Salespeople use all sorts of different tricks to try to get ahold of you to make a sales call. We’ve seen some of their tricks. Now here are some tricks of your own that you can use to defend against them.


Salespeople have two goals in life — to contact you and to separate you from your budget. Obviously, they can’t do the latter without successfully doing the former. I previously showed you the strategies that tech salesmen use to get past your gatekeeper. Now that you know them, you can build some defenses against those strategies.

Suggestions from TR members

In the comment section of the original post, TechRepublic members shared some of their strategies for dealing with cold calls and salespeople. These went from the respectful “No, thank you.” to the ant-under-the-magnifying-glass routine of endless holds and transfers to other parties.

For example, james.gentry said:

I don’t like being interrupted either, but I also respect the time of the people on the other end of the phone. They have the same 24 hours in a day that I do, and they are just trying to make a living like I am. A simple “No, thank you, and please take me off your call list. Have a great day!” takes about five seconds and gets me back to work.

At the other end of the spectrum, Bizzo says that his partner:

…has a great way to deal with these people…

When she gets the call, she says “I’m sorry. I need to put you on hold for a while” and puts the phone down, doesn’t hang up just puts it down, and carries on with what she’s doing. And five or ten minutes later, she picks the phone up and says:

“Hello? Are you still there?”

“Yes! I’m calling about …”

“Sorry to interrupt, but I need to put you on hold again.”

And the process continues.

Somewhere in the middle,  techrepublic@… commented that:

I respect the marketers if they respect me. I’ll be polite to first-time cold callers and ask them nicely to remove me from their list.

When they don’t, he resorts to the time-wasting game.

Taking advice and turning it

In the original video, the speaker listed five different tips for getting past the gatekeeper:

  1. Be honest.
  2. Use humor.
  3. Ask a technical question.
  4. Say, “He’s expecting my call.”
  5. Use e-mail return receipt.

Fortunately, there’s a strategy we can use for each one.

1. Be honest.

The presenter recommended that the salesperson should be “brutally honest” about needing to contact you. There’s nothing better than brutal honesty in return. If you’re not interested and don’t want to be bothered further, say so in no uncertain terms. Be professional and polite (even if the salesperson isn’t necessarily). Take the salesperson’s information and let them know that when you have a need, you’ll be sure to contact them.

If the salesperson is snarly with you, some additional brutal honesty may be necessary. This can take the form of informing them that the reason you’re not purchasing from their company is the attitude of the salespeople. Additionally, feel free to inform them that you’ll find out who their sales manager is and let them know as well.

2. Use humor.

I personally didn’t find the presenter’s attempt at humor very funny at all. As a matter of fact, it sounded reasonably obnoxious. But, when the salesman tries to be funny and says he’s going to hound you until he makes the sale, then you can be funny as well:

“Haha! Cute. And while you’re doing that, I’ll make sure I get your company blacklisted from our preferred vendor list and drop an e-mail to the Better Business Bureau and FTC while I’m at it as well.”

3. Ask a technical question.

Some tech salespeople know what they’re talking about. Others could be selling shoes as equally well as they sell routers. You can quickly measure up a salesperson’s technical level and deal with it accordingly.

If you sense a salesperson isn’t that adept and uses the “technical question” tactic, feel free to counterask deeply technical questions and bury them with lingo. When they say they don’t know and they’ll have to get back to you, you can use the opportunity to say that you choose to use “qualified vendors.”

Should the salesperson actually seem to know what they’re talking about, you can use it as an educational opportunity for yourself to find out about the product, even if you have no intention of purchasing. You may come up with other ideas to implement to make your job easier. Thank the salesperson for their time, inform them you’re not in the position to make any purchases for a while, and tell them you’ll contact them when you do.

4. Say, “He’s expecting my call.”

The tactic the salesperson uses here is to send a blind cover letter or e-mail promising to follow up. And then they tell your gatekeeper, or yourself, to “expect the call.”  Countering this may take some additional work. Let your gatekeeper know that you’re never “expecting a call,” unless they’re told differently. Have the gatekeeper “check the schedule” and take a message. Chances are the salesperson will never be on the schedule.

If you’re not lucky enough to have a gatekeeper, then you should try to be proactive and let the salesman know instantly that you have no interest and won’t be expecting a call. Tell them that: “As a matter of fact, DON’T call me. I’ll call you.”

If the salesperson insists on hassling you, inform them of how doing so will drastically reduce their chances of making a sale.

5. Use e-mail return receipt.

This is by far the easiest technique to defeat. It’s great, too, because it falls right in our technical area. If the salesperson decides to use the return receipt, you can just have Outlook refuse to send one.

Most of the time, Outlook will prompt you that there’s a return receipt on the message and ask if you want to send the confirmation. You can make this happen automatically in Outlook as well.

To do so, click Tools | Options in Outlook. When the Options screen appears, click E-Mail Options. You’ll then see the E-Mail Options window. Click Tracking Options.  Finally, in the bottom of the screen, click the Never Send A Response radio button, as shown in Figure A below.

Figure A

The bottom line for IT leaders

Like yourself, tech salespeople are professionals who have a job that they’re trying to get done. Even though it may seem otherwise, that job isn’t to annoy you and interrupt your day. Admittedly it is to separate you from your budget, but to do so they’re hoping to actually meet your needs.

Even though they can be annoying, as fellow professionals they’re due a little bit of respect. That is as long as they’re being respectful themselves. If you’re not interested, be clear and leave no room for doubt.

Salespeople have many things in their bag of tricks to access you and try to get your business. By not becoming instantly frustrated yourself and employing your own tactics, you can deflect a lot of the unnecessary calls. You might even wind up with someone who can make you look good down the road.