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How do you dissuade overly aggressive salespeople?

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Question: “I find that many salespeople ask specifically for my boss, but I am stumped at how to handle them when they’re very persistent.  How do you deal with these folks?” — Lisa, Executive Assistant

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris December 12, 2012 at 1:47 am

This is all so funny to me as I am a sales person. A highly trained sales person will find a way around all of this and make their way to your boss. The problem still remains as to whether or not the boss is actually interested or if this is a stupid and colossal waste of their time. I sold software for years and when I made it past the gate-keeper the result was a multimillion dollar company investment – companies do not invest millions of dollars on software unless they need it. They are going to buy it from me or someone else, but they are only going to chose the from the sales people who were persistent enough to get past the gatekeepers and make it all the way to the CEO. This does not mean that it is the best solution for the company. Therefore, your system of saying no to everyone is doing your company more harm then good. You should consider a process that allows sales people to speak with the right people and let someone else in the company vet the best vendors.

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Robert June 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm

you sound like a colossal douche.

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Kay June 16, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Chris, a highly-trained salesperson would know that in most cases, the CEO is too busy running the company to make a decision about software and there are other people in the company whose job it is to make decisions on such things. A highly-trained administrative assistant would know how to keep jerks like you from wasting the CEO’s time, At my company, between the receptionist’s desk and the administrative assistants, no one gets in to see the CEO without an appointment and the CEO’s permission — ESPECIALLY SALESMEN. I would have to agree with Robert on this one — and you may want to check your spelling before firing off another arrogant-sounding comment.

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Melanie June 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

If the display on my phone showes a vendor I don’t want to talk to, or the number is blocked I don’t answer the phone.

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Amanda May 18, 2012 at 9:08 am

We set up a group email and a spam voicemail box that we invite callers to submit information to. Then I have my assistant sift through the voicemails and emails and email them to individuals who might be interested.

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Kay May 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm

These are all excellent suggestions. I had a caller who demanded to speak with my boss and called every day. He would not give any information except that he had to speak with the CEO and “only the CEO.” I had to get firm with him and let him know that without telling me his name and why he is calling, he was not going to be able to speak with the CEO or anyone else. It got so bad that a Senior Executive finally told him that what he was doing bordered on harrassment and told him never to call our company again. If you get one like this, don’t hesitate to appeal to someone with higher authority (if there is such a person) without bothering your boss. If there is no one else, stay calm but remain firm yet polite, then ask them to stop calling in a no-nonsense tone.

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Mark May 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm

We track all incoming calls (date, time, caller, caller’s company, what the call was about). When, after being told once that we would like them to mail or e-mail the information and we will call if interested, if they call again, the reply is simple: “On May 17, at 3:43 p.m., we told you that if you’d send the information to us, we will call you if we are interested. If you haven’t sent it yet, you need to do that first. If you HAVE sent it, and we haven’t called, it means we are not interested.” We very seldom get a call from the same salesman after that.

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bb May 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I love this! What a great idea.

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Lisa May 17, 2012 at 2:14 pm

I do something similar to Sandra. My boss is the CEO, and many salespeople call asking for him specifically (probably working off a mailing list).

I always tell the salesperson I’d be glad to refer them to the proper department, and surprisingly, some even seem grateful to be directed to the correct person! I figure that salespeople have to make a living, too, and am happy to redirect them to someone that can help them. I don’t usually see them as a nuisance unless they extremely persistent, calling back over and over.

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Calvin May 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

I like to fall back on mention of “our policy” when salespeople don’t get the hint. I firmly say that we have certain procedures with calls like this and that’s the way it is–usually they realize I’m not in any position to do anything for them beyond what the policy is. That one word tends to ward them off. Then I always give them a sunny goodbye.

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bb May 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm

I love the sales guys who ask for my boss by just his first name. Anyone who calls a company and then acts so rude gets a quick dimissal from me! That being said, friendly but stern helps out a lot. If they keep insisting on speaking with your boss, repeat that he is unavailable and then offer to take their info. What can they do? They can’t come through the phone and MAKE you get your boss on the line. Once you look at it from that perspective, it becomes a lot easier to get off the phone.

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Lynn May 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

We get all kinds of aggressive calls, from sales people to charitable organizations. The caller always has a game plan; as a gate-keeper, so should you. When someone calls trying to speak to the boss, I deflect with questions of my own: “Who is calling, please?” “What is the nature of your call?” “If you would like to send us some information, we are happy to review it. If we have an interest, we will contact you.” Never, ever tell them the boss’ calendar or if they are even in. The phrase “Mr. Smith is not available” is also very useful. If the caller is persistent, keep repeating the information you have already given: “As I mentioned, if you would like to send us some information, we are happy to review it. If we have an interest, we will contact you.” If you can, do NOT give out your email address. Have the info sent to the office mailing address. A graceful end to the call is the other part of your plan. If they do not give up, end the call with “Thank you for calling,” then hang up. This has been a very effective way to deal with callers who can’t take a hint.

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Chris May 11, 2012 at 8:39 am

I tell them that my boss always like to review their information first so please mail or email me literature. Then I tell them if she is interested she will give them a call or have someone else give them a call. If they call back to follow up I tell them we have their information on file and if we need their service we will give them a call. They usually stop calling after a few calls.

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JoAnn Paules May 11, 2012 at 6:32 am

Ask Marty suggested, ask your boss how he’d like the calls handled first. With that information in mind, be polite but assertive. The salesperson is not going to go away quietly – they are going to keep at you until you put the call through. When your part of the conversation is over, tell them thank you and then hang up.

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Charisse May 10, 2012 at 5:48 pm

How I handle sales people is I ask them A LOT of question to their questions. My Directors get in the upwards of 75 sales soliciting calls a day. I start asking questions to them (i.e what department?, what services do they offer?, and are they an established vendor). Most times they get frustrated and hang up but when they answer, I usually know who to direct them to and it is usually not the person they called for.

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Charisse May 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Wow, I must be tired. I didn’t spell or punctuate properly. Time for me to go home.

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Robin L. Robertson May 10, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I tell salespeople, especially persistent ones, that my boss is unavailable at the moment and that they may leave a message with me to pass on. If they don’t want to do that, I ask that they call back at a specified time to see if their luck is any better at that time. I screen any and all calls as my boss is too busy to be pestered by salespeople. As Marty said, my reply is “have a nice day” and disconnect.

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Marty May 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I like Sandra’s answer and that her company has a good procedure in place. Ask your boss if there is a specific way he/she would like you to handle these calls and if there are exceptions for certain salespeople or companies – like someone your boss may want to work with in the future. My standard reply is “I have given “……” your message… Have a really nice day” and hang up the phone.

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Sandra May 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm

We have a policy that all sales reps are required to visit with Department Heads first and make their pitch to them. If the Department Head is interested they take the pitch to their Division Head and the Division Head will then present to Senior Managment.
I am blessed that this procedure works really well for us and I do not get much flack from the aggressive sales person.

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