Please listen to me

The plague of unsolicited sales approaches is getting worse. On the whole, I don’t mind most sales calls or direct mail; if I am interested I will take notice, if not I will say “no, thank you” as politely as I can.

What I do find irritating are the sales people who not only do not listen to me, but do not care what I want as they plough through their pre-prepared sales scripts.

In recent weeks, I have been called by several people claiming to be stockbrokers in America. The spiel is always the same: they just want to introduce themselves and and ask permission to get in touch should any amazing opportunities arise; a week later – surprise, surprise – they call back with an amazing offer. I played along with this the first time out of curiosity and managed to escape with some difficulty: I never like putting the phone down on anyone, but after having told the “stockbroker” more than once that I did not want to continue the conversation, it became the only option.

Yesterday, another stockbroker called. I guessed something was about to happen, because the phone rang once and when I answered it, it went dead. Obviously, they were checking the number.

Sure enough, within an hour or so, an over-zealous stockbroker was enthusing about the marvellous opportunities he could introduce to me. I was open with him: I explained that these calls were annoying me, that I would not do business in this way and that I wanted to end the conversation. He responded by going into a long drawn-out story . . . I put the phone down on my desk and carried on working; I could just about hear him talking away to nobody. Five minutes later, I picked up the phone and the line was dead. He had got the message.

Was this a courteous way for me to respond? It’s not how I would have chosen to act: I’d rather the stockbroker had listened to my response, had respected it and ended the call voluntarily. But the reality is that many businesses are using very aggressive sales methods, which ignore what customers want, to achieve a sale at any cost. These methods force the customer either to listen politely and be co-erced into a purchase or to stop the sale through rather drastic action, such as putting the phone down. The sales people know that many people dislike taking extreme actions, because they do not feel it is acceptable to be rude, so they endure the sales onslaught and often end up making an unwanted purchase.

In the short-term, businesses can boost sales using these methods, but ultimately they will turn customers away. No-one likes being forced into a purchase: you feel you are being manipulated and not able to make decisions for yourself. It also makes customers more suspicious and less ready to believe marketing claims and sales messages in the future.

So what is the remedy?

Please listen to what we want and respect our wishes. If we don’t want your product or service, accept it. I don’t mind sales people who ask if they can call again in six months time, as long as when I say “no” again, they continue to respect my wishes.

Every business needs to sell its wares and unsolicited sales calls can sometimes be very well-timed for customers. Unsolicited approaches need not be intrusive or irritating, if they are made sensitively and show respect for the customer.

At a time when it is very hard to differentiate between suppliers of most goods and services, surely polite, responsive sales people could make all the difference to businesses prepared to trust their customers. When I am looking for a supplier, I tend to approach the ones who are polite and not pushy.

I hope sales people are listening to this – take notice – and respond accordingly. They might even end up making more sales when they treat customers politely.

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