I am typically very polite to you over the phone. I listen to what you are selling, because I know there is a possibility the company I work for needs your product or service. But as soon as I know what you’re selling, I have already made a decision. And, yes, usually my decision is that your product or service is unnecessary.
When I decline, I always keep it professional. I even go so far as to say thank you for calling. I’m just trying to be nice. I know you are a person (unless you are a recording, then I have no problem hanging up on you) and I don’t want to be rude.
For reference: I am an administrative assistant. I answer the phones (among many other things), and I am the first point of contact for pretty much everything. I help my boss make decisions regarding supplies we order, and services we need. I don’t have all the power, but I have quite a lot. My boss trusts me to keep unnecessary sales calls away from him. He has a lot more important things to worry about. Like whatever our emergency-project-of-the-minute happens to be.
A few months ago, I got a call from a man wanting to sell my boss on something that I can’t even remember what it was. I told him, very kindly, that we did not need his services, but thank you for calling. I went to hang up, but he kept talking. So I listened. I thanked him again, but told him we really didn’t need it at this time. And I hung up. I heard him start to talk again, but I just don’t have time to listen to every speech in his little binder of “how to persuade people”.
Only a few seconds later, the phone rang again. I looked at the Caller ID and noticed it was the same place calling. I wanted to ignore it, but then I’m not doing my job. So I answered.
The man was irate. He yelled at me for hanging up on him and told me that I was very rude. He asked to speak to my boss. I put him on hold and went to my boss to explain the situation. My boss knew I was in the right and thought the guy was ridiculous. But he took the call anyway. Interrupting his entire work day for something so inane.
The guy was put on speakerphone and I listened to their conversation. I listened as the guy, very cheerfully, started his sales pitch. I listened as my boss interrupted him and told him he was not in need of the services of someone who would treat his assistant so rudely.
And then he hung up on him.
Score one for my boss, right? Yes!
Today, I had another salesperson call. This person wanted his firm to take over our collection accounts. I told him we were not in need of his services at this time, but thank you for calling. He asked what we did in the case that someone flat out refused to pay.
I considered telling him I went to that person’s house and broke their legs.
I just told him that we did our own collections, but thank you again for calling and have a nice day. And I hung up.
Moments later, the phone rang again. Caller ID told me it was the same guy. I rolled my eyes and picked up the phone again.
This guy didn’t even bother getting upset with me. He asked to speak to my boss by using my boss’s first name. As if I would be impressed, or think he might be a friend calling. Again, I put the guy on hold and went to explain the situation to my boss.
Again, my boss interrupted his work to take the call. He put him on speakerphone and I sat and listened to their conversation.
My boss didn’t hang up on this guy. He listened to his sales pitch. He declined, but the guy was persistent. My boss grew stubborn. We don’t need your services. Even if we did, you are not local, and we believe in supporting local businesses. The guy made a comment about following up in a few weeks. Frustrated, my boss agreed and ended the call.
What did either of these salespeople accomplish?
- They took up a good deal of my time. And I do our invoicing, I know how much my time is worth.
- They took up my boss’s time – which is worth about 4x as much as mine.
- They were not memorable enough that I remember the name of their company. And I only remember what the 2nd guy was selling because it happened 30 minutes ago.
- They made me less likely to buy from anybody trying to sell me anything over the phone.
Look, salespeople of the world, I get that this is your job. You want more clients, and my company might be a potential client for you. But you must understand that receptionists, secretaries, assistants are the gateway to the person making the big decisions. Become my friend. Offer to send me an email so I have your information in case we ever need that particular service. I don’t mind that. I have a folder I put all those emails into, for future reference.
Believe me when I say we don’t need your product or service. Nobody knows what this company needs better than me. I know how much we like our phone service, whether we need to bother with collection services, and how much we currently spend on paper. I also know that our building pays for a cleaning service – so I know we don’t need that service.
So go ahead, keep calling. Keep telling me how awesome you are and how much this company needs whatever it is you’re selling. But when I say no – I mean no. Got it?
P.S. If you ever need an editor or some Tupperware, give me a call!