Don't you hate it when you rush to answer the phone, interrupting whatever Very Important Thing you were doing only to find out it's some bozo trying to sell you something? And does it drive you crazy that telephone salespeople always take forever to get to the point where you can tell them you're not interested? And then they keep you on the line until you are forced to be rude?
Well, here's how to virtually eliminate the hassle of telephone sales! These tried and true techniques will reduce the time you spend answering annoying sales calls at home and at work. (And those of you who sell for a living can probably learn something, too!)
The Reverse Directory
The first trick is to prevent the calls in the first place. Most sales calls placed to your home are the result of a special phone directory most of us never see. Sold to businesses for a fee, the "Street Address Directory" (sometimes called the "Reverse Directory") lists you by address, rather than name. Companies use this directory to canvas an area by phone. If you remove yourself from this directory, sales calls will be nearly eliminated! Just call your local telephone company business office and ask to be removed from the Street Address Directory. There is no charge and they are required to remove you upon request.
I was amazed at how effective this one simple step was. It eliminated all but a tiny fraction of the calls I used to receive.
An unlisted number is even better.
In my position as a marketing director, I receive many "cold calls" -- sales calls aimed at potential new purchasers. The interruption is bad enough but the worst part is that cold callers just love to chat. Apparently, some idiot has taught salespeople that they need to establish a relationship first. Frankly, I don't want to waste the time. But I can't be rude either, because the caller might actually be a customer.
Fortunately I discovered a Magic Formula for immediately discovering that it's a sales call. It's simple and almost always works.
Magic Formula for Detecting a Sales Call
If someone you don't know calls and asks, "How are you today?"
you can be almost certain it's a cold call.
So what do you do once you know it's a cold call? The temptation is to just dismiss the call, rudely if necessary. But wait -- there's still a slim chance this is not a sales call. And maybe, just maybe, it's someone selling something you actually want to buy. What you need is a way to find out quickly:
Magic Formula for Forcing the Bottom Line
Say, "What can I do for you?"
This really is magic. It forces the caller to get to the point immediately. You'll find out whether it really is a sales call and what's for sale.
In the rare event that the caller is too dense to directly respond to this question, I use the impossible-to-misinterpret question: "What are you selling?" It has an additional benefit as it disrupts the flow of most canned sales pitches.
Finishing the Call
Once I know what the caller is selling, I can complete the call (which also disrupts sales amateurs, because they're taught they're supposed to control the call).
- If I'm interested in the product, I tell the caller so and let the pitch proceed.
- If I'm not interested, I tell the caller I'm not and won't be in the future.
- If I'm not interested but might be in the future, I ask the caller to send literature for my file. Then -- and this is important -- I assure the caller that I really am filing it, because people often use that line to put a salesperson off. Most salespeople will arrange a time to call again (another of those lessons they teach in sales training). If you don't want a follow-up call, now's the best time to say so.
Or, Try This Handy Lie
Years ago, I was doing professional photography and I received a sales call at home, offering portrait packages. (This was before I had discovered the Street Address Directory trick.) I told the caller I was a professional photographer and two amazing things happened: She ended the call promptly, and -- she apologized!
The next night, someone called to sell me a swimming pool. I immediately transformed myself into a pool installer and guess what happened.
Whatever they're selling, you do for a living.
Offending Sales People
These methods may sound fairly rude but they're really not. Honest, straightforward dealings are appreciated by the better sales professionals, because they really hate wasting time -- probably more than you and I do. If you offend any salespeople with any of this, you're probably doing them a service because they need to get over that -- or get out of sales!