how to deal with cold-calling salespeople who won’t take no for an answer

A reader writes:

I’m in a job I really enjoy, but as part of my role, the admin assistant puts through quite a lot of cold calls to me (which always turn out to be advertising calls, but disguised as other things which is why they get put through in the first place!). Usually they’re from ISPs, telephone companies, or software companies who want to sell new products or upgraded service.

At home, I have a variety of tried-and-true techniques for dealing with these people (the most successful one being Caller ID and just not answering my phone to unknown callers – fortunately that’s possible for me!) – but in an office environment, that’s not really possible. And while I’d like to think I’m respectful to everyone who calls me, it’s a bit frustrating to deal with a salesperson who won’t take “No, we’re not interested in that product, thank you” for an answer when simply hanging up the phone isn’t an option like it is at home. Usually I crack under the pressure and end up “agreeing” for them to “check back in a while,” which is definitely wrong for everyone.

So what I was hoping for is a professional and polite way to shut down these conversations before they start and stop giving them excuses to call back – and what the etiquette generally is on this. We have all our numbers added to the Do Not Call register, but sadly there are a million and one exemptions to that (e.g. having an existing business relationship, however tenuous). I get about three of these calls a week, and they’re by far the most frustrating part of my job (which I guess is a good thing!) – but I think that’s just because I don’t know how to handle them professionally, and if I had a reliable way of fobbing these people off they wouldn’t bother me that much.

Strategies I’ve tried so far:
1. Saying I’m not the person who can make those decisions (which, while half-true, just compounds the problem since they then ask who does deal with it…)
2. Saying we have our own supplier purchasing arrangements and we are fine with those (which just leads them into a dialogue about what a good deal they’re offering and how we’d be crazy not to seriously consider their offer…)
3. Agreeing to “think about it” (the worst of all things to say, since it gets them off the phone but guarantees a call back)

Please, please help!

Similar to this post about pushy vendors who show up in person, you need to get comfortable with the idea that you get to decide how much time you spend on the call with salespeople — not them. That means being more assertive and not afraid to just cut people off and end the call.

You can do that by saying politely that you’re not interested once, and then saying it again and hanging up if they persist. For example:

Caller: I’d like to talk to you about your paper supplier. We have some great deals I think you’d be interested in.
You: No, thank you, we’re very happy with our current supplier and aren’t interested in switching.
Caller: Give me just a few minutes; I think you’ll want to hear about the special we’re running this month.
You: No, thank you. Would you please remove us from your list? I appreciate it. Goodbye. (hang up)


Caller: I’d like to talk to you about your paper supplier. We have some great deals I think you’d be interested in.
You: We don’t accept unsolicited sales calls, but you’re welcome to put the information in the mail.
Caller: Give me just a few minutes of your time; I think you’ll want to hear about the special we’re running this month.
You: No, thank you. Have a great day. Goodbye. (hang up)

You also don’t need to get drawn into long interrogations when you know it’s a sales call that you’re not interested in. For instance, if you get a caller who starts asking you obvious sales-oriented questions rather than giving you a direct sales pitch, you can redirect the conversation. For example:

Caller: Who do you currently buy your toner from?
You: We’re happy with our current vendor. Would you please remove our number from your list?
Caller: Aren’t you interested in saving money on a better deal?
You: We’re happy with our current vendor. Please remove our number from your list. Have a good day. (hang up)

The point here is that you’re not at their mercy, stuck talking to them until they agree to end the conversation. You can control what questions you do and don’t answer, how much time you spend on the call, and when it ends. Yes, of course it’s rude to just hang up on someone as soon as you realize it’s a sales call, but you can give them one opportunity to end the call politely, and if they ignore you, you can assert your right to manage your own time by politely ending the conversation yourself.

Now, obviously, if you work for an employer who has directed you to talk to salespeople for as long as the salesperson wants and never to initiate the end of a call with a salesperson, this advice won’t apply. But I doubt that’s the case. Usually what employers want is for you to be polite to callers but assertive about controlling your time. In fact, I’ve been concerned plenty of times about a receptionist spending too long on these calls (out of a desire to be polite), but have never once thought, “Oh, she should have let them finish their sales pitch.” If you have any doubt about this, you can check with your manager — but this is almost certainly what you’ll find.

Be polite, but quickly explain you’re not interested and end the call — whether they’re on board with ending it or not.

{ 186 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Can you speak with your managers and have your business be put on a do not call list? It won’t eliminate all calls, but it’s a great reason to give someone when they won’t shut up.

    1. Arbynka*

      Yes. And too bad OP cannot pretend she is on a cell phone – crhhhshhh…sorry, we are breaking up…crshhhhhh and click, call is over :)

      1. Arbynka*

        But as someone else pointed out, they would just call right back. I agree with Marina’s approach below. Short, polite and direct.

    2. Matt*

      Sales sucks that’s it it sucks I do it every day and it just makes you feel like a piece of crap for even existing, I don’t want to sell you shit and I don’t care about you….. I used to 5 years ago but honesty and being genuinely interested in other human beings and making there life better does not make sales fast enough to meet stupid ass quotas… And you just get lumped in with all of sales industry. Screw sales!! Stop buying crap from sales people and we would not exist but no… You keep buying and making the model work… Hate it!

  2. Kevin*

    I remember once my boss got a supplier’s call (she was not even close to having any purchasing power), her response was, “hold on let me transfer you to the person who handles that *click.”

    I’ve been called by vendors myself and one in particular twists facts around. They said I had expressed interest in a product and I let them know that their employer gave them bad information and for them to never contact me again.

    1. Anonymous*

      That’s weak because they’re even more likely to call back since it seems the call got cut off.

      The best response is telling them you’re not interested, asking them to not call again, and hanging up. This may seem obnoxious but it’s actually it’s polite – it’s telling them the truth and helping them avoid wasting time by calling again.

      If they insist on keeping trying, that’s their problem.

      1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        ” it’s telling them the truth and helping them avoid wasting time by calling again.

        I just explicitly say that – “I’m really not interested, and I’d hate to waste any more of your time. Good luck with your next call!” [hangs up].

        1. Amy B.*

          That is what I say, “I hate to waste your time. I am simply not going to buy from you and you could be using this time to call someone who might want to buy from you. Good luck.”

        2. Robert*

          Since I’m on the other side of this, I can say that this is the perfect answer especially when it’s true which is mostly the case. I will tell you that it’s very likely that the salesperson on the other end is about as excited to make the call as you are to answer it. We aren’t afraid to hear “NO” and we actually welcome this because it avoids us both wasting anymore time. On the other hand, unless you know 100% that you have the perfect solution already in place, maybe 3-5 minutes of your time will save you money, time, etc. with a better way to do something. Many of us truly have something that will help and understand when it’s not a fit. We are not all pushy either and just making a living like everyone else.


      2. Jessa*

        It’s extremely important to directly use language similar to “Take this number off your list,” and stick to it. Any vagueness about “do not call this number,” and they’re not legally required to pull you from their list. If you can get their information and make notes to yourself. Because if they keep calling you, they can be fined for failing to take your number off the list. Even if they have a relationship with you, you can tell them to STOP calling.

    2. Anonymous*

      Oh man, they are vicious. I had one send me a set of books that I didn’t ask for and then try to invoice me for them. I shipped them right back, called them and asked to have my name removed from their list.

      I get it’s hard out here but being a salesperson is so much than making just one sell, it’s about the relationship too.

      1. Arbynka*

        I would think that would go under unsolicited goods. Correct me if I am wrong but isn’t there a law that says if you receive an unsolicited goods you cannot be made to pay for them ?

        1. Natalie*

          Yes, the FTC considers un-ordered goods to be a gift. You are not obligated to pay for them or return them.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          If they called you, and you said “Yes” or “Okay” or anything like that in the call, they can cut out that part of the recording and use it to insist that you agreed. NEVER EVER say this when these people call.

      2. Mike C.*

        If they were shipped to you via USPS, that’s illegal. If they used something else, I have no idea.

  3. Sarah*

    Is the problem here a company policy of not being allowed to be the one to hang up the phone first? I worked for a company with that policy (the theory of course being if you were on the phone it was with a customer) but they would be reasonable about bending that rule for solicitation calls. Some managers adhere to rules more strictly though, and I’m not sure what I would do in that situation if that was the case.

      1. Ruthan*

        If you really weren’t allowed to hang up first, you could just quit responding. The caller would probably give up eventually.

      2. Sarah*

        It absolutely is. But a lot of jobs involve navigating within the constraints of terrible policies.

  4. Anonymous*

    Yep, I live this at least one a month and I get the aggressiveness over email as well. “I haven’t heard back from you, please contact us today…”. Sometimes, the salesperson will bombard everyone in the organization with emails and inevitably I get all the forwards and all my coworkers telling them “you should talk to (me)”.

    I just tell them we only deal with member companies (not 100% true, but we are a Chamber) but what usually works 98% of the time “is we don’t have the money right now and if we do get the money and we’re interested we’ll be in touch”.

    I’ve even had a salesguy threaten me with going to our CEO and telling him that I’m not being “cooperative” (this was for a project that the CEO wanted us to gather information about that turned out to be too expensive to complete). I had to politely tell him that we were going to use a local vendor instead.

    1. Arbynka*

      “I’ve even had a salesguy threaten me with going to our CEO and telling him that I’m not being “cooperative”

      Wow. The “I’m telling on you” tactic. That seems so elementary school like.

      1. KarenT*

        “I’ve even had a salesguy threaten me with going to our CEO and telling him that I’m not being “cooperative”

        Response: Awesome, thanks! I think he’d appreciate knowing that I’m not wasting company time on the phone with unsolicted vendors.

        1. Anonymous*

          I promise if I was more of “think on my feet” kind of person, that’s what I would’ve said but I didn’t want it seem like I taking it personal. Smh

      2. fposte*

        One threatened me that she’d tell the person she was trying to call that “her secretary was very rude!” Since I wasn’t that person’s secretary, I was particularly amused.

  5. Marina*

    The thing I try to remember about salespeople is that generally they are not allowed to hang up first. You HAVE to hang up, because they’re not going to. Plus it’s more impolite to keep them on the line when you’re sure you’re not going to buy their product, it’s a waste of their time. Just say, “We’re not interested, thank you, good bye,” and hang up.

    1. Anonymous*


      And if they call again add “Don’t contact us again” or “Please don’t contact us again.”

    2. lgd*

      When my grandfather ran his own business, and if they called on a slow day, he would talk to them. And let them talk. And talk to them. And express enough interest to keep them talking. But he never bought anything.

      Pretty sure he got himself put on several internal blacklists (but that was the point, of course).

    3. Kit M.*

      This is the realization that has really helped me when dealing with telemarketers. I wouldn’t call it “impolite” to keep them on the line, but it is certainly a kindness to hang up on them when you are not going to buy anything.

      1. Dulcinea*

        As a former telemarketer, thank you. We were not allowed to hang up first and I wasted a lot of time on calls with people who I knew were not going to buy, but my bosses were listening in on the calls so I couldn’t hang up. It really is in everyone’s best interest to politely state that you are not interested, specifically and explicitly say “please take this number off your list,” and then simply hnag up.

    4. bearing*

      Imagining the stalemate between the sales caller who isn’t allowed to hang up and the customer service agent who isn’t allowed to hang up.

        1. SAS*

          I work for a municipality and am the receptionist; I see them coming a mile away and they do not get past me. There is one vendor that tries to be sneaky (we now have caller ID…HA!), but I know his game. I have also told them, repeatedly, “no, we’re not interested/we have our own vendor/we will not buy anything from you, please remove our number from your call list.” The caller then goes into spasms and threatens to call my supervisor (try it buddy, you’re not getting past me when you call again), and I just laugh and hang up. This has been going on for almost 2 years now. Seriously, they are relentless. Blocking their number is useless because I’ve been keeping track and the numbers change as if they have a random number selector!!

  6. some1*

    This is good advice for anyone who has to deal with these calls. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence.

    Also (and I’ve been in admin roles for over a decade), your admin assistant needs to start recognizing sales calls for what they are and shutting them down herself using Alison’s suggestion instead of transferring the calls to you. I would email her with lines these calls are likely to use so she can recognize them.

    At my last receptionist gig years ago, I answered phones at a government office and the best thing I learned was how cut people off politely. 90% of the callers wanted to give me a 5-10 minute biography and I just didn’t have the time for it. I would wait for them to pause and politely ask, “Can you spell your last name for me?” because I needed to look them up in the computer before I could give them any info or answer questions.

    1. tcookson*

      “your admin assistant needs to start recognizing sales calls for what they are and shutting them down herself . . . ”

      This. The OP needs to communicate with the admin after each time she receives a forwarded sales call from her.

      I worked a multi-line phone system with several other front-desk colleagues early in my career, and the people in the upstairs offices would have a fit if we transferred any calls like that to them.

      We learned pretty quickly that the ease of pawning off the caller on the person they asked for was voided by the fact that the recipients of these calls would complain vehemently to our supervisor for it.

  7. Anonymous*

    My best responses are:
    The board prefers that we support our community by buying locally. That ends most sales pitches since we are located in a fairly small town.
    Sorry, no money. Even if billing is delayed into next fiscal year!

  8. TL*

    What works for me – though usually I get in-person visits with flyers – is, “Oh, that looks interesting. Let me pass this along to Person, and she’ll contact you if we need anything. Thanks!” They make sure to give me their business cards and I pass it along.

    1. Jessa*

      Try to do that without giving person’s name though because then they have a name to get past the gatekeepers a little more easily.

  9. EM*

    Yes, I am not sure why you can’t simply hang up the phone. I understand your employer not wanting you to hang up on a client, obviously, but I can’t imagine they’d have an issue with a salesperson, especially if you attempted to be polite.

  10. twig*

    I worked as a receptionist for several years (and still maintained those duties as “gatekeeper” when I moved up to exec assistant). I tended to be a soft spoken easy going (almost) doormat type of person not wanting to hurt the caller’s feelings etc.

    My response after the initial pitch (ie as soon as I was able to get a word in) would be something along the lines of “We’re not interested, we’re happy with our current supplier. Please take us off of your list” then hang up before they get a chance to respond — maintaining a polite friendly tone.

  11. HR Chick*

    What I do is say we’re not currently exploring a new vendor for these services at this time, but I’d love to get your contact information and will follow-up with you if and when we are exploring this service.

    Or if I’m not the decision maker, I’ll offer to take their contact information and pass it along to the appropriate person and assure them if they’re interested they’ll be in contact.

    Usually that does the trick.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    Letters like this make me so glad I work for government. I HATE sales pitches. When I get them on my cell I just cut them off immediately with “I’m not interested, please take me off your call list, goodbye.”

    1. CF_programmer*

      I work for the government and we get sales call every day. They are just doing their job. As a representative of the our government, I am polite and helpful to everyone who calls, emails, or walks in. Even when they call me names. Hey, everyone has a bad day, and I catch a lot of flies with honey. :)

    2. fposte*

      Once, when I said that such decisions were made centrally by the university, a salesperson asked to talk to the president of the school. Yeah, because he’s dying to chat about new options for printer paper.

      1. Tina*

        Oh yeah, I can see a University president wasting his time on that…not! I’ve gotten some email (thankfully not phone) pitches for services and software that have no relationship to my office (and always makes me wonder why they emailed me to begin with) and I couldn’t even begin to guess who at our university would handle them.

  13. CF_programmer*

    I think of cutting the call short as doing the saleperson a favor, as they can get on with another call that might get them a sale.

  14. Anon*

    I’ve worked at 2 companies that have a “Bill”. Bill is the owner’s father, and he passed away several years ago, but he’s the person all salespeople are advised to contact.

    When anyone calls in and asks to speak with Bill, it’s a flag to the receptionist that it’s a sales call. Put him on hold forever, tell him Bill is out of the office, but the sales calls don’t make it past reception.

    1. Anonymous*

      Please learn to say “no” – don’t lie (saying “Bill is out of the office”) to avoid having an unpleasant conversation. Being firm is an important skill in professional life. Even if they are lying to you. Shut it down. Learn to say “no.”

      1. Anon*

        Not my decision to make. The higher ups put that in place (at both companies, by the way) before I came on board. It must work or it wouldn’t be used.

        1. Kerry*

          It must work or it wouldn’t be used.

          I don’t think this is always necessarily true; it also doesn’t mean it isn’t a bad tactic to use for other reasons (because it’s rude, because it wastes someone else’s time, etc)

        2. Eva R*

          It will work to screen the calls but if they are just left on hold until they are allowed to hang up they will keep calling back because they are unable to confirm that your office does not want the service or product.

          If you specifically ask them not to contact your office with sales calls, they won’t be able to call legally. If they work for a large company that sells many products, no one in that company will be legally allowed to call.

          The same goes for having a voicemail box that is rarely checked that you autotransfer people to, or telling them that Bill is out of the office, or that he is no longer with the company, etc.

  15. Allison*

    I get e-mails from recruitment agencies all the time, obviously wanting us to hire them to take care of our hiring needs. I never reply because never know what to say. 1) I’m low on the totem pole and I don’t have the power to employ vendors; 2) why would I want my company to outsource my job to a third party?

  16. Lily in NYC*

    First, the receptionist needs better training. I can spot a sales call within 5 seconds and I always shut them down politely. I just say “no thank you, we are not interested, goodbye” and then hang up without giving them a chance to start the spiel. They rarely call back.

    1. AVP*

      Some people are getting so tricky! My receptionist got one recently who had looked up our CEO’s bio and said “Oh yes Bob should know me, we went to Cornell together back in the ’70s….” And then he turned out to be selling phone systems! Gah.

      1. Arbynka*

        ” My receptionist got one recently who had looked up our CEO’s bio and said “Oh yes Bob should know me, we went to Cornell together back in the ’70s….” And then he turned out to be selling phone systems! Gah.”

        I am not sure if I should admire the level of his commitment or just consider it creepy.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        That would immediately stand out to me as a probable sales call – you’d be surprised how many people try that tactic. That’s exactly what I meant by better training.

      3. Ann Furthermore*

        Ugh, that one would probably slip by me too if I worked as a receptionist. But wouldn’t it be awesome to say, “Oh, it will be so wonderful for him to hear from you! He always has his cell phone with him. Since you’re such good friends I’m sure you’ve got the number.” Click.

      4. JC*

        I had that one once, except my CEO was called William, everyone called him Bill, he used Bill for everything and this salesman kept calling him Will and telling me that when he told ‘Will’ that I had refused to put him through he would be very angry and I would probably lose my job, even though I knew he was scamming me it really shook me up, I don’t know what he thought would happen if he got put through!

      5. tcookson*

        I get calls like that, too, but I always say, “He’s not in right now; let me take your number and have him give you a call back.”

        They usually say something after that that reveals them as a salesperson.

      6. Elizabeth West*

        Please…that’s the easiest one of all to spot!

        If in doubt, directly to voice mail. Then Bob can return the call if it’s legit or delete it if not (or his assistant can).

    2. Anon*

      Eh – sometimes there are sales calls that should be going through though. For example, if someone randomly called me, I would actually want to hear the pitch because I’m always looking for cheaper vendors for our events. At other times, I’ll have a pre-existing relationship set up with a company but it will be a new rep. New reps can sound really gimmicky but I want them to get through to me. I’d be a little annoyed if our receptionist screened my call without asking me.

      I think receptionists shouldn’t blanket turn away sales calls but people should let receptionists know if they want calls turned away for themselves personally.

      1. Anon*

        Oh, and if the OP has told the receptionist to screen all sales calls, then yes, I do agree the receptionist could use some better training.

  17. llamathatducks*

    It’s only rude to hang up if the other party’s being polite themselves, and refusing to end a conversation when you’ve clearly signaled that you’re done is definitely rude. In that case hanging up is just excusing yourself from being subjected to any further rudeness.

    If your employer has rules that seem to prohibit just hanging up, you should talk to someone about getting that rule waived for this sort of scenario.

  18. Sarah*

    When I was an Admin I would not respond after their pitch. Literally just don’t say anything. If they called back again, same thing.

    1. ChristineSW*

      I would think that’d make the salesperson think that there is a problem with the phone connection and keep trying until they hear a voice.

    2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

      I tried that with repeated calls trying to sell me newspaper subscriptions. Nothing worked – not asking to be taken off the list, not asking to speak to a supervisor to ask to be taken off the list, not adding my number to the do not call list, not telling them that I don’t read newspapers because I have the internet. I tried all that at least twice each, and was still getting multiple calls a week. The only thing that eventually worked was answering, then putting the phone down and letting them say “Hello? Hello?” for as long as it took them to hang up. The calls stopped after about the third or fourth time I did this.

  19. Kathy*

    We do have the benefit of caller ID on our phones. One salesman would call every few weeks and I avoided him. Never left a message until one day I got a voice mail from him that said “Congratulations, you have successfully avoided my phone calls for a full year!” Thanks, buddy….I’ll successfully avoid them until the end of time now!

  20. Juni*

    “We accept proposals from prospective vendors in February of each year for our following fiscal year, because that is when we do our budgeting. You may send me your materials via postal mail during February. Please be aware that solicitations from prospective vendors outside of that time or by any other method will not be considered.”

    1. Elysian*

      I try a line like this at home when charities call. “I’m sorry, but we plan our charitable giving. If you mail me information, I’ll be sure to consider you when we budget for next year.” It is true, frankly. I never get paper information from them, and it usually works. Except this once, when the charity tele-marketer got very snippy with me and was like, “Well, I don’t want to throw off your budget, but you seriously can’t spare $5 right now? It’s the cost of a latte!” Then I just hung up on her.

      1. Lucy*

        I do this too for charity phone calls. When they give me the “You can’t spare 5 bucks for ________?” I say: Yes, I can spare $5 but I don’t give my credit card number to people who cold call me. I would be more than happy to look at your materials if you can mail or email

        1. Natalie*

          I say the same thing to people soliciting on the street. As a general rule, I don’t give money to charities or sign petitions without researching them first.

      2. E*

        My mom had a fundraiser from her university call. When she said she did not have extra money to give, the fundraiser said, “but you went to (U of X), I know you’re making a lot of money.” (We are talking about a state university that is decent but not top). My mom ended up hanging up on her.

        She called back a minute later and my father answered the phone. The woman started the conversation with “I know she’s there.”

    2. Tina*

      My office (in a university) is constantly bombarded with requests to put links to various pages on our website. The volume of requests gets overwhelming at times, and of course isn’t our top priority. So just recently we created a template similar to what you describe – we review web links at xyz time of year, and your link has been added to the review list. It has definitely saved some aggravation.

  21. Lucy*

    For one of my previous jobs we easily said that all our purchasing was coordinated by the national headquarters (which was not fully true – they did some, not all) and then played dumb when they asked who to contact at headquarters.

    At my current job, I have a policy for my department that we do not take sales calls. My team are instructed to ask any sales caller to mail (or email) a written proposal with detailed pricing structure. Proposals without pricing will not be looked at. 99% of the callers say they are unable to do that and then they are told that is the only way we do business.

    We actually have found a couple great new vendors this way and it definitely weeds out the scams and the undesirables.

  22. Bean*

    I work as a receptionist, and there is a scam “company” that calls and asks for the number to our printer or photocopier, this is also known as the “Phoner Toner” scam.Every time they call we politely ask them not to phone us again, and they always hang up right away. Last week however, I kindly requested that they not call us again, and the caller proceeded to say “I’m going to call you everyday, b***h” and then hung up on me. My coworker and I had a great laugh about it.

    Unfortunately it is next to impossible to make them stop calling.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Don’t even speak to them. Just hang up. Trust me, they’ll get over it. I told one of them once that we didn’t have a copier; we used carbon paper. While she was trying to figure that one out, I said “Byeee!” and hung up. That was fun. :D

      For anyone not working in reception who may not know about these calls, if your office leases their printers and copiers (most do), you will never get a call from them asking about toner. You are supposed to call THEM when you need more.

  23. JC*

    I share an office with a colleague whose job is to ‘warm call’ customers who’ve asked us for info, if they want a quote she’s supposed to call them a couple of times to see if they want to buy, otherwise she’s supposed to call once or twice to see if they’re ready to have a quote yet and then leave it.

    I have heard my colleague call the same person 4 or 5 times in one day and leave an answer phone message each time, or quite often they’ll say something like I’m busy right now, I’LL call YOU back tomorrow (I know at least one guy said this to her every time she called) and she will call them at least once a week until they speak with her. I’ve tried to point out to her that if they don’t answer her emails or call her back then they’re probably not interested and she should stop calling but unless they actually say to her “I’m not interested” she will continue to call and email them once a week, and if they do say they’re not interested she’ll start calling them names for ‘wasting her time’!! Even with the guy who was always ‘busy’ after the 5th time I heard her call him I said to her that I thought he was probably just too polite to say he wasn’t interested and she should take a hint and she said no, he said he would call me back, and then she kept asking the next day if he had called her back yet!

    I know she is annoying customers because we’ve had emails and I’ve had people phone up and beg me to ask her to stop calling them.

    The funny thing is that I get a lot of office supply reps calling me and I’m honest with them and tell them I’m not interested and when she overheard me the other day she said ‘why can’t they take a hint and stop calling?’

    1. Anon*

      Cold calling (even warm calling) is a hard job. I had a job that sounds similar to hers. If I have to call to follow up on a quote, either the customer didn’t like our price or the project has been put on hold. I’ve never run into a customer who said, “Oh, yes!!! I forgot to call you! I need to order that!!!!”

      But my boss really wanted me to pry information from the customers about our quotes, and what price the competition gave them. No one ever did, because I was calling busy contractors who had all that information in a file folder and not right in front of them. The best I could get was a competitor’s name–I mostly got a lot of “I don’t have time for this.”

    2. fposte*

      Does she get any kind of commission or bounty on hits? Because that will ensure that behavior right there.

      1. JC*

        No, it would make more sense to me if she did get a commission, the idea of calling people is just to give them a personal contact at the company and let them know what the next step is. Our customers are mostly private individuals not businesses and it’s such a specialist and expensive product that there are only one or two other companies selling it and we are by far and away the best so if someone’s going to buy they buy and if they don’t they don’t.

        She has actually been told by management to be careful not to harass people but she just seems to take it really personally if people don’t want to buy, I think she must have worked in a high pressure sales environment before and just can’t get out of the habit of being really pushy.

        I’m not sure how to tell her to back off without being rude but I’m sure she’s putting people off and it’s excruciating to listen to!

  24. tesyaa*

    Even at home, when I happen to pick up a telemarketer’s call, I always say I’m not interested but EFFUSIVELY thank them for calling. “Sorry, I’m not going to participate, but THANK YOU SO MUCH for calling!!” It’s hard for them to be in your face when you’re so profusely thankful for their call.

    (Then hang up quickly, of course).

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I always give a polite thank you too. I did telemarketing for one dreadful summer, and it really is a terrible job. If that’s what someone is doing to earn a paycheck, you can be darn sure that it was the only job they could find.

  25. Brittany*

    At my office, we have a designated person who has all sales calls go right to voicemail. That way, if it’s client related or new business, someone can return the call while weeding through all the ones we don’t want.

  26. Emily K*

    I’m guessing OP may be feeling some empathy for the salesperson that’s making her feel like she has to give the salesperson “a fair shot” or else she’s being rude.

    I used to feel rude when I didn’t let someone make their pitch, even though I knew that no pitch in the world was going to lead to me buying, because we weren’t in the market for that, were under a contract with someone else, couldn’t afford it, or some other reason.

    Now I look at it this way: If he’s like most salespeople, that person has 8 hours today to make as many sales as he can, and his compensation is in some way tied to his performance (whether through commission, bonuses, or merit raises to his base pay). Every minute he spends talking to me is a minute he doesn’t get to spend pitching to someone who might be persuaded to actually buy. Of course I’m always polite–but I’m very firm and to-the-point when I’m not interested because it’s actually the kindest thing to do for a salesperson.

    Let them go sell to someone who is looking to buy. Don’t lead them to waste time on you.

  27. Lindsay*

    I work at a museum and got a sales call about buying a docent robot. I was so amused by the prospect of a docent robot that I listened for awhile, and then told him that the robots would displace the staff and volunteers in our galleries. And then, of course, the robots need to have a handler with them, so the staff and volunteers could attend to the robots. He couldn’t believe that we wouldn’t be in the market for docent robots in the next five years.

    1. Anonymous*

      That actually makes me really sad. Docents are always volunteers, right? So it’s free anyway, and it’s almost a public service the museum offers because it looks great on a CV. It’s not bad enough the economy’s in the toilet, now someone wants to take away one of the few opportunities left to gain some work experience?

      I love emerging technology, but this falls into the realm of it taking over where it shouldn’t.

      1. Lucy*

        In the US docents are almost always volunteers but in other areas professional docents are quite common.

        Robot docents are ridiculous.

    2. Unanimously Anonymous*

      Yes, “docent robots” do exist. Talk about a solution in search of a problem:

      Might have been interesting to ask him how much for a particle-beam weapons upgrade. You know, for those visitors who keep disregarding the “please don’t touch the artwork” signs…

      1. Jen M.*

        “Might have been interesting to ask him how much for a particle-beam weapons upgrade. You know, for those visitors who keep disregarding the “please don’t touch the artwork” signs…”

        Thank you. You just made my day. Now, I want a robot! :P

    3. Beebs*

      I just spent ten minutes looking up robot docents. I had no idea that was a thing. It’s totally a thing.

  28. Ruthan*

    “Wow, it’s really weird that when I said ‘no’, you thought I meant ‘try harder to convince me’.”

    1. Tina*

      That reminds me of the Eva Mendez line early in the movie Hitch when a guy is hitting on her at a bar.

  29. josh*

    Personally, if I found a person like that on the end of the phone with that sort of persistence, I would try to hire them….

    1. Joey*

      You mean someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer?

      We’re letting you go because we’ve received too many complaints about your over aggressiveness with customers.

      Boss, just give me 5 minutes of your time.

      Sorry, we’ve already made the decision and it’s not up for discussion.

      But let me tell you …….

      Nope. This is the end of this meeting. Please leave.

      Just give me 2 minutes to explain.

      Please leave now.


      Leave or I call the cops.


  30. Anonymous*

    OP, I think part of the problem is that what you’re looking for is how to sound more confident–there are people who just have this tone where you know better than to try with them. But you can’t have that confidence if you know your company isn’t going to back you up. So I’d talk to your manager and explain that while you’ll never be rude to anyone, you need to be able to shut down sales calls without fear of repercussions. If they’re not going to buy regardless, why in the world would they want you spending time dragging out these calls?

    Like others have mentioned, you might end up in a loop where the salesperson isn’t allowed to hang up and you feel you can’t either. But don’t try to evade them with hangups or lies; they’ll only keep calling back. (If your manager tries to tell you to use evasive tactics, please point out that it just perpetuates the cycle and ensures you’ll be away from your work way too often in the future).

  31. Windchime*

    How do people actually make a living making these kinds of calls? I haven’t heard of anyone on the receiving end who likes sales calls.

    I had a cold-calling sales job once back in the 80’s. I don’t remember what the product was; maybe windows of some kind? I lasted 2 shifts before I quit. Everyone I called was either annoyed or outrightly rude, and one lady hung up on me (but not before I could tell that I had either awakened her from a nap or interrupted her as she was crying). Either way, that was enough for me and I quit.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t know; I can’t figure out how anyone makes a living with door-to-door anymore, either. That is even worse–schlepping around all day getting turned down to your face.

  32. PPK*

    I’m with the others wondering if the admin can do better screening. In additional to here, I’ve read some funny stories where the people have posted their adventures as an admin trying to pry out enough information from the caller to determine if they’re cold calling for sales or legit.

  33. Greg*

    There’s an important misunderstanding about the Do Not Call list. It’s true that there’s a federal DNC list that, as the OP mentions, is shot through with exemptions and loopholes. However, all businesses are also required to maintain an internal list of customers who do not wish to be contacted by that company.

    That’s what AAM’s advice is spot on. In fact, not only do they need to honor any requests to be removed, they also must end the call immediately. They can’t say, “Are you sure you want to be added?” or “But this is a great deal!” (I think the one exception is that they may be allowed to confirm your information for the purposes of removing you.) So say the magic words and end the call.

    A final note: Be nice about it. The person on the other line may just be a low-level functionary who’s been given a list and told to cold call people. It’s not their fault that they’re annoying you. So just smile, say you’re not interested, ask to be added to the list, wait to confirm, and then hang up.

    1. fposte*

      Unfortunately, as the OP notes, these are often companies with whom they have an existing business relationship and are thus exempt from the DNC rules.

      1. Greg*

        Read my response again. Those are separate lists. There is no exemption that can allow an individual company to contact you after you have made a specific request to be removed from their internal list.

        Imagine you subscribe to a magazine. That’s clearly an “existing business relationship”. But if you tell the magazine to be put on their internal DNC list, they can’t call you. Period. They can send you mail pieces or emails (though you can opt out of those as well), but they can’t dial your number. Same applies in B2B contexts like the OPs.

        1. Anonymous*

          I do remember there being a loophole where the “business relationship” could be renewed automatically, though. I kept asking this call center that kept calling “on behalf of Bank of America” to take me off their list (they were selling PrivacyGuard or some similar product), but the calls kept coming. Finally a BoA rep told me that in their fine print it says that any transaction (deposit, check card usage, etc) renews the “business relationship” and starts the whole cycle over again. So the only way to make the calls stop was to tell them to take me off their list and then never use my bank account again.

          I did one better. I closed the account. But I’m sure other companies have similar loopholes. Unless something changed in the last 2 years or so, they don’t “have to” do anything if their fine print is in order (or if they just don’t care).

      2. Jen M.*

        I have, many times, told companies with whom I have a relationship, told them to not call me unless it pertained to my existing accounts. (Like the phone company tries to upsell you, or your mortgage company tries to get you to refinance with them.) It has worked for me, so far.

  34. Kerr*

    Former admin/receptionist here. Either of AAM’s scripts are good. As soon as you figure out that you’re not interested, just say so and hang up. You don’t owe them any time.

    Also, are you telling the admin when you get calls like this? If not, please do – otherwise she’ll never know that they’re calls you don’t want, and she won’t be able to screen them properly. Let her know, too, that it’s perfectly okay to say thanks, but no thanks, and hang up on an unwanted sales call. She might be equally afraid to hang up if she doesn’t feel that management has her back. (Unless that violates company policy – but I’ve never run into a company that wanted its time wasted that way.)

    1. Greg*

      This is an important point. There seems to be a subrosa theme underlying a lot of the discussion of sales calls, telemarketing, etc. that it’s simply an unavoidable part of modern life, something we are forced to endure whether we like it or not. (That also may explain the juvenile responses some people employ to telemarketers, such as putting their toddler on the phone or pretending they don’t speak English. Lashing out like that is something that people do when they’re annoyed but feel they can’t really do anything about it.)

      The fact is, you have a right to be left alone and marketed to on your own terms, and that’s doubly true when you’re in an office setting on company time (no halfway intelligent employer should want its employees wasting half their day swatting away aggressive salespeople).

      We live in the age of the super-empowered consumer. We dictate our relationships with companies, not the other way around. If you don’t want to be marketed to, simply tell them and trust that they’ll honor your request. You have the law on your side.

      1. fposte*

        That doesn’t actually match my experience, though: most of the calls I get are pseudo-sales but actually scammy, possibly illegal calls from people who have even less interest in the Do Not Call law than they do in fraud statutes (some come from offshore to boot).

  35. nyxalinth*

    I have done telesales, and done fundraising on the phone. I will never go back to either one if I can at all help it. I suck badly at both, and it essentially becomes something I work at for a month or two until I can’t stand it or they fire me for lack of sales. I apologize on behalf of everyone who’s trapped in those jobs.

    I just can’t swallow the rhetoric enough to be a good phone sales person, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

  36. The Wall of Creativity*

    When I get cold calls at home (”international number”) I have a dimple script that I follow.

    Every time they say something, my response is “Is it about the factory?”

  37. mirror*

    Whenever anyone asks to the speak to the owner or the “person in charge of ___”, I always ask:

    “Sure! Can I get your name and why you’re calling?”

    “My name is X. I want to talk to them about Y.” (Most of the time when they tell me about Y, it tips me off that they are a salesperson)

    “And is this something the owner contacted you about?”

    “No, but I know they’ll love to hear more about it!”

    “Okay, we always contact companies we want to work with. If you’d like to leave your name and phone #, owner will call you back if they’re interested.”

    Then the sticky notes goes on owner’s computer monitor, and usually gets thrown away. So far I havent come across any non-stop callers, but if they call again, they will get the same runaround. Takes about 10 secs of time.


    Side story: I once worked for a boss who could not say no to “good” things (supporting local businesses and such). So all the Yellow Pages/School Newspapers from 3 counties/YMCA/kid’s sports clubs/etc would call a lot. And there were 2 or 3 who were horrible and extremely pushy. One had him set up on auto bill each year. He would agree that he needed to cut back on all the charity cases, but our office manager could never enforce it.

    After 5 or 6 attempts to cancel the auto bill, the office manager spent nearly 2 hours in a very heated argument with the company, which refused to cancel the auto-bill until they heard from the “person in charge” (aka the sucker). She had the authority, she even got a signed letter from the owner, but the company wouldnt recognize it.

    Aaaand, as soon as those people got the owner on the phone, he would always cave.

  38. Kristina*

    I don’t understand how all of these people have made it to adulthood and apparently don’t feel comfortable saying “No.” No excuses, no apologies, no deferrals, just a “No, we’re not interested, good bye.” I find it really depressing.

  39. Anonymous*

    I have the fantastic advantage of being able to say “Oh, corporate in [tiny, very far away country with a completely different language and time zone] makes those decisions. You would have to discuss this with them!” It always works! It’s amazing!

  40. Poe*

    I answer the main phone line (and generic “” email address) and I get a few of these every single day. I just say “Sorry, we’re not interested” and hang up. End of story. I’m sure it is astronomically rude, but I just can’t afford to spend even 2 minutes on the phone with 5 or 6 people each day.

  41. OP*

    Thanks for the answers =)

    I don’t feel great about getting the Office Administrator to be more aggressive screening calls because once in a while, I do get an important call. And the salespeople who call me tend to be of the “Extremely Sneaky” variety. For example:

    [Salesperson]: “Hello sir, this is just a courtesy call to let you know I’m working on your broadband lines in your area and it looks like you’re not getting Fibre Internet, would you like me to start a case to resolve that?”

    [Me assuming they are calling from our actual ISP]: “Oh, we should be getting Fibre from you, I haven’t noticed any problems… ”

    [Salesperson]: “Yes, it’s definitely showing up that you are not getting the speed you should be, I’d be happy to help you move over to a Fibre line, it should be pretty simple if I can just take some details?”

    At some point in this conversation it becomes clear that this is not an engineer calling and actaully a salesperson for a random ISP.

    The other favourite introductory line among the more sneaky types is:

    [Salesperson]: “Hello Sir, I’m calling you back from XYZ Web Hosting as I believe you expressed an interest in our Web Hosting?”

    [Me] “No, I don’t think I did actually…”

    [Salesperson] “Oh, it must have been your manager… anyway, I’m just going to run through our offerings and prices, it’ll only take 5 minutes…”

    Anyway, NOW the good news… I got a variant on this call (the former call) today and got off the call in a *record* 30 seconds with the trusty method of hanging up the phone after saying we are not intersted for the second time. No call back either.

    The truth is, I don’t actually mind the calls that much – I just hated not knowing how to deal with them. This didn’t even feel bad!

    Thanks Alison :-)

    1. Trillian*

      Unless fielding cold calls is part of your job, I’d suggest that for the next month you keep a log of these calls, including how long it takes to end the call, and how long it takes you to get back into the groove of your own work after the interruption. Even I’d you don’t mind them, they may be costing you more time than you think.

  42. Jazzy Red*

    Your admin should be the person handling this. Why are you allowing her to keep transferring all these calls to you?

    Your admin needs to be a gatekeeper and squash these people herself. I would have been fired my first admin/secretarial job if I had put salespeople through to my boss. It’s a skill that can be learned, and should be part of the admin job.

  43. Gina D*

    My receptionist is pretty good at screening calls and only putting through people she knows that I want to talk to (this takes a lot of communication). When one does get through and they just won’t stop calling….I lie. “Oh, I’m sorry, our company actually owns part of a distributorship that wholesales office supplies so we aren’t ever looking for a new vendor”. “Oh, I’m sorry, our President’s family members are insurance brokers. They have handled all of our benefit packages and insurance needs for the last 24 years”. “New windows? Sorry, our office is in a warehouse without windows but thanks so much for calling”. Get the idea? If you give the caller a situation that he couldn’t penetrate no matter what….they do stop calling. I’m in the retail/wholesale business for a famous brand. I try not to be rude just because I know the person calling could also be a customer. Good luck!

    1. Ted*

      I guess you are not an actual decision maker. You are a manager of a retail brand, in most cases that means you have no actual DM authority. Stupid on the sales reps part. Stupid on your part for telling lies all day.

  44. Brandon*

    As a salesperson, I would much prefer a quick no, than a long no so even if it’s awkward, pushing to the hang up and giving them a definitive answer is much better than pushing someone off. Personally my company trains us that once we get the hard no, we should move on. Then again, we’re doing well and not desperate for sales!

  45. PoohBear McGriddles*

    Back in the days before called ID and the DNC list, my then-teenage brother would answer calls from telemarketers and turn it around by trying to sell THEM something (e.g. vacuum cleaner). It was hilarious.

    In a professional environment, though, I think the best thing to try first is a simple take me off your list and don’t call back. If that doesn’t work, then maybe they are in the market for a new Hoover :-)

  46. FRRibs*

    No lost love for cold calls here. I used to get multiple calls a week for long distange phone companies (this was the 90s). There were often salespeople who would “forget” you told them to not call again, or would bring in a “sales trainee” and ask to go through the spiel for “training”.

    One occurance in particular was completely frustrating! One month we had a bill from a new long distance company that I have never even talked to. As I was the person who makes these decisions, and everyone else was usually in the field, I contacted the company and they said a “Mr. Lee” requested this service (no Mr. Lee worked there of course). I then called the (Bell) phone company and asked why someone who was not connected with our phone account could transfer our service, and the rep said that they could not refuse a request to change service, and that there was no surefire way to prevent it form happening. We worked something out and I assume this sort of loophole was closed, but I can’t believe it happened.

  47. Alex*

    Don’t think I’ve ever had a pleasant outcome with any cold caller or telemarketer; they’re always selling something you NEVER need!

  48. MissMary*

    Okay. Here’s the deal. I wear waaaaay to many hats; salespeople (and I have been there, done that) have no more interest playing verbal volleyball on folks uninterested in purchases OR talking to those unable to make purchasing decisions. Do The Right Thing. Say, “No, Thanks, Have A Nice Day,” …and HANG UP (as you are muttering “or not, your choice”, under your breath)…. Smiles and Blessings Upon You

  49. MissMary*

    Oops, forgot to provide info you need: in order to be removed from a phone list, you must say (exactly): “Do Not Call This Number”. This is the only true way the company in question is LEGALLY forced to comply. If you say, “I wish you’d stop calling,” etc., then your number will stay on their list/auto dial. If you say “Do Not Call This Number,” and the company ignores you, then track it. It’s worth $1500.0 per occurrence in most states! Smiles and Blessings

  50. Lucky*

    As a relative new employee I have been getting a number of these cold calls. I usually just say that’s not within the scope of my job assignment, say good bye, and hang up. Recently I got a call from someone who asking to “speak to someone at your ABC Company,” and then asked me for my name. I asked the caller, “What is this in reference to, ” and she surprised me by saying, “OK, I’m going to hang up now because you’re being rude.” But she didn’t hang up. So I surprised her by hanging up instead.

    The bottom line – I have no problem just hanging up on someone who will not immediately give me their name, their company’s name, and why they’re calling. I won’t repay their discourtesy with my attention.

  51. Eva R*

    I work for a company that farms out business to business call centers and a couple other things, and I give out free samples.

    This is great advice but here’s one thing I’d love to tell the customers I call who are in OP’s position- We can’t necessarily hang up when you give us a no. The majority of what I say is scripted. If I get a “soft no.” I am supposed to go to followup questions to clarify the company’s policy and see if they might be interested in some services but not others, or to see if we can change their mind. If I get a firm “No thank you.” I have verbiage that I have to keep reading to thank the person for their time and let them know how they can get in touch with our company in the future. I can not stop talking until I get to the end of said verbiage or you hang up. It’s not personal, it’s what the people who sign my checks pay me to do.

    So avoid giving a “soft no” unless you really want a different service or a callback- for example, if you say you are too busy to take a call, we’ll call back. If you are speaking with a cable company, don’t say your office doesn’t use cable unless you want to hear about internet deals. A simple “No thank you.” is absolutely fine. Most call center reps actually prefer it if you politely refuse and then listen to our goodbye or hang up, rather than either getting upset or making us ask you about other options we’ve already inferred that you probably don’t want. As long as you are polite yet firm, we will not consider hanging up rude and will just move on with our day.

    Also, from my understanding, if you speak with a company you have prior business with and you don’t owe them money or anything like that, and you tell the caller “Take my name off your list” or “Do not call us again,” “We don’t want these calls,” etc. they legally are not allowed to call you again, but you need to specifically say it in a way that can’t be second guessed. So

    “Hello, I’m calling to ask if I can speak to someone about getting you savings on copier toner.”

    “Our office policy is not to take solicitation calls, please remove this number from your list.”

    “Thank you. If you ever want to find savings on copier toner, printer paper, or ink cartridges, you can check out our website at Have a wonderful day!”

  52. Ted*

    In any organization the life blood of the company is the sales department. If your role does not involve business development you are categorized as “maintenance”. By reading the comments on this thread I can tell that most of the people on this thread do not have actual purchasing power at their company. Partly, this is dumb on the sales reps end. Partly, this is dumb on your end. Why juggle with “how to deal with them politely”? Just hang up. Trust me, as a Vice President of sales for a marketing company, sales reps will get the message and move on to the next call.

    SOMETIMES the caller is calling with something that would be of value to your company. You should listen to the message that the caller is trying to communicate. If they are good at what they do you will know within the first 30 seconds if what they have to offer would be of any value you. I have been turned down by a non-decision maker, I would then find out who the actual DM is, call them, and boom. . . We have got a deal after a meeting or two. And most of the time there was a value added to the company.

    Bottom line, hang up if you see no value. If the rep is persistent he or she will find the actual DM and pitch him or her.

    Also, do not keep a caller on the line just to toy around. This is their job and main source of income. By being obviously fake and rude you will ruin their confidence and that will effect their sales activity for the day. This could possibly lead to the caller performing at a lower rate of productivity and result in a loss of income. Please just hang up and go back to your maintenance job.

      1. Ted*

        It is a tad bit funny that you are expressing that you were a little offended by me calling non sales roles derisive when this whole blog page is about calling the profession of a sales rep derisive. That is not my intent. Unless if you are an engineer who develops new software/hardware or product that can generate the business more cash flow (contingent upon sales efforts/success), a sales professional that proactively reaches out to other businesses to develop new business (so the company can stay afloat and everyone can get paid) then you really are categorized as “maintenance” by your company’s leadership team. I am sorry to be the presenter of bad news, but executive teams lay the utmost importance on sales efforts and product developments. I sit in on these meetings every week. Why do you think engineers and sales reps make more than you do (if they’re good at their jobs)? Why do you think a guy with only a BA can make more than a surgeon if he is with the right software company and is able to go above quota? The office manager provides me nothing to sell, he/she just keeps things organized (which I appreciate!). If your company does have to incur the unfortunate scenario of a lay off all of the top sales reps will be safe. It will be middle management, assistants and low performers that will be automatically put on the chopping block.

  53. mike*

    have the sales persons fill this in and see how fast the crooked ones run away

    sales persons appointment request

    company name ——————————————

    company address ——————————————

    company phone/fax number —————————————

    sales persons name——————————————

    sales persons home address ————————————–

    sales persons home phone number——————————

    sale persons cell phone number———————————–

    attach copy of sales persons drivers licsence here ***

    the purpose of this fourm is in case we do not like your product, or feel we were ripped off. we will come after you, not your company

    I agree to these terms

    sales person sign and date here ———————————-

    1. Ted*

      Seems that you do not have a handle on your business. I am sure that you have been burned by a sales rep or two in the past, I only assume based off of this childish form that you put up. It is up to you, the purchaser, to understand the service that is being offered. But it looks like you have been wowed and sold on useless stuff too many times. Too bad. Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and many others were built on sales people of integrity. Hate on the profession as much as you want. This is the profession that allows you to earn more than a surgeon. In an ethical way, too.

  54. Ted*

    Also, Mike. What do you mean by “come after you, not your company?” You obviously can’t sue the sales rep (also, you can’t sue just because you do not like something you bought). So, you going to go after this person and punch them? Mike, are you even a business owner? Or are you an employee? Just trying to grasp where you are at in terms of dealing with sales reps.

  55. mike*


    Thank you for the response to my posting.

    In short, we used to have weekly parade of sales persons show up here trying to promote merchant service credit card service ( which includes a bogus leas of a credit card machine at many times it value)

    also in the “parade” were walk in sales persons trying to get us to switch our phone service, and other obvious schemes.

    Since we started handing them the form, the walk in sales persons are few and far between,
    so I would say the word got our among the scammers.

    1. Ted*

      Ah, okay. Well in that case, for that crowd, I would actually take my comments back and applaud your efforts.

  56. Dan*

    I used to feel the same way as a lot of posters on this forum, until one day I came to a startling reality. That reality is that most anyone who has a job is paid as a result of some sort of sales activity. I recently heard it said that everyone works on commission, even if they’re salary. A salary is just a pre-determined rate of commission. Most people don’t like dealing with sales people, and yet, most earn their living because someone in their company sold something on their behalf. Think about it – if sales weren’t up to par at your company, and there wasn’t enough profit to pay your salary, what happens to your job? Too many people don’t think about that side of the equation.

    This is not to say that there aren’t unscrupulous sales people out there, but I believe that most are honestly doing the work that we would never want to do so that we can make a living. The next time you get paid, think of where that paycheck came from. It didn’t appear out of thin air. Most likely, it came from the efforts of someone who has the persistence to deal with being hung up on and having doors slammed in their face all day long, looking for that one lead that will say “yes”. Like it or not, ours is a profit-driven economy, and profits only result when someone is selling and someone else is buying. We seem quick to slam sales professionals, but many of us would be unwilling to walk a mile in their shoes.

  57. Diane*

    What your not realising is – sales people also have a job too do – WHAT IF – they are phoning about something that could ACTUALLY save you money? – or provide just the service you didn’t even know you needed….but could revolutionise the company? Or they were offering something free – like funding services?
    I find alot of ‘receptionists’ total power trippers – why not entertain a conversation once in a while?
    Just think how the ‘lowly’ sales person feels and i can guarantee you its not as frustrated as you feel as a gatekeeper – 3 calls a week? Try making 300 of these a week!
    We’re all people at the end of the day, just trying to do a job.
    Maybe if companies let more sales calls through it would be better for the economy!

  58. Clever Girl*

    I have created the perfect solution to completely stump and shut-down solicitors that offer their services/products to help you increase your sales or business.

    I simply tell them in a very confident and stern manner that…

    “We already have more business than we can handle and are looking to decrease business!”

    I have yet to find one solicitor who has a come-back to that.

  59. Diane*

    Seriously people – If ALL the sales calls stop. The economy stops. Sales calls are good for the economy. Let some through!

  60. Rachel*

    The best way to deal with these people is simply to say “We are not interested, now take our number off your call list and don’t contact us again”. Then, don’t hang up. Don’t say anything else. Don’t respond in any way to any further attempts to continue the conversation. If you must, put the receiver in a drawer and wait for them to finally get the message and hang up. There’s nothing quite so disconcerting to someone that ignores your clear instruction to stop talking to you as your stopping responding to their one-sided attempts to continue to engage you in conversation. Often, these people have been told they are not *allowed* to hang up. So let them get caught up in a loop of their own misguided logic. Some are dumb enough to keep trying for 40 minutes or more. During which time you’ll be saving someone else from being disturbed by them, and wasting their time on purpose.

    These people are parasites that add zero value to society. Treat them with the contempt they deserve and they’ll finally get the message that attempting to waste your time only saps their own for no gain.

    1. Jason*

      haha – being a receptionist sucks, huh? If the salesmen at your company stopped making sales, you would probably not have a job to complain about anymore.

  61. Jamie Shaw*

    You should think twice before dismissing Sales people. If your company had no sales, they would have no money to pay people like yourself. You are not earning the company any income, and are put in place to operate the company so that it can fulfill the sales. All companies are in business to make sales, the harder you make it for sales to occur, the worse for the economy. Obviously there is a limit, and you cant field every sales call, but hearing about better ways to increase margins, and improve processes is what moves everyone ahead. This type of stagnant thinking is not suprising, as most people just want to have an “easy day” and really contribute nothing to the economy. They do not have the guts to be in sales, and therefore sit around getting “frustrated” with sales calls, and not realizing that those same calls they are avoiding are paying their own salary. If you want to make more money, your company needs more sales, and people have to at least entertain “3 calls a week” boo hoo cry me a river your job is a joke!

    1. Rachel*

      Ah, yes, the old “sympathy for the devil” fallacy. We should probably feel sorry for burglars, bankers and Al Quaida too right? I mean, if they weren’t out stealing, causing global financial catastrophes and blowing shit up, however would they support their families?

      1. Diane*

        Dear Rachel – you my dear, are a bit of a disgrace. How can you liken sales people to burglars, bankers and Al Quaida?

        Sales people are not terrorists. Some may be thief’s but some ‘workers’ may also be thieves to their companies aswell so that’s a totally irrelevant point.

        1. Rachel*

          ‘Dear’ Diane, I can make the comparison for one simple reason. All of these types of people aggressively push their agenda and interests upon other people that have no interest in either. Though I do appreciate some terrorists and burglars will be offended at being considered in the same breath as salespeople. Because at least they are honest about breaking the law for their own personal gain.

    2. Diane*


      Every business needs income and revenue. Or they shut down. Sales people – even if they are reactive (taking incoming sales calls) will make outgoing sales calls at times. Without sales people – there is not revenue and no income = no jobs for anyone.

  62. Jesse*

    I receive on average 3 unsolicited calls from salespeople each day. My director gets even more than I do! I just stopped answering my phone except for internal calls. No feelings of remorse whatsoever :-)

  63. Jen*

    I’m a sales manager myself. Here’s the deal – we don’t want to waste our time either.

    Here’s how you deal with us… just be honest. If you try to shut us down, it’s literally our job to keep going. If you hang up or lie that you’re not the person in question, we can tell and we *have* to keep going. Especially if your company was the one that initiated the inquiry in the first place.

    We don’t want to waste our time and yours though. Here’s how you deal with it to save time and frustration:

    1. Unless you need someone to call you, don’t place an inquiry. If you are just looking at prices, that’s OK, be honest! Often though businesses that require you to register to get pricing are complicated, and the process isn’t there to trap you into a sale. There are usually things like legal issues, tax issues or other things like that you really need to be aware of, or implications you really should know about.

    2. If you place an inquiry with a company and you’re getting phone calls or emails, don’t just ignore them or hit the “spam” button in your email. All that does is make bad salespeople better at being annoying by learning what gets through and what doesn’t. Usually just a “We’re no longer in the market, but we’ll keep you on file if we reconsider. Please remove us from your list.” is fine. Until they know though, they simply can’t stop in case you’re just busy and need them to keep following up. It happens far more than you’d think!

    3. If you’re getting a cold caller, sometimes it’s faster to just engage with them and let them know what really WOULD make you reconsider. Like the paper supplier example: “Unless you can cut our rates in half, we’re really happy with what we have. We’re paying X and they have great service. Can you guarantee the same service for half the price? Otherwise to be honest, the time cost of changing is too much for us.” You might end up with a WAY better deal than you thought, or letting them know that they can’t do business with you without that better deal.

    4. Another trick for cold callers… consider an answering service or an IVR/PBX and create an option for vendors. For anyone that doesn’t go through your vendor process “I’m sorry, we absolutely can’t consider vendors that haven’t gone through our incoming vendor process. We only reach out to vendors that follow this policy on an as-needed basis.” Stick to it.

    5. Don’t lie about whether they have the right/wrong number. Now that LinkedIn, FB and other social media sites exist, it’s easy to tell and standard procedure to check back later. If you really don’t need them, you’re just wasting your time later when you could be rid of them forever by being honest.

    ** 4 is a big one! Not only are you creating a place for vendors to go, but you cut down on time looking for options to go with when you actually need one. Shopping uses valuable business day time, and if you can cut a process down to an hour that took a day before, that’s a LOT of money in gained productivity. **

    You don’t have time to waste these days, neither do salespeople. Work with that instead of fighting it. Instead of struggling like fingers stuck in a Chinese finger trap… relax and slide your fingers out. You’ll be happy you did, and they’ll be happy they don’t have to keep calling someone that they’re not sure needs them or not.

    Good luck!

  64. Michael*

    Great post,
    Working in the field of direct sales training I speak for many of us out there. We have thick skin and “should be trained” to follow three of the same no’s and go. Some of us have over three hundred calls to make that day. If you are not our prospective client, I agree, please let us know politely that you are not interested.

    We will still attempt to show you a benefit with the limited information we have about you, but at the same time would rather you (in this order):
    1. listen completely with an open mind
    2. schedule a time that works best to listen with an open mind
    3. listen with a skeptical mind and ask questions
    4. Tell us you’re not interested 3x
    5. Tell us no and end the conversation, but please don’t listen to an entire pitch with the mental attitude of saying “no” once the salesperson is finished, it is unfair to both of us. -Hope this helps with perspective, because the best salespeople are great listeners; not speakers.

  65. Alice*

    As someone who has to take calls from cold callers all day, I can tell you they don’t care about being tactful. I’ve had people pretending to be the police, people with fake accents and demanding home phone numbers, people claiming to be employees demanding mobile numbers and other personal details. I’ve literally just had someone doing two of those I’ve just mentioned but he also managed to change the chairman’s name to 5 variations of a swearword thinking I would be too stupid to notice and then he went on to threaten me.

    Don’t give them anything. Tell them the company has a “preferred suppliers list” and to be considered they would need to send something in through the post and address it to the procurement department. Whether you have one or not. If they’re still bugging you, put them back through to the Receptionist and just say that the call isn’t for you.

    Also, set your ringer on low and only a few rings to voicemail. Oh and perfect the “oops I think I cut them off oh well they’ll ring back” look.

    All cold calling is negative marketing, it ruins brands and wastes an enormous amount of time. Companies would make more money throwing actual spaghetti at walls.

    1. Diane*

      Dear Alice.

      I am sure, before your company made it’s millions of pounds, that you had a sales team. Im sure they still do have a sales team.

      I would be unemployed and living on the streets, if i didnt have a job, and my company, and 4 other people’s jobs rely on me making new connections, via the telephone with companies.

      I do not understand these tactics that ‘sales people’ take that you are talking about. They are grim to say the least. i’m certainly a true salesperson, more of an account manager, and ive never treat someone like they way you’ve said people phone you.

      BUT, i would never treat a sales person they way i’ve been treated, like scum, like we’re the lowest of the low, the scum of the ******* universe. And we’re not. Sales people are essential to the start up of any company, existing companies and of course large ongoing companies. Without sales people, how do you get the information out there that there’s something to buy? Sit back and wait for companies to come to you? you’ll be bust in a week.

      There are many receptionists who could gain some insight if they partook in telephone training.

  66. Sam*

    I’m the head of IT and my approach is pretty direct.

    Sales person: “Hello, I’m calling from X and would like to talk to you abo-”
    Me: “Let me just stop you there, it’s the IT departments policy not to respond to cold calls.”

    Stopping them mid-spiel is powerful because it’ll throw them off and lets them know you’re assertive and that trying to continue is pointless. I generally give them a second to acknowledge and hang up or say goodbye, if they try and debate the issue I’ll generally just say goodbye and hang up. The fact is that the more direct and assertive you are the quicker you’ll end the call. I’m not overly concerned about coming across as rude because honestly who cares, it’s not something with repercussions for the business.

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