Tuesday, April 09, 2013

When a Salesperson Refuses to Hear the Word “NO”

I receive quite a few phone solicitations from salespeople in my job as accounting manager. Ever since I read Gavin De Becker’s book The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence, I’ve been paying more attention to how these salespeople respond to my “no” and whether or not they try to:
Discount the Word “No” or refuse to accept the word no.
Most of these callers counter my “no” with asking when they can call again or by telling me when they plan on calling again. Others ask for the reason behind my “no” or push for a face-to-face meeting. Recently a caller told me I sounded angry – well yeah - I thought I was answering an important phone call and instead had to tell you for the 3rd time I wasn’t interested in your paperless document system.

For the most part, these calls are harmless interruptions. My “no” is on behalf of my organization, so no matter what a salesperson says or tactic they use they will not be able to manipulate their way into working with my company. This isn’t always the case in our personal lives and sometimes these conversations can be manipulative and damaging.

Take Michelle Shaeffer's story for instance:
When Michelle refused to work with a potential business coach the coach called her a liar and told her she’d never succeed. This conversation was so damaging it left Michelle in tears and full of self-doubt for weeks. She felt like a complete failure, didn't know what to do except give up and almost did. 

Several warning signs Gavin de Becker provides in The Gift of Fear help us conclude this sales person is manipulative and not to be trusted:

Michelle’s intuition told her so:
One of the reasons Michelle initially declined to work with this coach was because she wasn't sure they were the right fit to work together. Clearly Michelle’s intuition kicked in and was telling her something was off with this relationship.

The Unsolicited Promise:
This coach offered a "no pitch" strategy session claiming she wasn't going to sell during her introductory call. Sounds to me like she was saying I’m not going to sell you anything, I promise.

Discounting the word “No”:
When Michelle declined and explained why, the coach told her she had to put the program on a credit card if she really wanted to reach the goals she'd shared with her. The coach was refusing to accept Michelle’s no.

When Michelle told the coach she didn’t have a credit card. The coach responded with, "Everyone has credit cards" and if Michelle wasn't willing to be honest she’d never succeed in business.” Typecasting always involves a slight insult and usually one that is easy to refute. The coach wanted Michelle to refute the statement “she’d never succeed” by producing a credit card.

After reading Gavin’s book I hope to be more cognizant of manipulative sales tactics in the future. Instead of taking criticisms and insults to heart, I hope to use them to conclude this is not someone I want to work with.

How to know you are hiring the right coach?
In Ann Daly’s recent post The Secret to Hiring the Right Coach she offers the following advice:
When I was searching for a post-divorce therapist, I asked my friend Dusty--herself a therapist--what I should look for in an initial session. How would I know if the therapist was offering me value? Dusty's response was immediate: "You should get at least one fresh way of thinking about your situation."

And that's the one thing you should get from your first conversation with a coach, too. If you don't, keep looking. Reputable coaches won't charge you for an informational consultation.
Thanks Ann for that excellent advice. 

You can read Michelle’s post, "She Called Me a Liar and Said I'd Never Succeed" in its entirety here.

Have you encountered a salesperson that refused to hear “no”?

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:
Know your limits and learn to say "NO"
Drinking buddies are not real friends; a lesson to my teenage self
The Gift of Fear


  1. Too many timrs to count. Nowadays i say"no thank you" and just hang up on them. It's terribly rude, but like you i figure i am taking time away from more important things and i don't like wasting my time.

  2. I agree. It is rare that a salesperson just takes no for an answer. It is frustrating and a huge waste of time for both of us. Why don't they get it? I am not going to change my mind just because they are persistent. It just gets annoying and I want to speak to their supervisor.

  3. Ugh, I once had a very painful conversation with (in my opinion) a very rude salesman at a credit company who gave me a very hard time about letting my close a credit card I had not used in years. I know it's their job to try to convince you to keep it, but if I had been on the fence his response would have definitely tipped me in the direction of definitely closing it. I think as a salesperson, you have to walk a very tight line of getting people to want to purchase or keep your products and being overly pushy and obnoxious. There is never any reason to be insulting to the person you are trying to sell to.

  4. That's a tough one and it does happen way too often. I feel bad that companies train their people to be so persistent. It's kind of dumb because someone bullied into doing something is just going to undo it at the earliest opportunity. I simply remain firm and businesslike and keep repeating that I am not interested. No really, not interested. Not even possibly. I'm sorry, but I think you didn't hear my first response - not interested. Thanks anyway and best of luck with your next prospect. Yes, you have a nice day too.

  5. Webb,
    That is what I do at home - where my time is even more valuable.

  6. Darlene,
    Also, if they weren't so persistent we might be more willing to work with them in the future or recommend them to someone who is actually looking for their service or product.

  7. Bev,
    I agree and you will think twice about working with them in the future.

  8. Adrian,
    I joined a health club once where the owner made a rude comment about me being one of those women who has to check in with her husband before making a decision. I wanted to consult with him about which payment method to go with. I did end up joining, but that comment left a bad taste in my mouth to this day. I later learned they were instructed to make that statement in their franchise training – pretty dumb if you ask me.

  9. I found this very interesting since I've been in sales for 20+ years. We are taught that no is the start of a yes. Weird huh? I try not to harrass people when I call but I will call back. Sometimes persistance pays off.
    I also do not like receiving sales calls and rarely answer my phone because of them. So I can relate on both sides :)

  10. I found this interesting since I've been in sales 20+ years. We are taught that no is the beginning of the sales process. I tend not to give up but don't bug people to death either.
    And when I come home I don't like answering any calls if they are telemarketers. Thank goodness for caller ID now.
    But it does make my job harder too. More people seem to respond to emails these days than phone calls.
    So much has changed since I started in sales. We have to be more creative.

  11. Yes normally I hang up or don't even answer the phone the worst place is the car place. I am there for an oil change not to buy a car. There are some sales people who won't take no.

  12. Lisa,
    Thanks for responding from a salesperson's perspective. Interesting to hear that “No” is actually the beginning of the sales process. I imagine selling has been tough the past few years and if someone walks out or hangs-up without saying yes the sale could be lost once the customer has time to think it over. For example when I told the health club owner I wanted to discuss the payment options with my husband, she didn’t want to take the chance I would change my mind or he would talk me out of it.

  13. Kita,
    The car place is the worst. Especially those oil-change places that try to make you feel you car won't make it another block without some sort of repair or at least a new air filter.