Consumer IQ

Resisting Corporate Come-Ons: 4 Ways to Deflect a Clever Sales Pitch

 

If corporate America knows one thing, it’s how to sell. But do you know how to say “no”?

I think you know the answer. If you don’t, check your closet. See anything you regret buying? Or your garage. A recent survey found anywhere between 6 to 8 percent of new-car owners experience buyer’s remorse. We just couldn’t say “no.”

Maybe the most aggressive salespeople in the world are off-property consultants, or OPCs, who sell timeshare presentations. So when I wanted to figure out how to short-circuit the sales process, I knew I had to talk with Lisa Ann Schreier, a timeshare industry insider and author of the book, Timeshare Vacations For Dummies.

“OPCs can be very forward,” she told me. They can approach you on the street, on the beach, in restaurants and offer you anything from theme park tickets to free helicopter rides in exchange for attending a “90-minute” presentation. But the benefits don’t always materialize and the presentation is almost always at least two hours. To some customers, that’s a scam in and of itself.

What’s more, OPCs don’t really care if you’re happy or not. They collect anywhere from $10 to more than $100 per head as referral fees, and since you’re on vacation, they’ll never see you again. It’s the perfect crime, some say.

How do you survive a sales encounter?

Don’t put yourself in the situation

For example, timeshare OPCs target tourists on International Drive in Orlando and on the beaches of Cancun. If you want to avoid being pitched, stay away from those places. And if you go, be prepared for a possible confrontation with an aggressive salesperson who may not take “no” for an answer. At least not your first “no.”

Have a ready answer

Here are a few that work for timeshares:

“I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“I’ve already been to a timeshare presentation.”

“We’re trying to sell our timeshare.”

Point is, have an answer ready if you’re going to go to the beach or have dinner on I-Drive. But this advice can be applied to any sales situation, regardless of the product. If you have a prepared answer then your chances of being swindled are far smaller.

Slow down

Effective sales pitches often rely on momentum – make a decision now, and if you don’t, the offer’s off the table. “Don’t make a decision in haste,” says Schreier. When you do, the momentum favors them. By the way, scammers will often disengage when you ask for time to read the fine print or want to think about an offer overnight, because they know their offer won’t withstand a few hours of scrutiny. They’ll do whatever they can to persuade you to act now. Don’t.

Just say “no.”

That can be a lot more difficult than it sounds, because most customers have manners and may think it’s rude to refuse an offer, and because salespeople – and this is particularly true of timeshare salespeople – are trained to exploit our sensibilities. But if you don’t, you could be in for a world of hurt. I’ve counseled many heartbroken vacationers who were enjoying margaritas on the beach one minute and the next were writing a check for $25,000, thanks to an aggressive sales pitch. A simple “no” could have saved them.

And what if the answer isn’t “no.” Well, that’s what every business hopes, and truthfully, if we stopped buying everything the world economy would collapse. No one is advocating that we stop all purchases. Only the fraudulent ones.

“Make sure you understand what you’re buying,” says Schreier.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions at On Your Side or by email.