Author Topic: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working  (Read 2559 times)

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Cali.in.UK

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BG: I work as a student rep for an external company. At my university there is a space near our library where different student groups can reserve tables for promotional reasons, usually only one group at a time. My coworker and I reserved a table for today. When we came to our table, another group was set up in the table directly next to us, for student elections. The girl had just seen the table open and just grabbed it for voting purposes but she nicely offered to move. However, I didn't see a problem with them using the table next to us because we were promoting such different things and my job is pretty low-key so I said they could stay. Since our tables were right next to each other (couldn't be moved, due to space) there was a lot of overlap of students talking to us and some students got confused if our tables were separate or part of the same organization.
Today: Before I had really started working, but the table was set up, and I was just chatting with a friend while I waited for my coworker to arrive: A student came up to the table and asked if I was also a student, and I said I was. I thought he was interested in our company so I turned to give him my full attention and he started talking in the softest voice, barely above a whisper. I tried to hear what he was saying but he was speaking so quietly that I really couldn't hear him and his voice seemed to lower with every sentence. I apologized and said I couldn't hear what he was saying, but asked if he was interested in our company and he seemed to get offended. He said that I didn't hear him because I wasn't listening. I tried to stay friendly and I asked him if he was interested in the offer that we had displayed on the table and then he said that he was running for student elections and he was trying to pitch himself to me.
He then went right back into his very quiet, really impossible to hear speech about why I should vote for him. I smiled, listened for a bit and said, "good luck" to him but he just kept standing in front of my table talking about who knows what. I waited for a minute or so, but I didn't really want to continue the exchange. The other people at the voting table were not bothering us about the elections because they knew we were doing our own work, and it seemed a bit weird for him to keep talking at my friend and I instead of talking to all the other students walking around.
In the end I had to say again (I said it politely) that I still couldn't hear what he was saying and once again he appeared pretty offended, and mumbled a bit more and eventually went away. It was just so bizarre.
I know that when you work at a tabling event you do have to engage with all types of people, but since he was clearly not interested in what we were promoting, how much time do I really have to give him?
The previous time my coworker and I reserved the table for work another woman came up to us who initially seemed interested but it became apparent that she was trying to pitch us her own promotional deal. What is the etiquette in these situations? It's our job to engage with people who are interested in our company and ask us questions, but if its clear they are trying to sell something to us, what should we say to discourage them?

Lynn2000

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2014, 05:48:37 PM »
The guy sounds really odd. It seems like he talked at you for a long time, in a voice so soft you couldn't hear him despite telling him this several times, and didn't get your hints to leave. I think that would be annoying for anyone who had something else they needed to get back to, whether it was work or walking to class or whatever.

Once you realized he was there to pitch himself to you, perhaps you could have said something like, "Actually, I already voted," or "Actually, I've already decided on my choices." Then when he kept going, I think it would have been okay to interrupt and say, "Actually, I'm not interested, and I need to get back to work now." Since you were working right there, I'm not sure what you would have done if he wouldn't go away--I don't know if the other election workers would have been able to help you or not.

Same with the woman. Once you realized she was trying to sell you on her own thing, you might have said, "Actually, that's not something the company is interested in," or "That's not the area of the company we work for." If it was at all relevant, you could have offered to pass her information on to someone else at the company. Then if she wouldn't go away, you could say, "We have to get back to work now; there are other people here we'd like to talk to."

Both you and the other people are trying to sell someone on your product/selves, and that's fine, but I do think there's an etiquette to how much of each other's time you can take. Maybe you could have said to those people, "Cool, I'll listen to your sales pitch if you'll listen to mine." Because you guys are both in the same boat and should have some sympathy for each other with how hard it is to get people's attention these days, etc.--but in both cases it sounds like these people valued their time over yours, and that seems rude.
~Lynn2000

CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2014, 06:24:23 PM »
Watch out for the soft talkers.  You could wind up wearing a puffy shirt on the Tonight Show  ;D.



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Turnipman

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2014, 07:12:54 PM »
Two thoughts on the whisperer.

First:
He really gave you some useful information about who NOT to vote for in the upcoming election, assuming that you were able to hear his name.

Second:
I occasionally had to interview whisperers like this in a noisy waiting room when I worked for the Great And Horrible Bureaucracy. After two rounds of "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you'll have to speak up, I can't hear what you're saying," I would put on the polite and concerned face and very carefully and SILENTLY mouth "I'd really like to help you, but I can't hear a word that you're saying."
I don't know if that would pass politeness muster, but it always got the message across and the person would start to speak up.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2014, 07:15:53 PM by Turnipman »

TootsNYC

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2014, 07:30:57 PM »
Regarding the idea of people who approach you when you are manning your employer's booth/table/store with their *own* agenda:

I guess I'd suggest taking your cue from what stores do. They have signs, "no soliciting," and if people come in the store trying to beg or to sell things, they approach them and say, firmly but politely, "You can't do that in our store, you'll have to leave."

In your case, once you've ascertained that the person isn't interested in your wares or services, then I think you should send them away. You can use a polite tone of voice, but  you want to be firm. "I'm going to ask you to step away from our table or booth so that our customers can see that we're available to help them."    "I can't allow you to tie up our table if you're not interested in our services--would you step away, please?" with a smile.

They're not your customers, so you don't need to make them happy. You do, of course, need to not insult them or create a hugely negative scene. But they are now officially an obstacle, and Ithink your employer would support the idea that you should get rid of them if they're standing there, taking up your time and energy, AND blocking people's view of the table, or giving potential -actual- customers the impression that you're too busy to help them.


rose red

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2014, 07:53:15 PM »
With someone like the low-talker, perhaps you can say your table have nothing to do with the elections and one of the other tables that actually deal with elections can serve him better. He's probably one of those who got confused with the overlap of tables.

sammycat

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2014, 11:06:30 PM »
I wonder if the soft speaker had been given 'advice' that said if you speak really quietly people will lean in closer, pay more attention and you'll be able to 'connect' with them better. (It's usually given as a way to defuse toddler temper tantrums, but I've yet to see it actually work effectively). IMO, it's likely to annoy people and turn them off rather than sell them on whatever they're trying to get across (which in this case seemed to be himself).

Quite quickly, I'd have been so irritated with him that I'd have just ignored him and/or told him to stand to the side so that we (our table) could help the people who were interested in our services.

RooRoo

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2014, 12:12:22 AM »
Quote
I wonder if the soft speaker had been given 'advice' that said if you speak really quietly people will lean in closer, pay more attention and you'll be able to 'connect' with them better.
That actually works - but not across a table! It's great in a crowd that is all standing up.

Poor schnook. :( Who knows, maybe he'd make a great officer - but folks have to hear what he says!

Back on topic: As I frequently do, I like what Toots suggests. Especially since you're getting paid (I assume). And in that particular situation (two tables next to each other), Red Rose is also spot on.
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TabathasGran

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2014, 10:31:26 AM »
It's okay to tell the people trying to engage in convincing you of something "I'm sorry but I am on the clock for XYZ company and am meant to be marketing our widgets right now. You'll have to catch me some other time."
« Last Edit: March 30, 2014, 10:59:41 PM by TabathasGran »

Cali.in.UK

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2014, 04:22:51 PM »
Thank you everyone! Very helpful. And I did think about that Seinfeld episode at the time. Haha.

English1

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2014, 08:54:10 AM »
'he said that he was running for student elections and he was trying to pitch himself to me.'

This is where you should have nipped it in the bud. 'I'm sorry but we are working at the moment and can't listen to your pitch' or 'I'm working at the moment and it's not appropriate for me to interrupt that for something personal' or something along those lines.

He was rude to comandeer your marketing time/space.

mime

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Re: People trying to sell/pitch stuff to you while you are working
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2014, 05:29:38 PM »
Regarding the idea of people who approach you when you are manning your employer's booth/table/store with their *own* agenda:

I guess I'd suggest taking your cue from what stores do. They have signs, "no soliciting," and if people come in the store trying to beg or to sell things, they approach them and say, firmly but politely, "You can't do that in our store, you'll have to leave."

In your case, once you've ascertained that the person isn't interested in your wares or services, then I think you should send them away. You can use a polite tone of voice, but  you want to be firm. "I'm going to ask you to step away from our table or booth so that our customers can see that we're available to help them."    "I can't allow you to tie up our table if you're not interested in our services--would you step away, please?" with a smile.

They're not your customers, so you don't need to make them happy. You do, of course, need to not insult them or create a hugely negative scene. But they are now officially an obstacle, and Ithink your employer would support the idea that you should get rid of them if they're standing there, taking up your time and energy, AND blocking people's view of the table, or giving potential -actual- customers the impression that you're too busy to help them.

What she said!

OP, As I read the situation, Here's where my mind went: I thought of those craft fairs or direct marketing expos with several tables of people, each with a particular thing to sell while they're there. The thought of the Mary Kay lady, taking advantage of the captive audience, wandering around from table to table trying to sign up the Tupperware, Creative Memories, and Watkins representatives for parties seems awfully pushy.

I think the candidate was rude (maybe not in a personal way, but rather a business-etiquette way?) to take advantage of the fact that you couldn't walk away from the conversation, and chose to monopolize your time with his own agenda.

I think you would have been fine to say "I need to get back to my post/my job/my clients/whatever now" and make a physical move or step away from him.