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Canadian anti-spam law: A compliance guide for sales pros

canadian anti spam law compliance guide

Time to read: 3.5 minutes. Canadian sales professionals are confused and frustrated. Rightfully so. The Canadian Radio-television & Telcom Commission is not guiding sales forces clearly enough. Instead, focusing on marketers.

So, beware: The Canadian Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) does limit your ability to “cold email” prospects. Apparently! It’s truly unclear.

However, there seem to be 2 work-arounds for sellers. One in particular that is quite safe.

  1. Use LinkedIn InMail, where users have already given their consent to receive your message
    and/or
  2. approach prospects with messages that ASK for permission to discuss “participation in a commercial activity.”

Preface: I’m not a lawyer and you should consider your lawyer’s advice. And the law truly is confusing from a sales person’s perspective. That said…

Intent of the Canadian Anti-spam law

What is clear is the CSL’s intention:

To reduce unwanted, un-solicited email being sent by marketers.

The Canadian government wants to lower the quantity of commercial electronic messages that are unwanted—yet being received—by customers or potential customers. Got it. And CASL puts power into customers’ hands.

CASL is not an attempt to limit the ability of businesses to develop new accounts using email messages. Heh. Not intentionally so.

What sales teams shoud do

Reach out to the Commission. Tell them we need more clarity, better guidance when prospecting new customers.

Otherwise, consider where the Commission is focusing lately: Marketers and marketing LISTS.

According to the CASL Web site:

To send a commercial electronic message to an electronic address, you need to have the recipient’s consent, to identify yourself, to offer an unsubscribe mechanism and to be truthful.

This is not terribly new. Yet many of my clients are confused. Rightfully. They’re putting a lot (too much) focus on the consent piece. If you look at recent lawsuits and settlements notice how obtaining consent is not a focal point. It’s not where enforcement of the law focuses.

So, how much does earning consent to email someone “cold” matter? Well … it DOES seem to matter. But we don’t really know yet.

Do your sellers have implied consent?

No. But LinkedIn has better: Explicit consent. And it’s “share-able” with you.

For sales reps, the main issue is consent—getting it from prospects. There are 2 flavors of what the CASL calls valid consent:

Express and implied.

Express means you have written or oral permission. Simple. You don’t have express consent. But you do have access to it—by using LinkedIn InMail. The prospects’ consent is passed to you via their continued use of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn InMail is a safe option

After CASL took effect, LinkedIn InMail has become more valuable to Canadian sellers who need to make contact with potential new buyers. Yes, it’s expensive but it may be worth considering.

Because messages sent through LinkedIn have been pre-approved by the recipient. InMail is optional for LinkedIn users. Users can opt-out—thus removing their consent. (See section 2.5 Messages & Sharing of LinkedIn’s user agreement)

Thus, InMail users are (so far as I can see) CASL compliant. So long as you/your team

  • is obeying the wishes of the recipient by properly classifying the message type (“business deals”, “reference requests, ” expertise requests” etc. ) and
  • has prospects who have not “opted-out” to receive InMail.

BUT … beware. Even if the above are true … 97% of InMail users generate poor results with itThe top 3% use a proven, repeatable approach to earn attention, response and appointments.

Make sure you/your team is not:

  1. asking for the appointment in ‘first touch’ emails or
  2. using LinkedIn connections as a means to initiate discussions.

Can you earn implied consent? (without buying InMail)

Maybe.

A seller’s first-touch (cold) email falls under implied consent when both:

  • The email address was obtained in a way that discloses the address without restriction (it was “conspicuously published or sent to you”) and
  • your message relates to the recipient’s functions or activities in a business or official capacity.

Most sellers of email/contact information do impose restrictions. These restrictions often include illegal use of the email addresses you purchase. Thus, purchasing your contact data may not afford you “instant compliance” from CASL.

Also, if you use Rapportive and FullContact.com like thousands of sellers do. Well … this is hardly conspicuous publishing of your prospect’s email address. You probably won’t comply when sending to them.

The CASL does not address this. It should!

Is your team at risk of non-compliance?

Is it illegal in Canada to send a prospect (who you don’t know) an email message and, perhaps, a few follow-ups—asking for permission to have a commercial discussion? My interpretation is no unless you subscribe them to a mailing list.

However, this area is gray. Consult your lawyer. But also consider bringing this issue to The Canadian Radio-television & Telcom Commission.

Your/your team’s email messages are commercial electronic messages (CEMs) if they encourage participation in a commercial activity. This is defined in the new law. However, messages focused on encouraging commercial activity are typically not effective at earning conversations with most B2B prospects.

That said, these kinds of messages are what most sales teams are sending to prospects: Solicitations for business.

Ask for explicit consent in your ‘first touch’

Preface: Is this technically legal? I don’t know.

That said, consider approaching prospects about a conversation that could lead to their participation in a commercial activity. Don’t send them a CEM. Instead, give them choice when cold email prospecting.

And don’t abuse them. Mail 3 times at most. No response? Move on!

Make first contact in a way that helps your prospect give (or deny) the explicit consent required by law—to have a commercial conversation. This will also help you break through to the prospect!

Ask for explicit consent in a way that makes it clear to your prospect:

  1. They are not on an email list. This is a one-to-one email.
  2. You’ve researched them, specifically, and have good reason to ask for consent.
  3. A response is kindly requested (a call to action that gives them choice).

Bottom line: The Canadian Radio-television & Telcom Commission is not guiding sales forces very well. So, beware: CASL does limit your ability to “cold email” prospects. But don’t panic and don’t jump to conclusions.

Remember: The CASL is designed to reduce unwanted, un-solicited email. The Canadian government wants to lower the quality of commercial electronic messages that are not wanted—yet being received—by customers or potential customers.

What are your thoughts?

Photo credit: Mike Linksvayer

About the Author Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on starting sales conversations online. He teaches a proven, effective and repeatable communications process to spark buyers curiosity about what you're selling. He's a sought-after sales prospecting trainer to individual reps, teams of sellers and small businesses owners across the globe. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe.

Jeff also serves as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

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