When No Means Back-off

When Approaching an Unsuspecting Customer, Recognize when No really means “Back off Now or You’ll Never See Me Again”

No can mean many things when uttered by a customer. Yet when it comes to the unsuspecting customer, be extra careful.

An unsuspecting customer is someone who didn’t come to you, you approached them.

Now of course, the worst case scenario of this is with phone calls to your home, unsolicited intrusions into your inbox or that ‘knock’ on your front door. Granted, these are intrusive and hard to avoid yet at least we can have a smidgeon of control by call blocking, spam filters, and signs on our property. I’m talking about those times when you are out in public and someone ‘approaches you’.

We know we can’t avoid being advertised to or stop people from approaching us in public yet it can be done with an element of respect and consideration. An example of this are kiosks in airports. You are walking along to get to your flight, you see them, they see you, they approach you to promote their product – you can simply smile and shake your head No and walk on by. The sales person respects the unsuspecting customer’s privacy and disinterest (in a product they weren’t looking for in the first place) and the customer respects the sales person for not infringing on their request to be left alone.

Now, I have nothing against a sales person giving it another attempt – I respect that. Maybe your customer/communication skills and passion for your product can inspire the interest of the unsuspecting customer. If you don’t have those skills or, if you’re only out for self-interest, look out! You and the product you are representing may never have a chance with that customer again.

Here’s an example of where it went horribly wrong.

Yesterday, I was racing around town catching up on ‘all those errands’ that just pile up. Really hot out there maneuvering through traffic as I go from bank to mailbox to dry cleaners to grocery store, all the while resenting how much time this eats up in my day. I dashed into a healthfood store – the last stop, grabbed the vitamin bottle and went directly to the cash registrar.

There was a Sales Rep for a new product lurking by the check-out counter holding brochures. I knew she was going to approach me and I could tell she was not keen in her ‘job’. Not wanting to be bothered dealing with an unskilled, unmotivated ‘sales person’ while trapped with her at the till while my purchase goes through, I tried to avoid the ‘inevitable pitch’ and do it in a way that was respectful for all involved.

The 1st time she asked me to see her product, I simply said

“I appreciate it yet regrettably, I have absolutely no time today. Perhaps later, just not today. Thank you for understanding.” I thought that was pretty direct in a polite way.

Sales Rep: “Oh, I thought you were someone who was interested in their health.”

Although I was surprised by her comment, she was in her 60’s, probably unskilled in understanding the effects of how she words things and I wanted to be polite.

“Perhaps another day. Please know at this time, I am on the verge of a headache and I’ve a very hectic day. I’m sure you can appreciate why now is not a good time for me.”

The Sales Rep continued to push her product. Incredulous! Since I teach people how to communicate with diplomacy, I thought I’d practice a bit more of what I preach even though I could feel an insulting comment bubbling to the surface. So, I turned to face her directly, steadfast engagement with her eyes and a slow, even tone said . . .

“With all due respect to you, please know – without a doubt – that now, is not the time to promote your product to me.”

If she had respected my wishes, and just let me go, perhaps next time in that store, I’d check out the new product yet no. She pushed again to show me her product.

I left that store knowing I would NEVER COME BACK.

Shame on:
– the company who hired a Rep with no customer service skills and no desire to learn them

– the Rep who ignored the customer’s pleas for the self interest of ‘making a sale’

– the store employee who witnessed and allowed a customer to be harassed by an outside Rep

When you approach an unsuspecting customer, listen to what they mean when they say NO. If not, when it comes to getting their business (add music here) You’re never gonna get it. Never, ever gonna get it.