The Top 10 Ways To Get Rid of Annoying Sales Calls

I was in the lobby of a client in Houston, cooling my heels waiting for an appointment, and then I noticed the pattern of phone calls coming into the receptionist: “No, I’m sorry, our CIO [insert name] is in a meeting. Leave your name, number and why you want to talk with him and I will be sure he gets it.”

Every couple minutes it was the same routine — and this is a mid-sized private business. Go figure the volume of hungry sellers pounding on doors of CIOs at Fortune 2000 companies. Especially in the closing days in December as the rush to meet quota kicks into frenetic gear.

So consider this our holiday gift to you: 10 proven ways to snuff out the calls that get through and you don’t want to take but somehow find yourself cellphone-to-cellphone with a salesperson. Some are silly, some are cranky, you won’t like them all, but you will find a few tips to help you make quicker work of nuisance calls:

1. “How did you hear about me?” – That is how consultant Chris Spivey quickly separates the sales wheat from the chaff. “I ask how they got my name and contact info. That usually qualifies them out pretty quickly. If it’s from a list, well … If it’s from a mutual contact, I’ll take the call.”

2. “Be clear with the annoyance,” advised Chris Westfall, a sales trainer. Don’t hem, don’t haw, because you don’t want to be entered as a “maybe” in the CRM log, which will only trigger follow-up calls in a few weeks. “Let them know in no uncertain terms that you are not interested, and why. Take the time to have a professional conversation. Otherwise, that bulldog will keep barking at your door until you answer.”

3. No calls, email only. That is the policy of many CIOs who said they short circuit sales call with a fast, “Sorry, I don’t take calls. Please email me about what you are selling. If I am interested I will be in touch. No need to follow up by phone.”

4. “I’m broke.” – Bang the tin cup, suggested Alain Raynaud, CEO of, which helps link up tech start-ups with co-founders. He elaborated: “The #1 best way to get rid of a call is to say ‘sorry, your product looks great, but we have no money.’”

5. “Oops, gotta go, my CEO is on the other line.” OK, it’s a lie (and everyone knows it) but it’s a to-the-point way to justify instantly hanging up.

6. Talk in a foreign language, urged comedian Jim Dailakis, who added that this ploy definitely helps him make sales calls shorter. Typically, the sales rep just hangs up in a huff. Don’t know any languages? No big deal. “Make one up,” said Dailakis. Klingon anyone?

7. Ask for something they do not sell, suggested Adam Kruse, a realtor who personally puts in time working the phones. If it’s a PC sales rep, tell him you’re switching to Apple — can he line you up with a good deal on Macs? The rep probably will hang up on you.

8. Final Jeopardy. Turn the tables and ask the caller to sum up, in 60 seconds, what your company does. Tell him you will hang up if he does not nail the summation. Expect most callers — working off leads sheets — to fail miserably because they haven’t done their homework.

9. For the passive-aggressive among us: “Say, ‘sorry, I need to put you on hold’” — and leave the caller there. If they call back, repeat.

10. Cut to the chase, advised Alan Canton, an insurance rep who comes by his counsel from years of personally working the phones. “I make these sales calls each day. The best way for a CIO to deal with them is to stop the caller from speaking, take control by saying: ‘You have 30 seconds to pitch me on why we need to talk further.’

If it is something the exec wants he/she will say ‘Let’s get together.’ If not, he/she says ‘Thanks, but we are well represented with the vendor we have’ and hangs up without being rude and causing ill-will. A good CIO knows that the vendor that is dismissed today may be one vitally needed tomorrow.’”

Robert McGarvey – As a busy freelance writer for more than 30 years, Rob McGarvey has written over 1500 articles for many of the nation’s leading publications―from Reader’s Digest to Playboy and from the NY Times to Harvard Business Review. McGarvey covers CEOs, business, high tech, human resources, real estate, and the energy sector. A particular specialty is advertorial sections for many top outlets including the New York Times, Crain’s New York, and Fortune Magazine.