How to Annoy Everyone on LinkedIn

Do pushy salespeople like Harry Wormwood make your skin crawl? If we despise them in the movies, why do some people on LinkedIn think it’s OK to be the digital equivalent?

In the 1996 TriStar beloved children’s classic Matilda, actor and movie director Danny DeVito brilliantly plays the role of Harry Wormwood, the stereotypical pushy used car salesman who people love to hate.  He’s aggressive, obnoxious, and cannot take no for an answer.  Harry was clueless that people detested him, a legend in his own mind that even small children instinctively distrusted.

The Ghost of Harry Wormwood Lives Today

If you’re reading this post, let me ask how many hours it has been since you received an unsolicited offer from a persistent someone on LinkedIn, Facebook, email, phone or other source?  This disembodied person, whom you’ve never met or spoken to, declares boldly he/she/they knows that you need what he/she/they are selling… right now!  If you simply ignore the inbound contact (like you would junk mail or a commercial on television), you’ll get a follow-up message chastising you for not responding.

It is this “spray and pray” practice that makes us dislike people who sell for a living.  Instead of taking the time to get to know you and to understand your unique situation, they try to bully you into taking their call or hearing their “pitch.”  Unlike junk mail that is useful for starting a fire or shredding for packing material, or radio and tv commercials that we can simply turn off and use the time for a restroom break, the digital Harry Wormwoods of today are as clueless as he was!

I don’t fault people for sending out “spray and pray” solicitations using any form of media they like.  They are free to send them and recipients are free to respond or ignore them.

It’s when the Harry Wormwoods become persistent and obnoxious in continuing to push a prospect they cross the line.  Most people become annoyed when pushed,  growing hostile towards the pusher.  Many simply make up their minds to NEVER do business with a Harry Wormwood.

I’m indebted to one of my early teachers in the art selling, Tom Hopkins, for the first Immutable Law of Selling: People only buy from people they like and trust. If you dislike someone, will you still open your wallet and buy from him or her? If you distrust that person, why would you trust him or her with your hard-earned money?

When pushy salespeople like Harry Wormwood start trying to bully you into buying, they active this immutable law and kill whatever chances they might have had to sell you their solution.

Tom Hopkins taught me that you really need to understand prospects at a deeper level before ever talking to them about a solution.  That means having a conversation and learning, building a relationship that has a foundation constructed upon like and trust.

The second Immutable Law of Selling the Harry Wormwoods of today violate is this gem from Dr. Earl Taylor: Nobody likes to be sold, but everyone loves to buy. When someone tries to “sell us,” it is purely his or her self-interests he or she has at heart. We’ve come to learn the hard way that such people are not our friends… you and I are just a means to an end for them.

But… let us come to the conclusion that WE want to buy something after we’ve talked ourselves into it (which is very easy to do in the absence of a pushy salesperson), and we love the thrill of the purchase hunt! 

Advice to Harry Wormwood

You will probably ignore this, Harry.  You’ll curse me under your breath as you send me another annoying message telling me you know my problems (when you don’t) and what I need to do (and I don’t).  I’ll block you, drop you from my connections, and keep you from ever earning a nickel of business from me.  But I’ll give you something in return: free advertising, telling everyone I know to never do business with you.  But you’ll be too self-absorbed to notice.

Bottom Line

Sales professionals, marketing mavens, and business development experts, learn the lesson of Harry Wormwood and stop trying to solicit me this way!  Instead, build a relationship with me, gain my trust and confidence, help me learn to like you, and I’ll be glad to give your “greatest thing since sliced bread” solution a fair hearing… but only if I truly have a need it can satisfy.

This article is excerpted from principles taught in the B2B Sales Essentials™ and B2C Sales Essentials™ curriculum from Boyer Management Group.

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

  • Improving your (or your team’s) management and leadership skills: Leading Through People™. This acclaimed program equips participants in thousands of current and emerging best practices of leadership, hiring, and talent development.
  • Raising your (or your team’s) selling and sales management effectiveness: B2B Sales Essentials™ (among the 30-plus courses we offer are ones on selling with emotional intelligence and storyselling!)
  • Conducting a more effective job search: Get a Better Job Faster™

I help leaders and aspiring leaders improve their performance and acumen, and sales and marketing professionals to become more productive and effective. I also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


Latest Leadership Posts


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 4 Continue Reading


Evaluating Emotional Intelligence When Hiring or Promoting People Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 3 Continue Reading