I could hear the telephone as I came in the back door.
Without stopping to put down the basket of washing, I ran through the house at break neck speed, hoping to catch the caller before they hung up. Recognising the ring as that of the Office phone, it was even more important that I made it in time.
“Good afternoon, can I help you?” My usual greeting was punctuated with a little more breathiness than normal, which was a fairly good indication that my fitness level was not as good as it had once been.
“Would it be possible to speak to a Mr. or Mrs. Porter please?”
Immediately my posture slumped. The only people who ever asked that question on this particular line were the dreaded telemarketers. Even though I know that they’re only doing their job, I have to be honest and say that the intrusion of these calls never makes my day.
“Speaking.” My reply was cautious. All traces of my first chirpy, albeit breathless, greeting had disappeared.
“How are you today Mrs. Porter?” The door had now been opened and the girl was off and running. Without waiting for my response, she continued. “My name is Therese and I’m calling on behalf of the *Aardvark Shutter Company.”
Shutters! Oh GROAN!
If Therese had been able to see my expression at that moment and the height to which my eyes had rolled, she may have hesitated - although in her particular case, I seriously doubt it! Apart from the Roof Restoration and Vacuum Cleaner promoters, the Shutter companies hold the dubious honour of being my least favourite of all the telephone marketers.
Now although I know that there are some people who actually appreciate this type of call (although they’re probably few and far between), I can honestly say that I’m not one of them. We’ve never once said, “Oh goodie! We weren’t even thinking about getting shutters, but now we must have them. Please do send someone around to sell us something.”
However, I guess enough do respond in that way to make this type of promotion worthwhile.
There are also those people who just love to “play” with the telemarketers, in much the same way as a cat teases a mouse. They will either have some incredibly witty remark to throw the salesperson off track, or else let them continue on and on with their pitch until finally declining the offer.
In my case though, I realise that time is being wasted on both sides of the phone line and so always respond quickly and politely with a very definite, “No thank you, we aren’t interested.”
Once upon a time that was enough to bring the conversation to an end. Although the canvasser may have sounded a little disappointed, they would generally accept your negative response, thank you for your time, and then hang up.
That was then, but things seem to have changed in recent years. Approximately 50% of the callers do still respond in that way, but there are the other 50% who have stepped up into the “Hyper Sales School of Pushiness”, from which Therese had obviously graduated.
After quickly declining her kind offer to have one of the Aardvark consultants (who were just going to be in our area next week) come and give us a totally free quote, at their special “display home” rate, I prepared to hang up.
Unfortunately, as I said, Therese was not one of the gracious-in-defeat variety of telemarketers. Immediately came the 20 questions.
“Oh, why aren’t you interested?” She actually sounded as though it was almost unheard of for anyone to ever say such a thing.
“Because we don’t like them.” I replied, once again hoping that this may be sufficient to close the conversation.
Once again, I was wrong.
“Why don’t you like them?” Therese was gripping on with bulldog tenacity. She was going to covert me to shutters if it was the last thing she did.
“Because we don’t!”
Now by that point, most people would have been able to discern that I really wasn’t interested and move onto the next telephone number on their list - but not our Therese. Rising to the challenge she began to wax lyrical about the countless benefits and wonders of the Aardvark shutter system.
I was astounded.
More than that, I was just a little annoyed.
“Excuse me,” I interrupted firmly. “I’ve already said that we aren’t interested. Now please let me give you a little advice.”
Aardvark’s star telemarketer brought her spiel to a stammering halt and actually waited to hear what I had to say.
“I know you’re only doing your job, but you need to learn that when a person says no, they mean no!”
My comment to the intrepid Therese had the desired effect. She finally accepted that I was not going to be swayed and with a mumbled “thank you”, quickly ended the call.
As I walked away from the office, I shook my head and thought of some of the other “Hyper Sales School of Pushiness” graduates who had crossed my path in previous months. One of the worst had been at our front door and by comparison, actually made Therese appear almost shy and retiring! She also had received my little piece of advice.
Of course what I said to these ladies absolutely flies in the face of all modern sales techniques.  :Nevertheless, it should be the truth. The trouble is that a lot of people have played games with what they really mean for so long, that these promoters have built almost their entire advertising structure around the very fact that many people say “no” automatically and are actually open to having their opinion changed. In a sense, we’re reaping the fruit of our own behaviour where we’ve sent the message that ‘yes’ means ‘yes’, but ‘no’ is open to negotiation.
As Christians we have to be particularly careful to ensure that we don’t fall into this. So important is it that our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, included it as part of his Sermon on the Mount:
Although Jesus was referring specifically to the taking of oaths, we also see that the same thing should be a consistent part of our lives if we are one of His followers. For that to happen, then we have to make sure that we always stay true to our word.
We need to take time to think things carefully through before making a decision one way or the other. Far better to be a little slower to respond and remain consistent, than to say “no” and then have to back peddle to “yes” when all the information is to hand.
Taking care to always let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and our ‘no’ be ‘no’, may not necessarily change the world. In fact, it may not even make much of a difference to the current trend of telemarketing strategies. However, we can be certain that it will make a difference in the lives of those around us – you can take my word on that!
* Not the Company’s real name.
Send Debbie an E-mail
Copyright © 2001-2003 Debbie Porter - Breath of Fresh Air. All rights reserved.