Not all solicitors are bad. But the ones who call your home at 9pm and then refuse to take "no" for an answer need to be handled firmly. Here are Modern Manners Guy's 3 tips for managing telemarketers, door-to-door salesmen, and outside-a-store solicitors.
Tip #2: The Outside-a-Store Solicitor
The Outside-a-Store Solicitor comes in many, charity workers, school kids, or retail salespeople selling you everything under the sun. Their post is usually outside a store or organization where they wait for you to approach the entrance and try to sell you on some great product. Unlike the telemarketer, whose badgering can be concluded by simply hanging up the phone, this person is physically there, staring at you, and you can’t hide. You can walk past them but they may see you again when you walk out, which can be uncomfortable. Like when someone rejects you at a bar, and then you end up getting a table right next to them later on - awwwwkward! But as I said, there are many types (passive and aggressive) and varying age ranges (kids to adults) of the Outside-a-Store Solicitor, which makes how you respond to them very important.
For example, if you are approached by an adult to sign a petition or “register” for some wacky initiative, you have only seconds to decide. If you are in a hurry, smile, wave, and say, “Sorry, not right now.” If they get pushy, like the telemarketer, ask for a business card or brochure, and then leave it at that. If they continue to push you, “Sir, sir, wait, you don't understand. This is a big deal! Let me talk to you,” well, now they’ve gone too far. Don't confront them, don't engage, instead, keep on walking, and ignore them altogether. Remember: you don’t owe them anything.
Now, for the sweet little kids raising money for school fundraisers, it’s best to handle them with “kid gloves.” If you’re in a rush, tell them, “So sorry, I’m in a hurry but will be right out and talk to you then.” If you aren't in a rush, then I suggest at least giving them a moment of your time. This doesn’t mean having to buy their products. Not everyone likes cookies or needs a coupon book. But a dollar or two donation is always helpful. Plus, a nod to their entrepreneurial spirit, and wishing them “good luck” is always encouraging. They’ll appreciate your time and you know it’s going to a good cause.
Tip #3: Mr. Door-to-Door
Of all the solicitor types, the door-to-door character is the worst. At least the telemarketer is just calling, but when someone invades my personal space to sell me 85 pounds of delicious Midwestern rib eye, that's a different story. Some door-to-door solicitors don’t quite understand what they are doing when they knock on your door. Well, maybe they do…they just don’t care. And this is the root of the problem. When you knock on someone’s door - out of the blue, uninvited - to sell them something they did not ask for, you can’t be surprised if people are put off by your intrusion. However, in handling them, you shouldn't be as abrasive as their approach.
Remember our mantra: You do not owe them anything. Not your time, not your money, not an ounce of energy. So if your doorbell rings and someone has a handful of widgets to sell you, you can simply ignore them. Easy as that.
However, sometimes their good luck strikes and they finally get you in person. Like earlier this year, one door-to-door solicitor approached my house to sell me new windows. Their pitch was that they did work for my neighbor and wanted to offer me a similar service. I kindly said, “No thank you,” and started to shut the door. He didn’t like that. He held the door open and said, “You don’t even want a quote?” Again, I reiterated, "No thank you. I'm not interested." To which the salesman repliedd, “Well, you’re not going to have nice windows then!” Okay, okay, now you got me. Insulting me is the best way to get my business.
I really wanted to slam the door in his face, but since I'm Modern Manners Guy, I kept my cool, smiled, and said, “Well, I guess that’s my worry now,” and shut the door. Then, I took to the web and searched for the organization that sent this rude person to me. I sent them an email, explaining that I didn’t appreciate being accosted at my own home. I also advised them to look into teaching their staff the proper way to handle rejection and that (call me crazy) insulting a potential customer is not the best way to drum up business. Sometimes a little mannerly advice can go a long way.
Do you have a story about an unmannerly solicitor? Post all the details in the comment section below. As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
And check out the expert tips on navigating any workplace in my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's available in paperback, ebook, and even audiobook format!