’m going to call you from this number. It’s so-and-so,” maybe they’ll be more likely to answer the phone. It’s the other way too, which is they call you back. You leave a voice. They go to all the trouble to call you back and you look at the number and go, “I don’t recognize this number,” because they’re calling from their home phone or a desk phone or not the phone you called and then you don’t answer the call.
It’s this game of failed phone tag going back and forth. You asked, “What do people do?” One thing we see people doing beyond putting protection on their phones to try to filter out calls is they often text people and say, “I’d like to call you. Can I make an appointment?” They use Calendly. They make more appointments, so people are much more likely to go, “Doug’s going to be calling at 10:00. I’m getting a call at 10:00. Let me pick up the phone.”
That’s an excellent point. Sending a text message ahead of time is wonderful because a lot of people look at their texts and as you said, Calendly and then you get an email reminder that’s going out as well. I am now getting a call that the person is calling and they’re saying, “We’re from the Federal Labor Board and we want to talk to you about your company.” These people are relentless.
You think, “I got to call the Federal Labor Board because they’re the Federal Labor Board. What’s going on? Maybe my employees or whatever.” I get my CPA to call because I don’t want to and then I call because they’re not answering my CPA and it’s the same message like, “This is me from the Federal Labor Board. Leave a message.”
When we leave a message saying something like, “If you’re going to leave a message with us, tell us what you’re here for or we’re not going to answer your call.” It’s got to that point. With robocall blocking, if that were a number that somebody was using to go out there, that would eliminate that call completely, correct?
That’s generally true. When you said the labor board was calling you, my first thought was, “That’s a new impostor scam that’s out there.” They are pretending to be the Social Security Administration or the IRS, Medicare, or Medicaid, you name it. My initial reaction, unless I got a letter from a government agency, I would assume it’s not them when they call.
My initial reaction would be what you do, which is I wouldn’t answer the phone. I would go do some lookup, find a phone number, call them and say, “Are you guys trying to get ahold of my business? Here’s my information. Here’s my email address.” Send something that way and try to get it out of the phone call band for that discussion. The odds of it being an impostor are high these days.
For those of you who are reading, let me give you a little plug here. We’re talking with Alex Quilici and he owns a company called YouMail. Check it out at YouMail.com. It’s blocking robocalls and it’s interesting because these robocalls used to start a lot with the elderly. They would pound on the elderly people until they made a call. A lot of times, they were scammers trying to scam out. My mother used to call me all the time, “This number here,” because she knew I was in the telecommunications business.
She would call me, “What do you think of this?” I’d be like, “Don’t answer that call, mom.” They’re going to ask for your bank account numbers. I remember one time she took the call and they did ask for her bank account like, “We’re trying to do this,” but in essence, it’s not filtered consumer-to-consumer anymore or targeting consumers. It’s targeting businesses on top of that. Would you agree with that?
Yes. It used to be, “Just call everybody.” It was completely untargeted. Make as many calls as you can and see if somebody answers. They got smart and said, “Let’s go after the elderly for this particular scam. Let’s go after college students for this particular scam,” like student loans. That’s not calling people in their 60s and 70s. That’s calling people in their 20s, 30s, and maybe 40s. They got smarter and smarter about targeting, but then they started going after businesses.
One of the biggest scams that were going after businesses was, “We pre-approved you for a loan.” Now, if you’re a struggling business and someone says, “This is bank such-and-such. All you got to do is give us a little bit of info and $250,000 will be set up through your loan and all this stuff,” it’s tempting. They saw a lot of success with those. Now, they’re even moving to more targeted scams.
They’ll find out information about your business through breaches and other places. It looked like they were legitimate when they were not. It’s been this steady march to more and more spearfishing, which is targeted at individuals or small companies or whatever with a scam that goes after them with information that makes people believe it’s real.
It’s the insane thing that humans think on this level. Don’t we have better things to do to help one another versus doing those types of things? I’m a business owner. I’m listening here. I got seventeen salespeople and I’m thinking, “How does this benefit me?” I get it on the salesperson side but on the business side, it’s like, “How do I protect myself against these calls coming in maybe?” To me, it would make sense. Let’s get my seventeen salespeople equipped with robocall blocking technology. As a business owner, how do I protect myself from the same? Is it the same process or a different process or a thought process?
Robocalls will cause a lot of productivity and other loss for people for some time to come. Click To Tweet
It’s the same process. Think about it being a business owner. You not only don’t want these scams to come in and potentially cause a loss. You don’t want to waste your time. For a business owner, if you’re busy, you want a time-saving mechanism that filters out the calls. If you get a call that comes through and rings your phone, you can answer it because it might be a prospect. It might be a client.
There’s at least some chance it’s a legitimate business thing that’s worth your two minutes to answer the phone and start talking. Owners probably get more calls than sales guys sometimes. As you mentioned, the Labor Board, tax people, the permit office, or God knows what. You have the same exact need as your sales guys. You do not want to be getting these calls that are likely legitimate and wasting your time.
I got a time waste on my side as a business owner, which is also a disruption because I might be going in different directions. It’s not just the call itself. With this Labor Board thing, for example, I got my CPA involved. I got this involved. She is going to charge me. I already knew that, but I didn’t want to deal with the call. I got expenses going out. I’ve got time wasted chasing around something I don’t even know is legitimate or not legitimate. All of this adds up to a big ball of stress.
It’s stress and the other thing that we left out is being interrupted. Owning a business, you find getting a chunk of time that you can focus on something is generally pretty difficult. Now, you get these calls coming in. You go answer the call and do some crazy thing. You hang up now, where was I? I don’t remember if I sent that email. All of a sudden, stuff stays in drafts for two days because you moved on to something else. The interruption factor is huge.
At one time, I was President of Training and Sales for a company called Chet Holmes international. Chet wrote a book called The Ultimate Sales Machine and we used it to measure this. The interruption time, on average, takes about 15 minutes away from somebody. We used to call them “Got a Minute” meetings because somebody comes into the office and goes, “Boss, you got a minute?” We would minimize these “Got a Minute” meetings in those companies because we wanted to improve their productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency of their productivity.
It was about 15 minutes on uptime and downtime getting interrupted like that. What I don’t think a lot of people realize is if you’ve got six robocalls a week and they interrupted you doing that, that’s 90 minutes a week. If we started taking that out, 90 minutes a week, we’re losing an hour and a half every single week times 50. That’s 75 hours a year. We’re losing a week and a half’s productivity due to robocalls at that point.
You’re being conservative because the average person’s getting 20 to 25 robocalls a month. That’s a lot of time that you’re going to lose trying to decide what to do with these robocalls. It’s a huge time-sink for folks.
That’s like 30 hours a month lost. Whatever the numbers are, that’s a huge amount of time. If we were losing a week and a half a year, let’s say we’re a million-dollar company, and that generates $25,000 a week, these robocalls are costing us $37,500 a year in lost productivity.
That’s a good way to look at it and I’d also add that you never know what you were doing when you were interrupted. You’re working on a contract. You get interrupted by a robocall. You come back and you weren’t sure what you were doing. You leave some clause out and now the contract’s not good for you. You’re working less productively. There’s more risk that something’s going to go wrong. You forget about something. We’re all human. You forget what you are doing and do something else. You could lose a big deal. You lose a $100,000 deal because somebody called you a couple of times in an hour when you were busy.
That’s another lost opportunity process, which is real tangible money. Even a $1 billion company doesn’t want to lose a $100,000 deal. It’s that simple and certainly, a $5 million company, that’s a significant chunk of money coming through the door and worse yet, that sale is going somewhere else. If it goes to your competitor versus us, then we make our competitor even stronger and us a little bit less strong. In a way, I don’t think people even think about robocalls because it’s like if you go camping, you can expect mosquitoes.
It’s one of those things, but when you have a mosquito-free environment, your camping is so much better. For those of you who would never go camping, glamping is the thing. My two daughters will not go camping. They will go glamping, but the reality is, you don’t want pests around and we don’t want pests around interrupting our time, our sales process, and the financial capacity or capabilities of what we’re doing in business all because we’re getting interrupted through these ridiculous robocalls. I got to ask this question because why don’t the telecommunications providers out there stop this? What reason would make sense to me? Their clientele’s getting pissed off or, as they would say in England, “Another name.” The reality is, why don’t the carriers stop this whole mess?
That’s a great question. There are a couple of reasons. One is that it’s extremely easy to set up a robocall operation. You can go to websites and upload a set of phone numbers or some audio that you want to play. Say where the call should go if they press one and go make 1 million calls for a few hundred dollars. When it’s that cheap, it’s like turning phone calls into banner ads for scammers.
It’s easy for people to get started and cause tremendous amounts of habit. That makes it a hard problem because it’s Whac-A-Mole, but there are tons of moles out there causing these issues. The government will go after one. They shut it down and their guy’s cousin sets up an operation and then their other cousin. It keeps going. It’s so easy to do it.
The other thing though, is you are seeing enforcement start to happen. It used to be they’d enforce it and there’d be a penalty. Nobody pays the penalty. The robocaller would plead poverty. They go away for a few years and then pop back. Now, they’re starting to go after the carriers that are letting these phone calls go on to their telephone network.
As a business owner, you want a time-saving mechanism that filters out the calls. Click To Tweet
There are thousands of wholesale voice carriers that are mostly legitimate, but they wind up carrying bad traffic. There are some carriers that aren’t legitimate. Enforcement is going after those to try to shut those down and that probably will make more of a difference over time because instead of going after individuals, you’re going after the carrier. You’ve got a choke point to try to stop all that traffic from getting on the network in the first place.
When it starts costing them money, then all of a sudden, they’re like, “We’ll pay attention to this in a far greater way.”
If you’re a wholesale carrier, you may have 1 of 2 problems. One is that you’re generally legitimate, but you don’t have the resources or the tools to look at your network and understand when someone’s abusing it. Those are good guys that are in a bad situation, but you also have these guys that are just bad. 90% to 95% of their traffic is junk. They’ve decided to go make a living by getting junk calls into the telephone network. I think that, too, everybody’s going to go after first.
They go after those guys and try to shut down those operations but some of us are old enough to remember when email was filled with spam and it got to the point where every other email was spam. It took 5 to 10 years of hard work to where now maybe you get one a day or something. Robocalls are going to be similar. The problem is that a robocall is much more annoying than a spam email. Because the robocall is ringing. It feels like it’s important where with spam email, you click delete and you move on.
You get to filter them in many ways if you want to. It’s not like an emergency interruption. You can look at it, go around, and bank it. You can’t do that with a call. If I’m losing $150,000 a year and it takes these wonderful government agencies ten years to do this, I’ve lost $1.5 million. That’s what I’m hearing.
It’s that’s about right. The robocall thing is going to cause a lot of productivity and other loss for people for some time to come.
I don’t want that. I don’t think anybody would want that. What if that figure is five times that? Even with my size company, I can lose a $100,000 deal. If I lost 1 of those a year for the next 10 years, it’s $1 million gone. As you said, it’s a lot higher probability than I even quoted. I appreciate that. I want to qualify for Whac-A-Mole because some people may not know what Whac-A-Mole is. Whac-A-Mole is a game if you go to an arcade, a carnival, or whatever. These little moles pop up and you take a nice soft hammer and you whack them on the head. You get a score and that score adds up.
Here’s the difference between Whac-A-Mole there and Whac-A-Mole that Alex was talking about. Whac-A-Mole at the carnival or the arcade, that’s fun, but Whac-A-Mole here in business is not fun. It’s creating more stress and more interruptions. I read a statistic one time and I tried to validate it. I couldn’t validate it much, but for the average employee, it takes weeks for them to find lost stuff.
That costs companies money, but when they hear that, they go, “I pay attention to that in a big way. Let’s tighten up our operations.” When it comes to sales team members, a lot of times, companies are like, “I’ll let them handle this. They’re smart enough to know how to navigate or my margins are okay on this and I’m making money on my sales team.”
Everybody who’s a reader here knows we’re all about optimization and that’s part of a CEO’s sales strategies. If you can improve the bottom line by 1% to 2% on the profitability side, that’s huge just through optimization for most companies. What I’m hearing is that this is more of an optimization. First, getting rid of the annoyance is heaven. It’s like not having a mosquito in the tent at night, but the second thing is that it’s about the optimization of the whole sales process. This is one of the reasons that if people want to work more effectively on their sales and more efficiently, eliminating these robocalls is not even a consideration. It’s a must when it comes down to it.
I’d say that’s right. They get in the way but the other bigger thing that’s going to happen over time is there are more and more of what we call spearfishing, which is where they do at target. They can go after a sales guy pretending to be the CEO and have the sales guy do something like transfer money or something they’re not supposed to do. We’re seeing more and more of these scams coming. There’s technology now where they can take samples of someone’s voice and essentially create a full-blown voice, so it sounds like your CEO calling. “I need that $100,000 transferred to this account so we can close this big project.” Seeing that on the enterprise side, it’s all over the place.
In fact, there’s somebody who transferred $2.5 million because their CEO asked something. It was that good, but you’re going to start seeing that in the smaller companies. All stuff happens there where your business is at risk. You don’t need hundreds of these calls coming in. You only need the one that someone picks up and they fool them.
It’s a security issue as well as an opportunity loss, interference, and productivity issue. Ultimately, robocalls will go less and less, but the ones that remain will be worse and worse. We talked about targeting. When they were calling everybody over 65, which is different from calling everybody over 65 with Alzheimer’s or whatever targeted thing you want to get to. We’re going to see that with businesses, too.
The liability then becomes on the CEO or the business owner whose voice is being imprinted because I suspect that insurance is not going to step up on this one.
It’s going to be some interesting case law for the next few years as more and more of these little scams start happening.
Consumers will have to do their part to solve this problem with robocalls, but enforcement will help a lot here. Click To Tweet
That could also be bad for PR. If a company starts to do certain things and transfer money to organizations per se that are unscrupulous and questionable public safety, then that could be a bad reputation for a company and its owners.
We see that with the banking industry. There are so many people pretending to be banks, calling people, and scamming them that people may think the bank is responsible for it. They blame the bank, even though it wasn’t the bank making the call. It’s like, “Why didn’t you do stuff to prevent the harm from these calls?” You’re spot on that it’s the big issue is if your personal brand, your company brand, the enterprise brand, they’re all under attack from these impostors and the damage they’re doing.
Thank you for bringing this forward, Alex. Here’s the crazy part. I didn’t have a robocall before blocking. I didn’t. In this conversation, it’s like, “I’m going to go to your website and I’m going to sign up for robocall.” Firstly, I knew I had to have it because it’s been more of an annoyance and I do a ton online so I don’t have a lot of phone calls comparatively to certain businesses, but the ones that do come in are annoying as heck at this point. They do interrupt my day as we were talking about. If people want to stop this, can they just go to your website and sign up? Is there a trial period? What do we get going on?
We have a robocall blocking app. We have a couple of different versions. One’s free. If they want to get started, it blocks. They go download our app and it’ll start blocking what call the known spammer list. The million worst numbers out there. For people who want to never get another robocall, guaranteed, we have a premium offering. They can look at our premium offerings and see which one fits, but we play captchas to numbers we don’t recognize.
It’s CAPTCHAs. We got to press star 1, 2, or whatever random number. Nobody can get through unless they’re a human, which is great. People are used to CAPTCHAs in the web world. We launched that and we found it blocks everything. It’s amazing. For people who are serious about business, that’s the tool they’ll want.
I don’t know if I should put you on the spot or not, but can my readers get maybe some type of discount or promo code?
They could go to YouMail.com/ceosales. They can get a 25% on the premium offerings and not only that. Also, a fourteen-day guarantee. If they don’t like it, money back. No questions asked.
That was much better than I thought you were going to say. Thank you. I appreciate it. I’m sure my readers will appreciate it, too. Alex, was there any question that maybe you’re like, “I hope Doug asked me this question,” and I didn’t?
One of the questions would be, “How optimistic am I that this problem ultimately goes away?” It ultimately will go away, but just like other things like email, it’s going to be important to have a mix of consumers protecting themselves. Consumers ran antivirus on their own. They learn not to click links in emails. Consumers are going to have to do their part, but enforcement is going to help a lot here. The regulators and the enforcement are going after the bad guys. It’ll get better, but it’s going to take some time.
We’re speaking with Alex Quilici and who owns a company called YouMail. You can go to YouMail.com. Alex, I appreciate you being here. I’d love to have you come back on another call. If that’s something you’d like to do, let me know. Again, thanks for being on the show and bringing great information to our readers.
Thank you for having me.
You may not have realized how much aggravation, time, money, and losing sales from a simple thing like a robocall. Never mind the potential of loss of reputation, etc., but the reality is that you’re losing money and these robocalls are disruptive to life. As we were saying on the show, the average interruption is 15 minutes of downtime lost on productivity. You could just throw your numbers off on being able to not focus. You forget about something in a proposal. You forget about something that you were talking about it. It’s being interrupted all throughout the day. If you’re getting an average of 25 to 30 of these calls a month, that is insane.
If you add up the numbers at 15 minutes per interruption, if you had 30 of these a month, 15 times 30 is 450 minutes a month that you’re losing. You divide that back by 60. I’m not going to do that in my head, but I know it’s somewhere around 7 to 8 hours a month that you’re losing to these ridiculous calls coming in.
What do you do about it? Go check it out at YouMail.com. Test it out and see if it works for you. If it does, great. You eliminate that. If you have a company and you have a bunch of sales team members, get them to get it or pay for it out of what the margin should be. If it improves your sales and you get 1 or 2 sales a year, it more than pays for itself and it keeps you people focused.
If you have a subject matter that you want to have to happen, bring it to us. We’ll find the guests as we did with Alex. If you feel you’re an expert in some subject matter that will improve somebody’s sales in the capacity of the show, helping to get people to the top 1%, then bring that on. We’ll be happy to talk with you about it. Send an email to us at YouMatter@CEOSalesStrategies.com. We’ll be happy to have the conversation and figure out if this makes sense for you and for our readers.
If you want to yourself and help others in your company or your total company, get to the top 1% of sellers worldwide, globally in your industry, reach out to us or just reach out to me at Doug@CEOSalesStrategies.com. Again, if you love this episode and you love episodes and you like listening to this and you’re not a subscriber, please subscribe.
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