Do you guys know the Gaping Void cartoon? It’s sort of like The Oatmeal and Savage Chickens except that it was early to the internet. The humor is reminiscent of Catbert and xkcd. Basically, Gaping Void is royalty. And because the Obama economy is great, the founder started a consulting firm.

I know, right? America is awesome.

So I was totally thrilled when I got an email from the Gaping Void team, earlier this week. I opened it up, and this is what it said:

“Let’s talk.”

Wow, yeah, that’s random. And slightly unfriendly and presumptive. I get that you’re Gaping Void, but I’m Laurie Ruettimann. I’m not a famous celebrity, but I’m not nobody. Maybe try a little harder?

I responded very clearly.

“Wow. Hi. Hello. Nice to meet you. Aggressive and forward email. I’ll pass.”

I felt good about my email. Every moment is a teachable moment (as the leadership coaches tell us). I was direct, serious and entirely authentic. I’m not a fan of making fun of pitches, cold calls or emails. My response was genuine. I want HR leaders and sales professionals to be partners, not adversaries.

But I’m totally passing on the opportunity to talk to some random dude. I’m busy-ish.

The sales guy forwarded my message to his colleague. For some weird reason, she forwarded the string back to me and wrote this:

Happy Wednesday, Laurie! [My colleague] and I were discussing the alignment between our websites and thought it may be a great idea to reach out to you. If you check out our website, we hope you will be inspired as well. We work a lot with enterprise CHRO’s et. Al. and are always looking for collaborators in our engagements. Feel free to reach out to [my colleague] or myself directly if you change your mind. Cheers. Sent from my iPhone

Well, okay. I’m not sure I was heard, but I embraced the opportunity to start fresh — iPhone signature and all. This was my response:

“Hi, team gapingvoid. I receive 700 email messages a day and only opened yours because I’m familiar with the brand. I admire your founder. I just thought the initial email wasn’t very respectful and didn’t provide any context. “Let’s talk” is what you tell your alcoholic cousin after he says something racist or stupid. So, yeah, wasn’t thrilled with the initial call to action. That being said, I still admire the brand. Let me know how I can be helpful. Best, Laurie”

I meant what I said. I really do receive 700 email messages each day, and I like the Gaping Void brand. I want to be helpful. I’m a nice lady. And here is the response I received:

Totally understand, Laurie. Too many emails is enough to put anyone in a bad frame of mind. This was a very useful lifehack guide I used to clear up my email overload: Hope it may clear the spam from your life as well. Thanks for the love for our brand. Really appreciate it. Have a great week. Sent from my iPhone

Now they’re just messing with me.

“Hi, guys. Really appreciate your thoughtful response to my feedback. If you’re interested in sales training, I know a guy who would be great for your team. Best, Laurie”

Obviously, I have nothing but time on my hands. But I do know several great sales trainers.

So all of this is to say that there’s a lot of new money — and talent — in human resources and recruiting. When reaching out to prospects, sales professionals would be wise to remember that civility is your secret weapon. Be respectful and patient, especially if you have a call-to-action.

And maybe HR ladies like me can lighten up. Sales people want to solve our problems. They want to show us a new path. I don’t know if “let’s talk” is the right way to start a conversation, but I’m always open to learning about new products and services in the HR industry.


  1. I appreciate your comments, Laurie. I am an HR Director and get a fair number of solicitation emails every day. My corporate office makes most of the decisions regarding products and services we would use as a company so I am rarely a decision-maker. I don’t have time to reply to all of them with that information AND provide the correct person for them to contact, which is the first question they will come back with if I do the courtesy of telling them “it’s not me.” One company in particular has been very persistent though I have not responded to a single email. One email was titled “Are you Alive?” I was so appalled by it that I will never do business with this company ever! How dare they? I also don’t appreciate the “I guess you haven’t received my previous emails” or “I guess you must not be aware of what your company is doing in this area since you haven’t responded”. MAYBE I’M JUST NOT INTERESTED IN YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE!

    Sorry! This stuff makes my blood boil. I was in sales before HR so I am sympathetic to a point. I would have never used these types of approaches with potential customers. I get that they think they are offering a valuable service. I haven’t responded because I am not interested. Take the hint and move on.

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