How to Avoid a Sales Pitch and How to Get Out of One | Help & Advice
Have you ever found yourself walking in a mall or walking into a store and been accosted by an aggressive salesperson? Have you gone up to buy a book in a bookstore, only to find yourself in the middle of a sales pitch you didn't ask for or anticipate? I have, and if I have, I know you have too. I've learned over time how to see when someone is looking for someone to pitch to, how to say no successfully, and how to avoid sales pitches whenever possible. I can teach you how to do the same.
I have always thought that the reason salespeople accost people in the mall or other places is because people have a hard time with confrontation and telling someone "no". Finding people who can't or won't say no to their sales pitch is crucial to their money-making scheme, so if it works, why would they change their tactics? Also, even if you are able to say no, these aggressive salespeople have all kinds of methods to get around the word "no", and get you to buy something anyway. Not me. I'm a professional.
The Mall Kiosk Salespeople
So, how to you avoid them? First, when you're in the mall, you will usually see those kiosks in the middle of the mall walkways. These kiosks sell anything from skincare to phone cases to coffee, but the worst of them have to be the skincare salespeople. In the past, I've had these people walk over to me from hundreds of feet away, yelling at me to try to their product.
Some would even pull me by the arm over to their kiosk and put skincare or hair products on me without my permission. I was flustered, embarrassed, and angry, but didn't know how to tell them "no" without worrying that I was going to upset them. All of these emotions, even though I now know what they were doing was wrong and inappropriate.
To avoid these kind of salespeople, the first thing you can do is pull out your phone and pretend you are talking on it. This is a good tactic because you can hear what they are saying and actively ignore them if they yell at you from a distance to come and visit their kiosk.
You don't want to actually talk to someone because you may not hear them approach you. I've noticed they look for people who seem timid and nice, who are not paying attention to their surroundings. If you are pretending to talk to someone and you hear them approach you, walk faster. They will give up before they have to run.
Another tactic is to avoid eye contact, but keep them in your peripheral vision. I've found direct eye contact is the worst thing you can do unless you are okay with giving them a hard "no". If you are pretending to be on your phone and you see them approaching you at a brisk pace, don't look at them directly, just walk faster, preferably behind a group of people.
Following a group of people is another good tactic when passing the aggressive kiosk salespeople. I've found that the skincare, hair product, and body care people will look for people who are at the mall by themselves. They almost never grab more than one person at a time, and very rarely will it be more than one customer at a kiosk at any given moment. I've found that following closely behind a group of three or more people will prevent them from talking to you or approaching you. (You don't have to pretend to be on your phone for this tactic either).
If you don't feel comfortable with the phone tactic or following a group of people, you can use the tactic of "I already have all of this stuff". This works wonders if you are accosted even if you have taken steps to avoid it. These kind of salespeople will give up immediately (every time I've tried it, it worked) if you tell them you already have the product they are selling. No matter what it is, say that you have it. It doesn't matter what the product is, it works every single time.
The Membership Spiel
So what happens if you go to the bookstore and you start to hear the "buy our membership!" spiel? I've found the best tactic is to let them say their entire spiel. Don't interrupt them at any point. I've found that once you let them say everything they have to say, then say "no", they won't argue with you or try to get you to buy it. They just say "okay" and let you complete your purchase.
I've observed other people who encounter the same spiel, and every single time they interrupt or give an excuse, the salespeople have a rebuttal. I'm not sure if they are trained to get around excuses, but it sure seems like it. In my experience, people have a hard time saying "no" more than once. This might be why the salespeople don't give up after no or one excuse, because they know people who tend to avoid confrontation will eventually buy something just to stop feeling uncomfortable.
Have you ever bought something from someone to just make them go away or make yourself stop feeling uncomfortable and anxious? I have. I bought skincare, body care, and hair products at the mall because I didn't know how to say no. I've gotten store credit cards that I didn't want, and bought magazine subscriptions I didn't want, all so I would stop feeling uncomfortable.
You don't have to buy anything you don't want to. You can say "no" at any point, and if someone is making you feel uncomfortable, you can say so because it is your right. However, I know that a lot of people find it difficult to say "no" directly, so I hope that these tactics help you find ways to avoid or get out of situations with salespeople that you don't want to be in.
The Dreaded Target Red Card Spiel
The last tactic is one that blends "I already have that" with letting the salesperson finish their spiel. I visit Target to get my grocery shopping done. I hate grocery shopping so much that I only do it once a month, and a lot of it is because of the Target Red Card spiel every time I buy anything at Target. You know the one, "You can save 5%! Sign up today, it's so easy!" You can say no five times and they will still keep talking as if you never said anything at all.
The absolute best way I've gotten out of this is to listen to the entire spiel without interrupting them, then saying, "Oh, I have one, but I left it at home today." Almost every single time, the person says, "Oh, okay" and that's that. I've only had it happen once where the person said, "Well, if you bring it later today you can show guest services the receipt and save 5% later." That was it, and I was okay with that.
I've never been to any other store where the store credit card/debit card was pitched so aggressively. I've encountered this aggressive spiel at many Targets in Maryland, Texas, New Mexico, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, California, and Hawaii, and it seems to be the same everywhere, so I know it's not just something I'm experiencing on my own. I also know that there have to be other stores with aggressive pitches as well, so if this tactic works at Target, I'm sure it will work at other stores too.
What if you go into a store and you just want to buy one thing and find yourself being sold five things you didn't want? I worked at Victoria's Secret right around Valentine's Day (for about a month) in my early 20's. While being trained, I was taught how to up-sell merchandise. This means that if someone comes into the store asking for a bra, you show them the matching underwear and try to get them to buy it.
If they are receptive to buying the underwear, you try to get them to buy the matching robe, and so on. This tactic works surprisingly well, and I noticed it worked really well on people who went into the store alone, and on people who had a hard time saying no. The people who this tactic didn't work on were people who visited the store with one or more people with them, and people who, when asked if they needed help, said "No, I'm just looking around." Even if they needed help finding something, they wouldn't ask for help.
My tactic in most stores is to only ask for help if I really need it (help reaching an item or finding an item that seems to be out of stock), and only asking when I am ready to pay. I've found if I am just looking around and not looking for anything in particular, I am much more open to hearing a salesperson's suggestions and will buy more. I believe that this is because I usually shop alone and when a salesperson pays attention to you, you might feel like for a short amount of time, that salesperson is a friend who is trying to help you.
While some salespeople are genuinely nice and want to help, the majority of them are just there for their job, which is to sell you merchandise, and they will use different tactics to sell you that merchandise. At Victoria's Secret, I saw how other salespeople complimented customers and were so over-the-top nice, that after the customer made their purchase, the salesperson stopped being as nice, and the customer seemed taken aback, almost as if they truly believed for that short amount of time that they were shopping with a friend.
My advice is just to remember that you are a customer and the salesperson's main goal is to get you to buy a product. It's great if you make friends with someone, but don't be surprised or hurt if you realize that the salesperson was just pretending to be your friend for a while to get you to buy a lot of products. I've seen this tactic a lot at Sephora.
The Salesperson at the Luxury Makeup Store is Not Your Friend
It's interesting, because I've been to makeup counters and makeup stores like Chanel, Clinique, Lancome, and Ulta, and only at Sephora have I seen this tactic used. Any time I've ever visited Sephora, I've had salespeople come up to me and act like every makeup product was designed for me and I should wear every color lipstick of the rainbow because every color is flattering.
These salespeople will bend over backwards, get you samples, and before you know it, your little basket is overflowing with products and you start to hope they'll go away because you want to put some stuff back that you know you don't want.
How do you avoid this? I've learned to avoid this by telling the salespeople I'm just looking around and not to wear a lot of makeup when visiting Sephora. I've come to believe that if you wear less makeup to Sephora, most of the time the salespeople will think you don't wear makeup and won't buy much, therefore they won't make a big sale from you.
However, this can always backfire if you ask them for help because they might try to get you to buy everything.. I think that's why if you wear less makeup and don't ask for help (unless something is out of stock or you can't reach it and are ready to pay), that they will generally leave you alone.
So, these are all the tactics I've used in my life to avoid sales pitches and aggressive salespeople. I've used these over the years and found that they work almost all of the time. I hope this helps you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If you have any advice, please feel free to share!