No, I do not want to purchase a widget from you. Shut up.
February 21, 2012 1:23 PM   Subscribe

At work, I get calls from salespeople. It's part of my job, but I really loathe dealing with salespeople...especially over the phone. Please help me to not be so psychotic about it.

I get calls from salespeople every. single. day.

Picking up my phone to hear "Hi, this is so-and-so from such-and-such, how are you today?" makes my shoulders tense up and my stomach churn. Sometimes they're small outfits trying to get our business. Sometimes they're businesses that we currently work with calling to tell me about "These amazing new products we have for you!". Sometimes they're people/businesses we've worked with in the past, calling to try and sell me more stuff/services. I'm new in my position, my predecessor apparently had a LOT of contacts in the field.

My phone (which is new and expensive) does not have caller ID. I wind up taking most calls that come in to me. I'm not asking about how to avoid these sales calls, I'm asking about what to do when they call.

Obviously they want to keep me on the phone as long as possible. I politely say that I am busy, they come back with "When should I call you back?" I politely say that we are not interested, they come back with "How about we call you back in three months?". They call and say that we "need to set up a meeting to discuss our such-and-such". Upon further prodding, it turns out they are not talking about the current such-and-such we have with them, they're talking about the NEW AND FANCY such-and-such they want to sell us (to replace our perfectly fine such-and-such). If they were plain old telemarketers I'd tell them to kiss my butt. However, they're industry folks (many of whom we actually do business with), and I don't want to be an asshole to them.

In understand that these people that are just trying to sell me their nice product and earn money to feed their kids. But when they go on and on, I get kind of bitchy with them and then I feel bad. This is one area of management that I never really learned about. I'm at a loss of what to say, and I'm starting to really hate my telephone. I'm also starting to feel like a real jerk for trying to get my "NO" across and feeling like I'm being abrupt or rude. It's really starting to stress me out.

How do professionals deal with sales calls in the workplace? Remember, I don't want to be a total asshole. I need to work with these people sometimes.
posted by Elly Vortex to Work & Money (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I politely say that we are not interested,


they come back with "How about we call you back in three months?".

"Sorry, I won't be interested then either."
posted by grouse at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I tell them something along the lines of, "Look - I appreciate the call, but I am not going to be a good prospect for you. I'm not in a decision making role regarding 'X,Y,Z', and can't give you the name of anyone else in our organization". Most folks appreciate the shortcut - they are trying to generate good leads, not end up in an endless loop. When they invariably offer to call me back in 3 months, I let them know that it would be a waste of their time.
posted by machinecraig at 1:28 PM on February 21, 2012 [18 favorites]

You need to be firm and consistent. Whenever I would get sales calls, I would respond, "We're not interested, please remove me from your list." and if they kept pushing, I would say, "I recognize and appreciate that it's your job to keep pushing, but we're really not interested. Have a nice day." "But .." "No thank you. Goodbye." *click*

Yes, you're allowed to hang up on them while they're still talking. Be polite, but firm.
posted by Kimberly at 1:29 PM on February 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

They want something from you, once you realize you want nothing from them a very simple "No Thank You, we aren't interested in that right now" and hang up before they can say anything else is perfectly fine. Really.

Honestly if its a good salesman they're gonna call you back in three months no matter what you say and no matter what you do. That's their job.
posted by JPD at 1:29 PM on February 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I learned this one from someone smarter than me here on AskMe: I've started just cutting them off gently, and saying "I'm sorry, I have a personal policy that I don't buy anything from anyone over the phone ever." That usually ends their attempted pitch, and then you can cheerfully say "Have a nice day!"-- the nice thing is that it gets you off the hook as being a blanket policy and having nothing to do with them. Even better if you can say the company has a policy against it.
posted by mireille at 1:30 PM on February 21, 2012

JPD is correct. Just say that you aren't interested right then, but yes, you can call back in three months. Everyone's happy. They aren't going to stop calling.
posted by josher71 at 1:30 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

"I'm sorry, I have a personal policy that I don't buy anything from anyone over the phone ever."

"Great, can I come in and see you tomorrow?"
posted by josher71 at 1:31 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

they come back with "How about we call you back in three months?".

"Can you send me an email instead, it's so much easier for me to make a decision that way."

I like to give them phone numbers of co-workers that I hate and say that they're the decision makers, but ymmv.
posted by empath at 1:31 PM on February 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you just keep telling people you are busy and to call you in a week, they will get the hint. It may take four or five times, but they'll eventually learn. And if you aren't the decision maker, then it is eas. Just say "This person is the decision maker. Here is there contact info.".
posted by josher71 at 1:35 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have to field these at work myself. Depending on what it is I either take a number and let it go at that or do what JPD says. It's quicker and easier that way.

You didn't mention whether or not you actually need any of their services....if you eventually might it's worth it to just take down the number.

After awhile you get in the habit, and it's easy peasy.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:36 PM on February 21, 2012

"Easy" and "their". Sigh.
posted by josher71 at 1:36 PM on February 21, 2012

Is it possible that you might need to upgrade some of the services that you have with them already? If taking sales calls is part of your job, why not try to actually talk to these people, get to know them, ask them questions about themselves, etc.. Chances are they're not all that enthused about pitching you, but they have to. If you can make chit-chat for a few minutes and steer them away from the sales pitch, it might be more pleasant for both of you.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:37 PM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

My phone (which is new and expensive) does not have caller ID.

In 2012, any phone that does not have caller ID should be considered defective and returned to the seller for a replacement.
posted by kindall at 1:39 PM on February 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

My personal solution: is there, somewhere in the company, a phone that accepts voicemail but nobody CHECKS that voicemail? Some phone off somewhere like a server room or machine room? When you get the sales calls, as soon as you can tell they ARE sales calls just tell 'em you'll be happy to forward them to the proper person, then cheerfully send that call to your dead end.

I once did this to a someone who tried getting past me by saying he was my boss's brother (Boss doesn't HAVE any brothers!), while badly mangling Boss's name --- and when I told Boss this, Boss just laughed and told me 'well done'.
posted by easily confused at 1:40 PM on February 21, 2012

Response by poster: Hi y'all, just a few clarifying bits of information:

1. I AM the boss, the end of the line. I can't send these calls to anyone else. This is part of my job, I just dislike this part of my job.

2. I would love to go all "In place of a dark lord you WILL HAVE A QUEEN!!" Galadriel on them when they call, but I really need to keep some doors open. For example, I wish I could have told the such-and-such salesman to sit on it, but the fact is that we probably WILL need a new such-and-such in the next few years.

I like what JPD is saying here. I think I just need to hear that it's okay to hang up on them in mid-pitch.

Thank you, everybody. I really appreciate your help.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:41 PM on February 21, 2012

Former telesales monkey!

1. The magic words are "I'm not the decision maker for that, you want Jim Smith in Department Z." That would cue me to say, "Thanks so much, have a great day!"

2. Of course, you might actually be the decision maker, in which case you only take vendor calls from, say, 8 a.m. until 12 p.m. on Fridays. "Hi, this is Snarl from Acme, how are you today?" "Hi, Snarl, I only take vendor calls from 8 to noon Fridays, thanks so much!" "Sure, but I can just tell you about-" "Talk to you Friday!" And then you either do or don't answer the phone on Friday.

I would vastly, vastly prefer that to hanging up, lying, or having to take you off the list- and I think (although I am biased in favor of the sales monkeys) that it's better for you, too. If someone calls you outside those times, you can hang up, but otherwise you'll have a contact for whenever you DO need a new whatsit.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 1:42 PM on February 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Assuming you have the ability to set up a new voicemail mailbox in your system, just set up a dummy box for this purpose. Set up the greeting to say "Thank you for calling XYZ Corp. purchasing. No one is available to take your call at the moment... blah blah blah." Then when you get those calls, say "Oh, let me transfer you to purchasing, they can help you out with that." Then transfer them straight to the voice mailbox. This has worked like a champ for me in the past.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:50 PM on February 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

I'm pretty good at this - though my methods are harsh and you have to be pretty brave.

Them: Hello, how are you, bla bla bla.

Me: Hi! Sorry to have to ask, but is this a sales call? (I'm always, always right, but on the one occasion I wasn't, the caller and I had a good laugh about it - it was my colleague's friendly husband).

Them: Some iteration of no-but-yes-but-no

Me: We/I don't accept unsolicited sales calls, so can you please ensure you remove us from your telephone contact database? You're welcome to send any information by post or through to the address you'll find on our website. We keep a database of vendors and that really is the best way to stay on our radar.

Them: But I just want a moment etc. etc....

Me: I really must go. Please don't forget to remove my details and the details of my colleagues here at (work) from your list of telephone contacts. /click.

On the occasions that they do call back (and they will, believe me they will):

Me: I think I remember asking that our details be removed from your telephone database. Can you explain why you weren't able to do that?

Them: (Flustered mumbling)

Me: I'm sorry, I know you're doing your job, but can I have your assurance that my details will be removed from your database? Thank you so much, and have a great day! /click.

It starts to be fun after a while, to be honest. I actually do keep a "database" of vendors (mine is an email file and a drawer full of catalogs and printed marketing material) - the people who listened when I asked them to send through info by post or email are always my first choice when I need a *whatever*. If what they're selling is a service that needs to be explained in detail for me to see the value (various types of web "services" immediately spring to mind), then I'm DEFINITELY not interested. Ever. So I've saved everyone's time.
posted by cilantro at 1:59 PM on February 21, 2012 [11 favorites]

Since it sounds like you can't really block these calls because someday you might need to buy something, perhaps it makes sense to corral these salespeople so you only have to deal with them once a year? "We make all purchasing decisions in [x-month]. Until then, we're not active in the purchasing process. In the meantime, you can send your contact information and any sales materials via mail to [office address] for future review."
posted by mochapickle at 2:07 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hey, I have worked in enterprise sales. We're just folks doing our jobs, and when we do it correctly, we're offering stuff that you might actually benefit from, in a real way.

Do the poor sales guy a favor and say, "Not interested right now, and that's not code for a solution sale or spin selling me.I won't be considering this for X months. Please contact me then."
posted by ellF at 2:10 PM on February 21, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've been a decision maker in a few roles now. I always tell people if they can help or not because, hey, salespeople are there to make it easy for you to evaluate their product if you are in the market. So they are going to get a variant of either:

a) "John, we don't have any budget for that now. You're welcome to call back in a year to see if we have one then."

b) "John, we're in a contract and will be evaluating that in early 2014. Can you call back then?"

c) "John, we're evaluating that now. Send me something on how you meet criteria x, y, z and we'll proceed."

d) "We're not going to deal with you or your company. Goodbye." (this is for people who are true nuisances, selling garbage, etc. and there's no relationship. Less than 2% of calls in my experience.)
posted by michaelh at 2:11 PM on February 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

I feel ya. I'm in the position of not making the actual decisions as to what we purchase, but I do decide from whom we purchase when we do need to buy things. So I get sales people calling me, but I generally cannot buy anything when they call.

What I say is "I'm not in a position to purchase anything right now, but please mail/email me your information and when I'm ready to make a purchase I will be sure to call you!"

They still call back, but I just keep repeating the above line to them and when I do have to make a purchase, I have their info and know who to call.
posted by ephemerista at 2:14 PM on February 21, 2012

"Email me. The address is on our website." *click*
posted by Etrigan at 2:16 PM on February 21, 2012

If they're any good, these salespeople all work with CRM and saleforce automation systems to allow them to track and document their actions. Not only are they looking to create Opportunities (a technical term in the CRM industry that represents an incipient sale, something more advanced than a "lead") to fill out their sales quota nicely, they're looking to create future trackable actions, so they can go to their boss and say, "See? I may not have made a sale, but I am actually working."

(In theory, the sales manager then looks at this data and does something with it, such as adjusting pricing or marketing efforts.)

Use this to your advantage. Let the salesperson work their own system.

"Not interested."
"When should I call you back?"
"Really not interested."
"How about we call you back in three months?"
"Actually, make it six months. I'll be in a better position to consider new purchases then."

The time scale doesn't matter much. It's an entry in their CRM system that makes them happy, makes their boss happy and gets them off the phone.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:53 PM on February 21, 2012

I have @ 30 seconds I can give you. Can you tell me in 1 paragraph what your product is/does?

Blah, blah, etc., etc.

A. I am not interested in your product line. Please put me on your do-not-call list. Goodbye, which is said As You Are Disconnecting the Call.

B. I may be looking for quotes for a (thing/service) in (x) months/years. Please send email to me at (email), with product specifications. You can contact me after (date) for followup. Please understand that I have limited time available; repeated calls will not be welcome. Have a Nice Day, which is said As You Are Disconnecting the Call.

C. I have asked to be put on your Do Not Call list. If you continue calling, I will contact the (state) Attorney General's Office. No parting words, just hang up.

Many sales people make life miserable for everyone by calling repeatedly and not taking No for an answer. I try to be brief, civil, and direct. Just remember, it's *your* time they are using; you do not have to let them.
posted by theora55 at 3:03 PM on February 21, 2012

One thing to remember- the ones you don't want to offend are the same as the ones you don't care about- they all want your money. They will still want your money even after you hang up on their asses. If you make yourself very clear- that in order to get your money, they will need to follow your rules- most will suddenly be happy to do so.

Set up a sales-guy-only email address and tell them that you only discus this via email. Be firm and clear. It won't stop the calls, but it helps weed out the ones that you actually want from the ones that are just useless.
posted by Blisterlips at 3:58 PM on February 21, 2012

I did business-to-business phone sales for a while and JPD does have it. Firstly, if you can make it clear to them that you are not a good prospect for a sale right now then they will stop calling in the short term, as they have no incentive to waste their own time. Secondly, there's nothing you can do to stop them calling back quarterly, but you can at least try to fix them to that schedule by taking 30 seconds when they do call, saying, "Thanks for waiting 3 months to call me back. Unfortunately, $LOGICAL_BUSINESS_REASON is still the case and as such we aren't interested. I'd prefer if you called me in 6 months to check in then. Thanks, bye."

This worked on me when it was done to me. The thing to imagine is what the salesperson will say to his/her manager when the manager asks "Why haven't you called Elly this week?" If they can convincingly say "Elly has a good business case not to be interested right now but is open to a checkin in a few months," you'll be good to go.
posted by Aizkolari at 4:03 PM on February 21, 2012

How would you want to be treated if you were them?
posted by davcoo at 4:23 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

To suss out whether they're a current vendor or a prospective vendor, I say, "Are you a current vendor or a prospective vendor?" If they're current, I'll listen to their speil. They may have an upgraded product or something, or an opportunity for a discount.

If they're "prospective" (e.g. not a current vendor), I tell them that we accept vendor bids in writing, so please do outline their product and send me a bid via snail-mail. About a quarter of them do.

If they're really pushy, I tell them that we only accept bids for their type of product once per year, and that in the month of {last month} we accept written bids. Then I invite them to submit a bid during the next bidding period. One has so far done this, a full eleven months after they called me.
posted by juniperesque at 5:26 PM on February 21, 2012

I have found that being very honest, yet still polite really helps. Tell them the exact reasons you don't want move forward right now. Be as specific as you can. You have their contact information if anything changes. And, in the future, you prefer to be contacted via email.
posted by fancypance at 5:38 PM on February 21, 2012

Enterprise sales guy here. If you are not a prospect for whatever I'm selling, I don't want to talk to you. The sooner you let me know that, the happier we'll both be.
posted by COD at 6:42 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

COD has it. Enterprise sales isn't hawking crap to uninterested fools -- it's selling really useful stuff, and only to people with the need and interest. When we do our jobs well, we might create some sense of need, but really? Just say, "I want this, and here's how to make that work", or "I don't want this."
posted by ellF at 7:43 PM on February 21, 2012

I'm sorry but our new policy prohibits us from purchasing anything via telephone solicitation. You can mail your information to......

Thank you, have a nice day.

Talk over them, it's what they are trained to do to you. They will understand.
posted by myselfasme at 9:33 PM on February 21, 2012

I'm sorry but our new policy prohibits us from purchasing anything via telephone solicitation. You can mail your information to......

Please don't do this, actually. Wastes time, paper, etc...

Don't talk over people, it's rude. Perhaps some were trained that way, but not all.
posted by josher71 at 4:11 AM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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