how can I avoid business contacts who just want to pitch me?

A reader writes:

I often get requests for phone conversations from people in related industries who want to “ask my opinion” about some aspect of my area of expertise. After 30 minutes of conversation, it always turns into a sales pitch for whatever product they’re working on or company they’re consulting for.

I find this incredibly rude. I get it both from people I’ve met at conferences or networking events as well as complete strangers. I’m less likely to agree to a phone call with a stranger, since I assume it’s more likely to be about selling me something, but find it awkward to decline a call with someone I’ve met, especially if I’m likely to see them again.

How can I agree to a conversation with someone but say at the outset “please don’t make this a sales call” without being rude myself? I know that etiquette advisers say that responding to other people’s rudeness doesn’t make you the rude one, and I’m fine with that in my personal life, but professionally, I don’t want to get a reputation as a jerk (unjust though it might be). These conversations do help establish me in my field as authoritative about my area of expertise and I think they can help me broaden my professional reputation (which then leads to invitations for speaking engagements and so on), so I don’t necessarily want to just outright refuse them — they’re not entirely a waste of time. But I don’t like feeling like I’ve been taken advantage of.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 76 comments… read them below }

  1. GrooveBat*

    This is why I’ve pretty much stopped accepting LinkedIn connection requests from people I haven’t met. I’d love to be able to network and learn from people in my field, but without exception every single one of these leads to a flurry of sales pitches that I simply have no patience for.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I just tell them I don’t have any money, lol. “I’m sorry; that’s not in my budget right now. Because my budget is zero.”

    2. CW*

      As someone who is discreet and picky about who I connect on LinkedIn because I am just a private person by nature, I can’t stress how annoying this is. In fact, I once accepted someone and less than a minute later he sent me a marketing message. I removed him as a connection instantly and notified LinkedIn, and guess what? They accepted the report that it was spam. I will not take anything like that lying down.

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Yeah. I only connect with people on LinkedIn that I have worked with. Probably not the best way to network, but at least I know that if they contact me it is likely to be for something legit

    4. Meep*

      I think the one good thing my toxic former boss did for me was give me a healthy fear of accepting people on LinkedIn first thing out of college. Her reasons for it were based around control (she literally told me to never add anyone on LinkedIn without running it by her first) but I still don’t accept anyone I have not met and talked to at length at least once.

    5. Enginerd*

      Yeah I just say “that isn’t my role here”. I get constant emails and calls after a conference or tech summit about how to optimize this or secure that. Ugh. I just tell the truth: “I’m not a buyer or in a position to make those decisions.” Click.

      1. Koalafied*

        When that’s genuinely true, I will forward it to the person who could make such a decision with a note at the top that says something like “FYI – do what you will with this, just passing along.” Then I reply back to the sender that, “I’m not a decision-maker for those purchases, but I’ve forwarded your message to the appropriate person.” That way I can get them to stop hounding me without just passing that burden to another person!

        Before I started doing that, when I said I wasn’t a decision-maker for a purchase I was very frequently met with “May I have the contact info for the person who is?” And even with my current approach, some will still have the gumption to reply asking if I can share that person’s contact info. To them I say, “I don’t give out others’ contact information, but they have yours and will be in touch if there’s interest.”

  2. PinaColada*

    I personally disagree with the Sales-Pitch advice, since it sounds like the person doesn’t necessarily *want* to do the call, they just don’t want to make things awkward with someone they have met and might run into again.

    I’m usually “team up-front” about this kind of thing. Sending an email that says, “I’d love to set up a call if you want to pick my brain on ___. Before we do that, I want to check in on something. I’m finding that sometimes people transition these calls into a sales conversation. I’m not in the market for any purchases right now, but again, if you’d like to get my advice on ___, I’m happy to chat!”

    ^(or something along these lines)

    1. PinaColada*

      Oh I just saw the last part where they said the calls do have some benefit to them. But yeah I would still be up front in a diplomatic way, with whatever wording feels right for the situation and industry.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      And inevitably they’ll agree “no sales pitch” in the e-mail, but once you’re on the phone with them: “oh, also, our company has this great offer that …” (picture a mushroom cloud exploding out of my skull!)

      I would first ask them who their immediate boss is and their contact information. Record the call and the email, and as soon as they say anything contrary to their promise, you terminate the call and report this unscrupulous person to their boss. Include the email they sent and the recorded phone call as well (maybe clip the part you want to have them pay attention to or include a time-stamp.)

      What mileage you get out of that will likely be none, but if you can instill the fear of G*d in this person, it may help.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Their boss is probably totally on board with them making these sales pitches.

        Also, starting a call by asking who someone’s boss is will come across strangely.

          1. Kal*

            For the people who are calling to make sales pitches, yes. But asking someone who is legitimately just contacting you for their advice will make them think there is something off about you. The problem for OP is that they want to head off the sale pitch people without it harming their reputation with the people who are legitimately contacting them.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          Perhaps. But if they want to waste my team asking for my insights just to feed me a sales pitch, I’m more than happy to put a wall between me and them! And yes, I know their boss likely put them up to this. But if they want to be jerks, I can be one too! (insert sh*t-faced grin here!)

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            If you’re that averse to having your time wasted, just don’t take the calls!

            If you get value out of networking calls, then dealing with sales pitches is the price you have to pay. If you don’t get value out of them, then don’t spend your time on them. But there’s not really a way to get the networking value and build relationships and never get a sales pitch – your strategy to avoid the sales pitch will just tank the relationship building aspect and make the whole thing even more of a waste of time.

        2. ShowTime*

          Also, recording the call (without the caller’s permission? or are you going to say you’re recording it just in case they try to make a sales pitch?) and then sending it to their boss is going nuclear and will reflect terribly on you, not the sales pitch-er.

      2. PinaColada*

        Yeah it definitely doesn’t completely ward off the stealth sales pitch… but it can reduce the number of them. And whether you go nuclear with the above option, or just abruptly say “I’m sorry, I thought I said I wasn’t available for a sales call—I’ll have to go but best wishes in your endeavor” …When you’ve set it up in advance, you have a little more standing to be abrupt or even annoyed during the call.

      3. Lynca*

        Going full scorched earth over a sales pitch is going to do nothing but tank your credibility in the field. I can’t imagine having to deal with someone doing this, and if I did I would not think highly of them.

      4. Guacamole Bob*

        This is a weirdly hostile approach to take if these calls often do have some networking value. If getting caught in a sales pitch now and then is intolerable, just turn down all these kinds of calls to start with. But if you want the networking, speaking engagements, referrals, etc., then this approach will hurt you by making you seem really cold and out of step with the norms of networking.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think anyone you “reported” that to would think it was extremely odd. Definitely don’t do that.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      This is what struck me.
      OP asks what to say to someone who called for information and pivoted into a sales pitch without being rude.
      OP, if you are feeling a rude statement coming on, you’ve been in the conversation too long.
      If it feels like a sales call (the person calling you is doing more talking than you), it’s a sales call. You can end the conversation. It’s disappointing to the caller, not rude.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        This. Name the situation (“It sounds like this is morphing into a sales call, which isn’t what I signed up for” and end the call (“I’m not looking to purchase anything right now, so I’m going hop off and get ready for my next meeting”).

        You’ll burn a bridge but only with irritating salespeople.

  3. Campfire Raccoon*

    I tell people to shoot me an email with their questions. However if they’re especially pushy I tell them I charge for professional consultations, say it usually takes 10-15 hours at whatever rate I feel is cheeky that day, and tell them they need to provide me a signed PO before we schedule anything. Then they admit its a sales call and bounce. But… I don’t mind being known as a jerk.

    1. Eliza*

      I’ve heard of people in tech who have started handling this kind of situation with refundable deposits: you put up a few hundred dollars for the right to talk to them, and they give it back afterwards if they agree that it wasn’t a waste of their time. But I suspect there are a lot of industries where that model would be received poorly.

    2. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

      I was going to suggest this as well. You want my opinion? Here are my consulting rates, per 15-minute blocks of time. Payable in advance. Let me know how you want to proceed. The sales pitchers will probably vanish.

      Your time and expertise are valuable. May as well claim that stance.

      I also like Eliza’s suggestion of a refundable deposit, but honestly why not charge a small fee for your time and opinions?

  4. Sea Anemone*

    I know that etiquette advisers say that responding to other people’s rudeness doesn’t make you the rude one

    Which etiquette advisor says that? Miss Manners says exactly the opposite, which is that one should pretend the rudeness did not happen and respond with grace. That doesn’t mean being a doormat, but it does mean your response needs to be polite and respectful.

    In this case, it means you pretend that they did not finagle their way to a phone call under false pretenses and respond the same way you would have if they had been upfront about making a pitch: you politely tell them that you aren’t interested and politely end the call.

    “Thanks for letting me know about your new widget designs. I’m afraid I’m not interested. I do have other calls, so I’m going to have to let you go. Bye now.”

    Allow for some responses between the sentences. I find a “bye now” is an unambiguous way to close a call.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this is a reference to the concept of returning the awkward to sender–don’t try to smooth the social interaction with someone who is stomping boundaries and relying on their targets to value keeping things pleasant and Not Make A Fuss.

      It’s a good idea, but can be too much if someone goes off half-cocked with Awkward-Colored glasses on. (“I have discovered a hammer, and am now seeking nails…”). Society does rest on everyone doing some smoothing so we can interact in groups. Some people will have made it awkward–and realized it and self-corrected. Letting their one-off be a one-off is the right thing.

      1. Koalafied*

        Yeah, I think it’s not “you can be rude back if someone is rude to you,” but rather, “Politeness does not require that you acquiesce unreasonable demands in situations where politeness ostensibly should have prevented the demander from making the demands in the first place.” As in, just because someone else threw all notions of decency out the window doesn’t mean they’re gone for good; you are fully entitled reassert them.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Captain Awkward is big on “return awkwardness to sender” and the idea that the person who initiates the rude/awkward interaction is the person ultimately responsible for it.

      1. Well...*

        I don’t think she uses it unilaterally though. It’s a very nice strategy in many situations, but it’s not always the best move. Giving people grace is also very useful.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Giving people grace is most useful when you have a relationship to maintain, which isn’t really the case here. I think LW is justified in being kind and giving grace OR in shutting it down more bluntly — whatever way you slice it, there’s not really a world where LW is rude unless they start like, shouting or name-calling.

    3. mcfizzle*

      If the people asking for the expertise are essentially wasting LW’s time under the initial guise before pivoting to the sales pitch, then I think s/he is entitled to ask up front / otherwise set boundaries. To me, it’s bad faith on the part of the sales pitcher.
      There’s also many reasons why I should never be Ms. Manners, but in my experience, calling out someone’s rudeness is the best way to actually stop the behavior. Or at least to make it clear that behavior is *not* okay. While I would say that screaming or cussing, etc, obviously shouldn’t be part of the response, I don’t think the response itself has to be polite nor respectful. A short, pointed, “you are wasting my time by asking me questions you don’t care about just to ease me into a sales pitch is not okay” is justified.
      I take the same stance on the unending amount of unsolicited crappy sales / non-profit / political calls that come into my cell phone. I don’t appreciate it, and it’s okay that I can say that I don’t appreciate it and take me off whatever list I’m on.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Putting Alison into practice, here
        Caller begins a sales pitch and OP states, “I am not in the market for that now.”
        If caller replies, “oh? you don’t like saving money? You don’t like having the best?’
        then “what an odd question,” or “that’s very rude,” both fit.
        (I can’t think of better examples, because I’d answer with “yes, you’re right. Good bye.” But the point is that it’s not rude to tell someone politely but clearly to stop treating you badly.

      2. Koalafied*

        I don’t think the response itself has to be polite nor respectful. A short, pointed, “you are wasting my time by asking me questions you don’t care about just to ease me into a sales pitch is not okay” is justified.

        I would actually spin it with a slightly different slant – instead of, “You can be blunt and don’t have to soften your delivery, because you don’t have to be polite/respectful to someone who has overstepped boundaries,” I’d phrase it as, “Being blunt and not softening your language is within the acceptable limits of politeness when responding to someone who has overstepped boundaries.”

        This actually makes sense, because in a lot of cases, politeness/social grace asks that we sometimes modulate our behavior to mirror the other person’s. If someone addresses you as, “Ms Mcfizzle,” politeness says you should address them in return as, “Ms Koalafied.” But if they never went to finishing school and say “Yo, Mcfizzle, nice to meetcha!” then it’s perfectly appropriate for you to address them in turn as, just, “Koalafied,” even if they haven’t specifically said, “Call me Koalafied.” Their manner of greeting established the appropriate level of formality. It wouldn’t be wrong to still call them “Ms Koalafied” in response, but politeness doesn’t demand it the way it would if they had addressed you as “Ms Mcfizzle” first.

        So in the Captain Awkward type of scenario, the awkward thing the person has done has established a different context with different standards of politeness. If your coworker keeps asking you for a ride, or a guy keeps asking you out, and you’ve repeatedly declined with a polite fig leaf of an excuse, what the coworker/guy is telling you is that polite fig leafs are not required in this situation. It doesn’t mean you go straight from, “Sorry, I’m washing my hair,” to “F*** off,” – that would still be rude no matter how improper the other person is for ignoring your polite refusal. But it does mean you get to say, “I’m not interested, and I’m not ever going to be interested.”

  5. fposte*

    I was going to say that your suggested wording doesn’t sound at all rude, and then I remembered I’m totally task-oriented. That being said, I still think that’s acceptable wording from the person being asked for a favor–it’s a yes and the setting of terms.

    1. Coenobita*

      I’m a pretty relationship-oriented person and it seems fine to me too! I don’t get a lot of sales pitches (thank goodness) but I get a lot of networking inquiries from students, recent grads, and others who are trying to move into my field, and I use a similar approach in those cases. I find that it helps focus the call on what the person actually wants to talk about, as well as helping me avoid having informational interviews turn into “actually I just want you to help me get a job” conversations.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I am (well, was) in a very service-oriented area of academics, and I similarly developed some focus triage. It also made the discussions a lot more useful for the person seeking advice.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      My thought is that
      1) it won’t offend the truly pushy sales person who will push onward anyway;
      2) it should help the earnest advice seekers. I’d use it as an opportunity to clarify for myself and OP what I wanted to ask. (I also hate talking on the phone)
      3) a person who is thrown off by this may feel OP is not worth the effort, or is somehow “blocking” them and may chose not to follow up.
      In any case, it’s a small price to pay for otherwise free advice.

  6. Richard Hershberger*

    The part I wonder about is how successful is lying up front as a sales strategy? I sometimes am the person picking up the phone in my office. I also am not the person who could conceivably buy a product or service. I have heard a lot of lies from people making sales calls, first trying to keep me on the line, and then to get past me. The one that sticks in my mind successfully got past me to my boss by claiming to be a lawyer in another state seeking local counsel for a client. This is entirely plausible. While you would prefer to call someone you know, or at least recommended by someone you know, that isn’t always possible, and you hit Google and pick up the phone. This is why I forwarded the call. But of course I also told him what it was about. So when the guy turned out to be pitching a referral service, he outed himself as a liar. Using a referral service is plausible. Using one that begins the relationship by lying is not.

    I get the psychology. The guy making the call needs to talk to a decision-maker. I am not it, presenting a short term goal of getting past me doing whatever it takes. Or the truly egomaniacal might be utterly convinced of their persuasiveness, rendering the preliminary lie irrelevant. So I’m not wondering why people do this. I just wonder how often it results in a sale.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      The absolute best, most charitable interpretation I can think of is that they’re hoping it won’t be a lie anymore: that once they’ve started this conversation with the LW, that she’ll genuinely develop an interest in what they’re selling? Still not terribly likely, though.

      The thing about pretending to be looking for local counsel, though? That’s just weird. And shooting themselves in the foot, as you said.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      Oof. My reactions on this thread may be more charitable because I deal with people where I know they work for a potential vendor and there really is a networking element. I’ve never had someone straight-up lie to start off a pitch call, and I’d be a lot less tolerant of these kinds of calls if that happened to me regularly.

    3. Hannah Lee*

      My favorite lying to get/sell something story was at a job I had between jobs – temporarily filling in at my sister’s husband’s company when his front desk person had to take emergency leave.

      A call came in from someone claiming they were organizing a birthday party for the company CEO. “It’s a surprise party though, so don’t tell him” The caller wanted the names of company employees so they could send invitations. I kept them on the phone for a while, playing like I was genuinely interested in the details: where are you having it? Oh, that places is great! etc etc. They kept pushing for names and contact info. Finally I said “before I give out any information, I just have to ask … who are you?”
      The caller said “oh, you wouldn’t know my name. I’m his sister-in-law” To which I replied “That’s funny, which one? (they mumbled some fake name) It’s weird we never met … because I’m his sister in law too!”

      They could not hang up fast enough.

      (I suspect it was a recruiter trying to poach engineering staff. They figured they could get names out of a temp receptionist, and spoke to me like I was a complete airhead AS-IF! (often the front desk folks know everything NEVER talk down to them)

  7. LadyByTheLake*

    Ugh — when I was at a large financial institution I always got these requests — usually from people I knew from conferences and trade associations. I was able to deflect some of them by saying, when they asked for the call/conversation/meeting, “Of course I’m always happy to talk with you, but I’ll warn you up front that if this is to pitch your business, I don’t make those decisions.” Right away they would either reassure me that that wasn’t their intent and make it clear what they wanted, or (when it turned out that a sale was their intent) they would ask me if I would be able to make an introduction to the decision maker. Every. Single. Time. Once the true intent was out there, I could respond accordingly.

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      Yeah, I usually know when the person asking for a call is working for a company that would like to have a business relationship with my agency and can set expectations up front like you do. It helps that everyone knows that we couldn’t just buy their product straight out, we’d have to go through an RFP process with our procurement team, so no one is trying to put me on the spot with a sales pitch.

      Often they do still want to talk to me – if they can cultivate potential end users to advocate internally for us to buy their software, that’s still worth their time. Or if they can learn about some of my projects and let their product development team know about a new feature to consider, or to better target a future demo to our needs. But it ends up being more “business development” than “sales pitch”, and I’m often kind of interested in knowing about new vendors in my niche industry anyway so I don’t mind. Plus my industry niche is small enough that the networking is generally useful – the sales person I’m talking with may end up organizing a conference panel next year, or applying for a job with us the year after.

    2. OG LW*

      This is the simplest and best response, I think. (This was my letter to Alison that I wrote several years ago – my life has completely changed since then and I’m thrilled to no longer be in a role where people try to pitch me anything, but I would totally use your language if it were still the case.)

  8. e271828*

    If they really have questions, they can email the questions, you can fire off a couple of quick answers or references to papers or whatever if warranted, and you can set up a conversation in your own time and on your own schedule if it doesn’t look like a pitch setup.

    1. hamsterpants*

      This is the best answer. It sounds like you’re getting a lot of these calls so even someone relationship-oriented should understand that you have to screen who you talk to. If the answer is vague then do not engage. It’s OK to train people to not waste your time.

    2. Ama*

      This is my policy (implemented with my boss’s blessing) — if they can give me a quick overview of what they actually want to talk to me about in an email I can tell you very quickly if it will be worth my time. If you just have vague phrases about “let’s see how we can collaborate” (which means you are fishing to see if my nonprofit employer is willing to offer you access to either the researchers we work with or the patient data we have collected, neither of which you will be getting), you aren’t getting me on the phone.

  9. Essentially Cheesy*

    Let’s be real. No one has time for that. Don’t take the calls. If I am on the phone at all, it is five minutes or less.

    1. CBB*

      That’s good advice in general, but in LW’s specific case, it sounds like they need to take calls to advance their career and book speaking engagements.

      Since LW is themselves seeking opportunities, it may be that having to brush off unwanted pitches is part of the cost of doing business.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, you can either network with people who work for companies that would like to do business with yours and deal with the resulting sales pitches, or you can dodge those people and not have to deal with the sales pitches but also miss out on the networking benefits. There’s not a good way to get just the parts you want out of that interaction.

        It can help to be up front about your lack of interest in a sales pitch or your lack of authority to make purchasing decisions – LadyByTheLake has good framing above. And you can limit the time you put into these calls. But you can’t extract benefits from the interaction and completely close off what you have to offer that benefits the other person (i.e. your value as a sales prospect).

        1. BeenThere*

          The other thing that is useful is to set aside a specific time block for these calls and do them back to back.

          I do this with recruiters who want 15 minutes to (usually) bait and switch me to a position I was explicit about not wanting. Set them in all the same chunk serves multiple purposes, I’m in the right mental context to handle the calls, I have to cut them off on time because the next person is calling and if I get to cut the call short because it’s not a good fit I can have another 5-10 minutes to do something small on my chore list.

          Being in California and in the before times, I would schedule these all before I had to arrive in the office, sometimes I was home, sometime in my car. After doing this for a while I started to recognize the pattern of recruiters that didn’t have serious roles and was able to make my search more effective.

  10. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    “I’d love to help with your project! To get started, please send over a synopsis of the project so that I have a frame of reference for what you’re aiming to achieve. My retainer fee is $x and my hourly rate is $y. Let me know the best email address to send over the engagement contract. Look forward to working with you!”

    This has been extremely helpful in weeding out sales calls.

    1. Canadian Valkyrie.*

      Wouldn’t that assume that this is for consulting and not just regular networking though? If I just wanted to network with other people in my field and they came back and asked for money for, say, an informational interview, I would find that bizarrely out of touch with the request and I work in a field where consultation is EXTREMELY normal and basically a job requirement. There’s a time and place basically and the distinction is the obvious. I guess my point is that I’m sure as hell not charging people for every last conversation they might initiate with me.

  11. Magenta Sky*

    I get a lot of calls about “we’re doing a survey,” which is essentially what this is.

    I only do surveys that pay me for my time. Made $100 once on an actual survey. The other 99.99999999% of the time, that’s the end of the conversation.

    1. La Triviata*

      I went through a period when I got repeated calls from someone doing a “survey”. They were calling from someplace that had really terrible phone connections (static and kept dropping out), the people didn’t seem to have ever seen the introductory text or questions before, so it was terribly time consuming for them to even get to the first question. I took to just hanging up on them.

      Conversely, I work for an association; we put on conferences several times a year. We routinely get people who want to give presentations – they’re SURE our audiences would be interested in what they have to say. We have to weed out those who think they can disguise a sales pitch as a presentation … which would give the “presentation” a low rating and they would not be invited back. We also get messages from people who want to sell us the attendee lists from conferences, including our own (we don’t sell the lists, we don’t even release them to anyone who wasn’t at the conference and we don’t release them in a format that can be easily made into a sales list). bah!

  12. OrigCassandra*

    During a round of belt-tightening in my (academic) department, I happily gave up my office phone.

    Sure did reduce sales calls, covert or overt, to zero.

    YMMV on whether this is a viable option, of course. But I honestly don’t want that phone back.

  13. Zudz*

    I have learned that sales calls prey on reasonability, and the desire to not be perceived as a jerk. In my personal life, I’ve just turned off the ringer on my phone. Few enough people I want to talk to call me, so that’s fine. In my professional life I’ve come to the point where, as soon as I recognize it’s a sales call, I just say “Oh, no thank you.” and hang up.

    I’m not doing much networking, but if someone I knew called me and converted the call into a hard sell, I would do the same to them. I simply don’t have the energy to spend on people who just want to waste my time. If the genuinely thought they had some great, time saving, apparatus, they wouldn’t lie to get me on the line.

    I /have/ taken meetings with people who were straight up selling me something, because they were straightforward and I was in the market for the thing they were selling. If I don’t already need the thing (read: have an approved budget allocation for the thing), no amount of hard sell is going to change my mind. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time.

  14. mdv*

    I recently, knowingly, accepted a sales pitch call (zoom), because it is actually in line with a topic that I am actually researching right now, but I was 100% up front about the fact that I am just in information-gathering mode right now, and actually repeated that to the point that I was annoying even myself … and then the guy was actually MAD at me when I did not immediately jump on {action that was so obvious that we should just DO it (to the tune of $200K x 42 vehicles) in spite of the fact that they have not actually installed THING on any vehicle of our type yet … and the fact that they’ve successfully done it with every other type of vehicle BUT ours shouldn’t matter!}, the sales guy got downright RUDE with me! Asked me “well, who CAN make this decision” (not relevant, since we’re not actually pursuing this action at this time), followed by “it doesn’t matter, you’re a public university, I can look it up”. To which I replied, if he actually calls our decision making great-great-grand-boss, without any setup from me or boss, then it would be an automatic ‘no’. Not to mention that we have a state-mandated procurement process.

    WHY don’t they actually LISTEN to what I’m saying?!?!?!

  15. Lalala*

    My trick for heading off sales pitches is to say: “I am not a decisionmaker for this type of solution and I have no influence with the team that makes this kind of [investment/purchase].” Or some variation that uses B2B sales keywords (decision-maker, influencer, etc) and makes it clear I know what they’re looking for and can’t help them.

    1. Anonymouse*

      I am not a decisionmaket.
      But I do have a side business selling extended car warranties.
      What car do you drive?

  16. hallucinating hack*

    I find this quite funny because in my line of work, I’m also on the receiving end of these bait and switch calls, except that they start out offering me their expertise rather than asking for mine. For reference, I’m a journalist on a very specialized beat, and I frequently go looking for commentary from people in the field I cover. What I get instead are lots and lots of pitches from people who want to sell their products to people in the field I cover, so they start off saying they can provide expert commentary, and when they actually get down to doing so, 99% of it is recited right out of a marketing brochure.

    I have a polite script for this, since I don’t quite want to kill the connection (these people do have a fair bit of professional value, just not necessarily to me at this time): “Thanks, but we are prioritising people whose primary job function is [what people who actually are in the field do]. Happy to keep you in mind if a relevant opening comes up.” Although, this occasionally involves interrupting them while they’re in full flow!

  17. Lee*

    5 am, I read this as how to avoid business with people who want to pinch me. Thought it was going to be far more entertaining. Alas.

  18. CS*

    I *always* ask people what they want to discuss if they ask to speak with me. I don’t agree with Alison that it may come off as brusque to someone who’s more relationship oriented. For context, I’m a business banker whose job is basically business development and relationship management, so I’m often the one contacting people to ask them to talk with me! I appreciate people asking for the agenda, actually, so that if they’re not interested, I move on.

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