How to Politely Handle Aggressive Salespeople

Car dealer showing new car to young couple in showroom
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Have you ever gone shopping for a car or other large ticket item but walked away in frustration after the salesperson tried to talk you into something you didn't want? Have you ever felt pressured to buy something when all you wanted to do was look? Do rude salespeople ruin your browsing experience? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you're not alone. 

Typical Scenario

As soon as you pull into the parking lot, a salesperson approaches your car. You say you're just looking, and she says that's fine. All she wants to do is show you what's available and answer questions. She makes some quick observations, and then, almost as if someone has pushed a button, the pressure is on. 

Not all salespeople are aggressive to the point of making you want to turn and run, but the ones who are, give the profession a bad name. They make you feel as though their life depends on selling you something.

What to Do

One of the most honorable professions is sales, but there are some people who turn "sales" into a bad word. These are the most aggressive ones who don't take "No" for an answer. How do you let these people know that you don't want what they're selling without yelling and swearing?

Here are some tips on how to handle pushy salespeople:

  1. Be firm. If the person who approaches you senses that you're on the fence about the product or service, he may continue his sales pitch. Simply say, "I'm not interested. Have a good day." Maintain a calm demeanor but keep your voice steady. Never say you aren't sure because that is an open invitation for the salesperson to convince you to purchase whatever he is selling. This should work for any type of sales situation, from a car showroom to someone selling a child's fundraiser at the office.
  2. Don't ask questions. The second you start asking questions, the person assumes you're interested. Don't continue the conversation by asking anything. If you want to know more, do your own private search on the Internet after he leaves.
  3. Be honest. When you are in a store or car dealership, you are likely to be approached by honest, hardworking salespeople who want to provide what you need while making a commission. Most of them appreciate customers who are honest if they are "just looking." This will let them know that after they answer your questions, they can move on to customers who are ready to purchase. However, if they continue to follow you around and hound you to make a decision after you say no, you have two choices: Ask to speak to the manager or leave. Tell the manager that you are not in the market to purchase. If the salesperson is too pushy, this is the time to make a complaint in a nice way. Chances are, the salesperson will get a lesson on how to handle customers who aren't ready to buy.
  4. Be ready. Have a standard response that you use for all pushy salespeople. You might say something like, "No thank you. Goodbye," or "I just want to look. Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to be left alone." These are strong enough replies to let the person know you're not a likely prospect, and you can remain cool.
  5. Be busy. When someone calls you at a bad time, firmly state that you are busy and can't talk at the moment. If this is a product or service you might be interested in, give the salesperson a better time to call. If not, simply say, "I'm busy and can't talk now." Then hang up.
  6. Show your answer. When you are face-to-face with the salesperson, use body language to let him know you aren't ready to make a decision. After the initial contact, look away, turn away, and walk away. He should get the hint that you're not interested.
  7. Hang up. If the aggressive salesperson calls you, tell her that you never do business on the phone and ask to be taken off their call list. She should honor your request. Don't linger on the phone by asking or answering questions. After you state your position—that you're not interested in the service or product—say goodbye and hang up.
  8. Don't answer your phone. Some people choose to not answer the phone if they don't recognize the number. This isn't an option for everyone, but if it is, feel free to use it.
  9. Put a block on the number and call the authorities. Putting a block on a phone number may work, but in cases where the offending number changes with each call, they'll be able to get through. If a salesperson continues to call after you ask her not to, contact the authorities. The "Do Not Call" list isn't always a deterrent for pushy salespeople, but if you are on it, they can be fined.

Maintain Good Manners

Being polite doesn't mean being a pushover. You can be firm while maintaining your manners. Never say anything you wouldn't say to someone you know personally. Don't assume that all salespeople are pushy and aggressive. Most of them are decent people who have to earn a living just like the rest of us.