How to Deal with Salespeople When They Contact You at Work
You’re “in the zone” at work and the phone rings. Your eyes quickly scan the caller ID and your brain does an automatic scan of your mental rolodex. Mental results return nothing. Second ring. Ah, what the heck – you pick it up.
You answer the phone with a smile on your face, giving your most pleasant introduction, as the realm of possibilities offer there may be someone on the other end worth impressing or satisfying. It’s a salesperson, though, and that smile you had quickly vanishes, along with a marked change in your tone of voice and patience level.
“I just love getting cold-called in the middle of my day, especially when I have an important deadline!” –said no one ever. Although there are individuals who have no issues “dealing with” sales calls at work, these are usually people who have somehow been exposed to the sales process, either through direct or indirect experience. The rest of us, well, tend to allow ourselves to become annoyed, thus affecting our behavior.
If this describes you, I implore you to read on.
The Vitality of Sales
First, let’s remind ourselves of one thing: all companies, industries, and markets require income and cash flow, meaning all types of business entities must engage in some form of sales activities. How they engage in this activity will widely vary based on their sales strategy. This is obvious.
Regardless of how we personally feel about a particular sales strategy, and our potential unsolicited involvement in it, we must agree that it is necessary. Whatever your current role is, we can say with high accuracy that your position allows you to pay your bills, put food on the table, and provide for other basic necessities – at the very least (at least in theory). Salespeople are no different than you, in that they are also tasked with a job to do in order to make ends meet.
“Fine, I get it…” you might say. “But it’s annoying and I am sick of it. These random phone calls add up, and I don’t need to be bothered. If they want to reach me, they should go through LinkedIn or send an email.” And perhaps some of them should.
All Humans Sell
Some of my earliest memories with my parents included a quite lengthy campaign I initiated for the sake of convincing them that I “had to” have the Chutes & Ladders board game in my possession. You see, I had been exposed to numerous commercials on TV, and I was certain owning this game would greatly increase my happiness.
I was initially told “no”, which sparked my campaign, lasting for several weeks, where I devised different tactics, including trying to pit my mother against my father, coming up with ways of generating the funds on my own, and even outright begging and groveling. Sound familiar?
I eventually got what I wanted. In hindsight, I think I played Chutes & Ladders maybe three times, and after that it collected dust in my closet. What I learned, however, was quite profound – that if you really want something, and you work hard to get it, you will eventually achieve it.
I want you to think about all the times in your youth, your life, and at work, where you had to “sell” something. For one, I know each one of us who’s had an interview knows what it means to “sell oneself”. I am certain there are a myriad of examples flooding into your brain at this moment. Even outside of work, on our social media feeds, when we are on a date, or even with friends deciding what to do that evening, we are selling. We are selling because we are human, and that’s what humans do.
“Okay,” you might say, “I might ‘sell’ all the time, but it’s definitely not my profession.” I don’t need to be polite to anyone who interrupts my day and takes my time away from the important things I do at work.
Why You Must Always Be Kind to Salespeople
What you do on your own time, especially to salespeople who call your personal line (outside of those who have their business phone rerouted to their cellular, or freely give out their personal line) is really up to you. It's different, however, when at work.
It costs nothing to be kind to other people, even if we believe that they are rude, disrespectful, and dismissive of our needs. Regardless of how we personally feel, if we are “on the clock”, we represent our company with everything we say and do. This alone should prompt us to always put our best foot forward, even in agonizing, disruptive, and annoying situations.
The moment we allow ourselves to change our demeanor and become rude, we lose the opportunity for sending the important message that our company takes its customers seriously and treats them all with the utmost respect. “Wait a second,” you might say, “we’re talking about a salesperson calling – not a customer.”
All people contacting your firm should be considered a potential consumer. Even if they are not personally qualified to take on your services, you have no clue who they might know, and you want to leave them with the best impression of your company. Lying to them, being rude, hanging up the phone, and acting as if you are too important to be bothered, sends just the opposite impression, and this vibe can only do damage to your firm’s brand – it can never do any good.
The human brain is made to readily pick up on negative cues so that our fight or flight response kicks in. Studies have shown that negative impressions last longer, are harder to get over, and prompt individuals to talk with others more often about that experience. If not for anything else, be kind for the sake of your company brand and professional reputation.
“Yeah, that’s all great in your perfect, utopian world, but things are different in the real world,” you might state. Okay, let’s address that.
Counterarguing Your Rebuttals
Granted, there are some instances where we need to be firm on the phone (or in person), as there are people out there trying hard to scam others and offer services you have no need for, nor any authority to decide on. The problem comes when we begin to form an attitude and automatically treat all salespeople with the same behaviors and reactions.
“Salespeople are pushy, and will say anything to make the sale. It’s how they make their money.” Do me a favor. I want you to think back to all the times in your life that someone who didn’t even know you decided to treat you like a stereotype. Did it feel good? More importantly, was what they were assuming even accurate of you? Even if it had some accuracy, was it accurate of your behavior all the time?
“Salespeople are the individuals who cannot find a real job. They are probably fresh out of high school with no education.” Quite the contrary. While there are some call centers full of teenagers fresh from public school, there are plenty of sales floors with highly educated people.
“Hard sales and cold calls are dead in the age of the Internet and social media.” This is an interesting argument, and if you do a well-rounded Google search, you can find quality articles arguing for both sides of this issue. Regardless of how we personally feel, the reality is that the “hard” (the more aggressive, information-withholding sales tactics – think the old school, used-car sales stereotype), the “soft” (more relationship and consultative sales tactics), and everything in-between does exist, and will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. Our personal preferences, biases, and outcries for a sales revolution will do nothing to change the business models of thousands of corporations. In terms of “cold calling”, if you cannot think of a time when you approached someone without knowing them (at a bar, in the street, on standing on a line somewhere), you might be a recluse, living in a bubble, or on a remote island somewhere – and if that’s the case, more power to you.
“If I am nice to them, they will end up calling me every day.” Really? Show me a company that tells its salespeople to call or visit prospects daily, and I’ll show you a company about to go under. There are millions – literally millions – of people to call or visit, especially when products and services are offered on a national level. As much as we would like to be, none of us are at the center of the universe.
“I don’t have the time.” We are all busy people, especially in this age where many of us wear several hats at once. But if every waking second of your day is completely booked, with not even 5-minutes to spare, you might have a problem with time management. The reality is that we like to think that we are extremely busy all the time, when this is not always the case. Ask yourself, “Am I just using this as a way of avoiding the conversation?” Any reasonable person who takes the time to listen to an offering (which might even have some value for what you do) can then make the distinction as to whether they would care to continue the conversation further. All trained salespersons are equipped to circumnavigate objections, so if you are not interested, make this clear and move on. Note that communicating clearly has nothing to do with being rude or unprofessional, even in the face of persistence.
“I don’t make the decisions/I am in no need of their services/We already do that here/We have someone doing that for us already.” That’s great! Unfortunately, no one knows that already, unless you inform them, so politely do that. If you are tired of explaining this, don’t answer the phone! If you get a salesperson trying to break down this objection, keep your cool. Remember this is a business, and situations can and do change rapidly. If you are in an exclusive contract, say so, but don’t lie. Be open to the idea that there may come a time when you need this product or service, even if it’s months from now. Just don’t tell someone to call six months from now only to get them off the phone. Why not? Have you ever been led on by another person? How did that feel? What did you think about that person who treated you that way? Is that a professional response worth sacrificing your company’s brand and your reputation?
No one enjoys being “sold” to, and yet we as humans constantly, and consistently, “sell” every day. That report due by Wednesday needs to be presented, and therefore sold. You want to put in for your vacation days? Need a raise? Noticing there are cuts being made in your department? Need to increase the budget next fiscal year? Need to tell your significant other about a large purchase you want to make? Trying to get someone you love to exercise more? Yup, it all requires you to sell.
Once we realize that being human means we all are inevitably salespeople, we then have no choice but to treat a sales call or visit with the utmost professionalism and kindness. Today, our livelihood and continued success becomes dependent upon it.
I wish you and the companies you work for much success, happiness, and longevity. If you ever need any help finding ways of keeping your cool under pressure, let me know. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and so does everyone else.