Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
English phone calls polite hang up

Do you get a lot of calls from telemarketers?

Do you find it difficult to deal with these pushy salespeople especially when you have to speak English to them?

Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you can’t get this person off of the phone. This is very common in American culture.

We’re going to look at the best ways to handle a pushy salesperson, and how to end this call without being rude or abrupt.

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We have a question about how to handle phone calls you don’t really want.

Dear Lindsay and Michelle,

I have been listening to your podcast for more than three and a half years in order to keep up with my English. I came back to Japan after a three year assignment in LA. I want to thank you for your podcast! It is because of your podcast that I was able to achieve an excellent score on the TOEIC Listening and Reading Test last year after several attempts.

One of the things I had difficulty with when I was living in the US was pushy sales phone calls. I usually received the phone calls at dinner time on weekends and could not decline the pushy offer as they never allow you to even interrupt their sales pitch. It seemed especially bad with the cable TV offers–those were the worst! I usually ended up accepting the offer and later called them for cancellation. I wonder how natives deal with this kind of pushy sales call. I also had difficulties with declining the offer of a time share at a luxury resort as offered at the airport.

Being Japanese, it is very difficult to strongly reject such offers. It happens even in Japan, and it can be difficult. I hope you can give me some tips to deal with such occasions.

Thank you for your help!

Background On Dealing With This

This is a very common issue, as we have all dealt with pushy salespeople in some capacity.

As a matter of fact we did an episode on this in the past that may be quite helpful.

Check out Episode 650: What to Say to Pushy Salespeople in English

This episode is more about dealing with a salesperson face to face–and we’re talking today about dealing with a salesperson over the phone.

What this comes down to is knowing how to politely but effectively end a conversation over the phone.

You almost have to cut off these people over the phone so that you don’t get sucked into their sales pitch.

You also have to know how to say no if you do take the time to listen to them, and that can be difficult.

There are several layers of this, and so you want to be sure that you are thinking through your strategy before these annoying calls ever take place.

Options For Working Through These Calls

When you find yourself stuck on a call with a pushy salesperson, you want to know the best strategy for handling that.

Try to keep these options in mind and they will help you tremendously as you figure out the best way to handle these calls.

  1. Don’t answer numbers you don’t know: It may sound like an obvious step, but this doesn’t always help you to avoid the problem. If it looks like an unusual number or an “800” number then try to avoid it. If you’re unsure with a number then send it to voicemail. If it’s really important, then the person calling will leave a message.
  2. Explain you aren’t interested nicely: It’s always good to start off nice, though that may not work with some pushy salespeople. Remember these are actual people on the other end of the phone. If however it’s a scam or an abrasive person, then that’s a different story. Try to be nice at first, but sometimes you just have to be abrupt and there’s no other choice.
  3. Explain you aren’t interested in a more abrupt way: Nobody wants to be mean for no reason. Sometimes however it may be necessary unfortunately. If the person will not give up and they continue to be pushy, then you have to be more straightforward in your approach. You have to tell them straight and to the point that you are not interested and end in there.

Most of us don’t want to go to option 3, but sometimes you have no choice.

It may feel uncomfortable going for option 3, but sometimes you have to go with it even if it’s not your personality.

Working Through These Situations

So what can you say if you happen to pick up one of these calls?

You may not have recognized the number, but now you’re on the phone with one of these pushy salespeople.

What do you do or say now?

  • I’m sorry I’m not interested: It sounds easy enough, but if you keep repeating it they will eventually get it. This is straight and to the point, and yet it’s also polite. This is a great one to start off with and to continue repeating if they don’t seem to get your point at first.
  • I can’t talk right now, but I appreciate your call: It’s a very nice way of saying that you can’t talk at the moment. It may also convey that you’re not interested at all, but in a more indirect way. You may have to say something else if you are dealing with a really pushy salesperson.
  • This sounds really interesting. I’ll have to think about it and call YOU back: It’s trying to get them off the phone without being rude. This may work with some people, but not the really aggressive ones. You are trying to make them feel good, all the while you are also trying to get them off the phone as well.
  • Try to get them off the phone in a nice way, but don’t be afraid to be a bit harsh if they don’t take a hintYou can always start off nice, but change your tone if you see that’s not working. Some people won’t take no for an answer, and so you may have to get a bit pushy back with them. Do your best to be polite, but also recognize when you need to change your approach.

It’s hard when someone is trying to sell you something.

Try to get out of the situation before you buy something you don’t really want.

Roleplay To Help

A roleplay can really help with a situation like this.

Sometimes seeing how this can play out may give you the little push to say the right things.

Lindsay says: “Hi Miss I’m part of an organization called House Living Rustic. Can we talk for a few minutes?”

Michelle says: “Ummm. I can’t talk right now, but I appreciate your call.” 

Lindsay: “I only need a minute of your time.”

Michelle: “Okay.”

Lindsay: “I am selling these new windows but I have a special deal right now.”

Michelle: “I’m sorry. This sounds really interesting. I’ll have to think about it and call you back.”

Lindsay: “But you haven’t heard the deal.” 

Michelle: “I’m sorry I’m not interested.”

Lindsay: “So the deal is…”

Michelle: “sorry I”m not interested. Thank you anyways.”


These calls can be tough, but stay strong!

Sometimes part of learning how to connect it also learning how to disconnect too.

These examples can help you when you find yourself on that call that you don’t really want to be on.

Then use your best approach, stay strong but polite, and eventually the pushy salesperson will get the hint.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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