The Coldest Cold Lead
September 24, 2020 9:05 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to handle cold sales emails and LinkedIn requests?

Due to a change and role and what I suspect to be COVID impact, the amount of unsolicited sales emails I receive at work has exploded. The stream is constant. I had one person send me multiple meeting invites, which I initially almost accepted because I tend to read those less closely because I've almost never received a meeting invite from an external party unsolicited before. My standard response is to ignore/move to junk, as in the past when I have engaged, people do not let up when I decline, and my hope was non-engagement would remove me as a perceived viable lead with time.

In addition, I have been buried in LinkedIn connection requests. I initially was accepting most I received because networking! Cool! But I came to realize that many of these people were asking to be in my network to bypass InMail restrictions and solicit me. Now I have an ongoing pile up on invites that I am questioning what to do with.

What has been your strategy for handling these types of solicitations? By nature, I would prefer to politely engage them and let them know I am not a candidate for their service, but in practice, I have found it to be a time and energy drain for me because any engagement is viewed as an opening. However, I am clearly thinking about and feeling bad about my non-engagement strategy as possibly rude. Help me decide how to handle these messages and putt his to rest!
posted by amycup to Work & Money (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not rude to delete or ignore an unsolicited pitch. The people sending these spam them out by the thousands and will never notice or care that you didn't respond.
posted by theodolite at 9:13 AM on September 24, 2020 [18 favorites]

Scroll down to the bottom of the email, find the opt out or unsubscribe link.
If there isn't one, ignore the email.
If there isn't one and they keep spamming you, reply to the email with the words OPT OUT

I don't accept any linkedin requests from anyone I do not personally know, but I also don't engage with linkedin.
posted by phunniemee at 9:16 AM on September 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

These are auto-personalized bulk emails sent to hundreds if not thousands of recipients. The meeting requests are scheduled in bulk, probably by a third-party vendor. There's no soul on the sender's side of the communication, so no need to engage. If you reply, no matter your message, you will likely be added to the campaign funnel. This will result in at least 2-3 follow-up emails/LI messages and possibly a phone call. And then you'll be included in the distro list for the next campaign...or ten. I actively block every unsolicited sender in Outlook (right click on message, Junk>Block Sender) and ignore LI messages.
posted by prinado at 9:45 AM on September 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

You are not being rude by deleting/rejecting anyone who approaches you like this. Unless I have asked for the email and then decided I don't want it, I will not use the unsubscribe links as they just verify your address as useful. Delete and block if possible.
posted by soelo at 10:22 AM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I handle cold approaches of any kind - email, phone calls, door-to-door sales people or religious proselytisers - the same way: with flat refusal to engage.

If they're door-to-door or on the phone I'll say "not interested, thanks" and then just shut the door or hang up. If the approach arrives via some kind of messaging system then I either delete and ignore or exercise the platform's Report Spam option if it has one.

Been doing this for decades. It works well.

Is this rude? Maybe. I don't care.

Even if it is, I've always considered unsolicited impositions on other people's peace and privacy to be far ruder, so they deserve what they get.
posted by flabdablet at 10:30 AM on September 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

A recent tip I received is to edit your LinkedIn profile and bury a unicode character in your name somewhere. Like a greek lowercase sigma (σ) instead of 'o'.

The automated emails will copy that character over. The handwritten requests will not. There's no way to really filter incoming messages on that, but it's a sniff test.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:46 AM on September 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

You are not being rude by not engaging with spammers. They're spammers. The internet is full of people who aggressively solicit interactions that they aren't entitled to in any way, and you should not for a second feel bad about pushing back against these attempts just as aggressively, just because they come wrapped in a thin veneer of legitimacy.

It's not enough to ignore and delete these emails; you also need to use some kind of filtering to stop getting them in future, whether you block individual senders or entire spammy organisations. What is possible depends on the mail client you're using and how identifiable these emails are by the headers available to you (from address, to address, subject, etc.).

If you aren't already doing this, consider signing up for things which may result in this kind of spam using addresses like, which (unless your mail server is doing something weird) should be delivered to your normal address with everything after the + stripped off. This isn't always possible, because some web forms have crappy validation which rejects addresses in this format, but it's worth a try. If you tag your address like this, you can filter any mail with that address in the to: header, and also see who is leaking your information where.

(GMail also ignores full stops in usernames, so you can put in as many as you want in any order, but that's a GMail-specific thing and applies only to addresses. But this may be handy for anyone who is having a similar problem with a personal GMail address and needs to bypass a form which rejects addresses with a +. )

I have no specific advice re: linkedin -- I don't actually have a profile there, so I know that all invites I get are spam (or from the occasional person I actually know that I am nevertheless not going to join linkedin for). There is probably a more granular way to filter these. For a start, I would stop automatically responding to requests, and unfollow (disconnect? unfriend? whatever linkedin-ese for this is) everyone you responded to previously that you don't actually know.
posted by confluency at 10:49 AM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

@JoeZydeco that's clever. You're likely to be able to find a character which looks identical. Bad actors use this technique to spoof domains (article contains examples of lookalike characters), and I've seen it used in the wild by spammers circumventing text filters on IRC.

However, I, a human, will almost always copy and paste someone's name and email address from a profile that they wrote themselves instead of typing it out, to avoid making a typo -- so I'm not convinced that this actually makes a good sniff test.
posted by confluency at 10:56 AM on September 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

I ignore unsolicited emails and LinkedIn messages, just as I ignore door to door salespeople.

Re LinkedIn requests, I only accept from people I don’t personally know unless we have a good number of people in common, or they take the time to send a message explaining why they want to connect.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:58 AM on September 24, 2020

Perhaps using a really obvious unicode glyph would work instead, like ★? Someone doing a drag-and-paste would probably avoid grabbing that.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:00 AM on September 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

...using addresses like, which (unless your mail server is doing something weird) should be delivered to your normal address with everything after the + stripped off. This isn't always possible, because some web forms have crappy validation which rejects addresses in this format, but it's worth a try.

Fastmail is my email provider, and one of the little niceties I enjoy is that as well as addresses it also supports addresses that work the same way and don't cause issues with crappy webforms.

As an added bonus, if I use a tag name that matches an existing folder name in my Fastmail account, mails addressed to will be delivered to that folder instead of the main inbox without my even having to write an explicit filter rule. Very handy.
posted by flabdablet at 11:04 AM on September 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

However, I, a human, will almost always copy and paste someone's name and email address from a profile that they wrote themselves instead of typing it out, to avoid making a typo -- so I'm not convinced that this actually makes a good sniff test.

The variant I saw was not so much using a lookalike unicode character, it was putting something very obviously not part of the name at the beginning and trusting that actual humans would notice it was odd when they cut and pasted it and edit it out.
posted by Candleman at 11:28 AM on September 24, 2020

Best answer: I think your inclination to be polite here is a good reflection of your character but likely making this worse. These are unsolicited sales pitches and you are no more obligated to respond than you are to comment on a billboard you see along the highway. I also think that probably these folks are connected to each other on LinkedIn, so they are finding you because you are already connecting with folks like there.

So, my short term advice for LinkedIn: go disconnect with folks you don't know or who keep sending you unsolicited contacts. I bet even 30 minutes of clean up will help. Go to your mail and target the worse offenders.

Next, get a strategy for new LinkedIn connection requests. I accept requests from people I know; for folks I don't know, if we have had some sort of professional or personal interaction, I will generally accept the request. I will also accept requests from people who work at my employer even if I don't know them. Sometimes I'll accept the request if we share some specific professional situation (we went to the same small grad program, for example, and we have at least a handful of mutual connections). It's not enough that we work in the same profession, though. And it's not enough if we're in the same professional group (that's how these folks are finding you). I try to be discerning.

You are not obligated to do anything other than ignore/reject the other connection requests. These folks are doing this in bulk.

You might look at LinkedIn's notification settings and set it up so you don't get emails for all these requests, at least temporarily.

Now, for those emails: ignore unsolicited sales pitches. If you get a second one, set up a filter so emails from that sender go to trash or spam. Unsubscribe if they're from listservs with safe unsubscribe options.

So, I think some of this you know to do, but you are still feeling rude. Here's the thing: these folks are being rude by continuing to contact you when you are not responding to them. These are aggressive tactics designed to make you feel bad so that you respond! They are trying to take advantage of your feeling of social obligation. Are you a woman-identifying person? We are often socialized to prioritize others' feelings over our own. These people will not be offended if you decline their connection request or ignore their pitch, but, truly, they might act offended if they thought it could get to you and make you respond. Think of these folks as human advertisements that you ignore without concern.

This is an opportunity to, in a very low key, low consequences way, practice setting good boundaries and enforcing them. Good luck.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:56 AM on September 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

If memory serves me correctly, many blind LinkedIn connection requests are from people looking to access people on your own network so they can spam them, and so on.
posted by Gelatin at 12:09 PM on September 24, 2020

You can also file formal requests with DiscoverOrg,, Zoominfo and tell them to delete your contact information. That will at least stop new people from sending you cold emails.
posted by radioamy at 4:54 PM on September 24, 2020

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