How to Resist a Sales Pitch

If you've ever been into the appliance section of a store, heard your doorbell ring (at dinner time, of course!), or watched a couple hours of television, chances are you have witnessed a sales pitch of some sort. Here is how to come out with your pocketbook intact.


  1. 1
    Avoid getting the sales pitch in the first place. Shop for a specific product; don't just browse around for amusement. Reject junk mail and sales calls, and ask to be taken off lists. Turn off the television. Don't let a salesperson into your home. Plan your purchases before setting foot in the showroom or shop.
  2. 2
    Make your decision whether to buy in advance. If you are at home, and your vacuum cleaner stops working, you have the option to repair it or to replace it. Make that decision at home, without a salesperson in your face trying to talk you into it.
  3. 3
    Consider your alternatives.

    • You can save 100% if you don't buy it at all.
      Buy nothing. Often, you can save the most money by buying nothing at all.
    • Used books come at a fraction of the price.
      Buy a used item. All sorts of perfectly good things can be purchased used, often at a fraction of the cost of new. Try garage sales, thrift stores, and the local classified ads. Don't forget hand-me-downs, Freecycle, and discarded items. Besides saving you a lot of money, buying a good, used item is reuse, which reduces waste.
    • Repair or reuse an old item. Depending on the problem, repair may not be as costly or as difficult as you think. In some cases, repairing an older item may be a better choice, because they really don't make them like they used to. Choosing repair over replacement also keeps an item from ending up in the landfill quite so soon.
    • Borrow. Does everyone on the street need his own lawn mower if nobody mows more than once per week? Could you get an item at your local library?
    • Rent. If you seldom use an item, do you need it taking up space the rest of the time? You could rent a vehicle (or a larger vehicle than your usual) just for the few days that you need it. You can also rent garden equipment, furnishings, storage space, dress clothing, and a variety of other things.
    • Be resourceful. Use your ingenuity and what is available to you to meet your needs. Instead of joining the gym, could you walk, run, ride a bicycle, or use the fitness course at a local park? Would you enjoy exercising more if you just adopted a dog, instead?
    • Buy elsewhere. There are often many more sources. Some might have a better price, better service or support, or simply more pleasant sales tactics. Did you check online or call another store? Shop around before making a decision.
    • Buy something else. Is this really the right item for you, or does it just look attractive because somebody is singing its praises right now?
  4. 4
    Agree with your spouse or partner and take him/her along. Talk over your decision to buy with your spouse or partner. If you are single and considering a large purchase, consider taking along a friend who can help you look out for your own interests, play devil's advocate, or simply help you collect your thoughts. Often, the salesperson has a team of support people. Why shouldn't you?
  5. 5
    Decide how much you wish to spend. The answer may be "zero" or it may be "as little as possible". It is possible to spend $50 on a faucet and it is possible to spend $500. Both will turn the water on and off. Consult your budget and your bank balance, and find a medium point that is right for you.

    • On the other hand, don't neglect quality. A higher-quality purchase may save you money on repairs or replacement later. Just remember that price does not necessarily indicate quality.
  6. 6
    Do your own homework. Read Consumer Reports at your local library. Look online for product ratings and reviews to see how others liked products in your price range. For a larger purchase, a few minutes of research can keep you out of a world of trouble.

    • Learn what others think of the product, and of other, similar products. Ask someone who owns the product how much they use it, if they still use it, if it was worth the cost, if it does what it's supposed to do, and if they've owned or used better, similar products. Use online forums and reviews if you don't know anyone personally.
    • Learn how much an item costs online and, if possible, in other brick-and-mortar stores in the area. Know what similar products cost, and what the differences are among similar products.
    • Learn the track record of the product(s) you are considering, in terms of reliability, customer satisfaction, and any other factors of concern to you.
    • Learn what distinguishes one of many similar products from the next.
  7. 7
    Think ahead about how you, personally, will use the item.

    • Do you tend to use products such as this? If you never cook, that fancy $400 set of pans will get used for a week or two and then sit in your cabinet just like whatever old pans you have now.

    • Think back to other similar purchases you have made. Are you still using the product? Are you still satisfied with it? Was it as great as they said?

    • Does this item have lots of extras you don't need? If you use your cordless drill for drilling and driving screws, the cutting, sanding, and buffing attachments may just sit there gathering dust.

    • Will this item fit in your home or business? Will it go with things you already have?

    • Does this item fit your size? Is the grip comfortable for you? Are you reaching or stooping to use it? Can you lift it if you need to?

    • Can this item be cleaned? Look for cleanable surfaces and a lack of nooks and crannies to gather dirt. Also, if you have hard water, choose surfaces with lighter colors.

    • Is this item durable? Will it continue to provide value long after the novelty has worn off?

    • Can this item be repaired? Manufacturers are getting better and better at designing indestructible housings for things and, in some cases, designing things so that they are impossible or not worthwhile to repair. If it's an item you might wish someday to repair and keep on using, at least look around for screw holes in the cover.
  8. 8
    Distinguish between needs and wants. Do you really need this item? Will your life or quality of life be improved or damaged depending on whether you make this purchase, or is it just a toy or a passing interest? A sales pitch is calculated to create a need or perceived need where there was none before.
  9. 9
    Find out how the money is made. The most determined salespeople will go on forever if they know there is a commission at the other end. That's fine, if you genuinely want whatever they're selling, and if the amount of profit seems reasonable to you, but be aware of where your money will go if you make this purchase.

    • Take an extra-hard look at where the money is going if what someone is selling is financial advice, investments of some sort, or property, such as time-shares. Remember that "free" financial advice is often funded by fees and commissions taken out of investments. Not only does this cut into your returns from these investments, but it means that the advice that you receive is very likely to be biased in the adviser's favor, not yours.
  10. 10
    Know sales tactics. Know what pressure sales tactics look like and be especially skeptical if you see any of them. Walk away, or ask even more questions.

    • Consider that any claim of a deadline on an offer may be a pressure sales tactic, designed to discourage you from changing your mind, walking away, or shopping around. Salespeople know full well that people who walk away never come back, and they often go to some lengths to prevent prospects from leaving without closing a deal. If the price will double tomorrow or if it's suddenly the last one in stock, be on your guard.
    • Watch for efforts to use peer pressure to induce you to buy, such as trumpeting a successful sale from across the room. Don't buy immediately, especially if the sales pitch came to you. Give yourself time to reflect, away from the store and the salesperson. If you still want an item in a week, then go back and get it.
    • Notice if a salesperson is trying to play you against your partner or friend.
    • Reject efforts to sell an item only as part of a package that includes things you don't want. Also, avoid being sold up or sold extra products. If you do choose to buy, don't get talked into signing up for unnecessary extended warranties, coupon programs, the next-higher model, or accessories you don't need.
    • Recognize that, no matter how long a person talks to you, you don't owe him/her anything.
  11. 11
    Haggle. If you really do want the product, try pushing the price down. Start with the simple question, "Is that the best price you can offer?" If you know numbers, move on to what others are charging for similar items. Remember that the store needs to make a profit, but see if you can trim some of the excess cost out of your purchase. Negotiate on price, never on monthly payment, and always know the true cost of anything you buy on credit. It is possible to lower the monthly payment while extending the term for so long that you end up paying twice what you would pay in cash. There are online loan calculators that can help.
  12. 12
    Read the fine print critically. What are all the exceptions and restrictions hiding under the asterisk? The fine print will give you the straight story that goes with all the glorious promises the sales pitch is making.
  13. 13
    Recognize the hidden costs of a "free" giveaway. If they sell one or two big-ticket items per evening, they can hand out a lot of pens, sandwiches, or stress balls to potential clients.
  14. 14
    Keep your financial goals in mind. Are you saving up to buy a house, put yourself or a child through school, or retire a bit sooner? Are you paying off your debts? Is this purchase more important than those things, and how will it impact them?


  • Be aware that a skilled sales person knows you better than you think. Many a buyer has made a purchase and then related to friends how he pulled a fast one on the sales person—got the best of him—and thus walked away with this super deal because the sales person overlooked something, made a slip. But this is rarely what has happened. In most cases, the sales person is smiling all the way to the bank, having played the prospect like a violin. Be aware. What you think was clever on your part may be exactly where the sales person wanted you.
  • Remember that you are not buying the sales pitch but the product. Evaluate the product on its own merits.
  • Be skeptical. Money is a huge incentive for bending the truth to make a sale. Are they inflating the price, the value, or the claims? Are they discounting a price that was much too high before?
  • Don't relinquish personal information. Revealing your name and address, home phone number, marital status, or anything else, or hinting about your personal habits or preferences before the sale is made, only provides more fodder for sales pitches.
  • Calculate the cost of the item in your time. Figure out your hourly rate after taxes and the cost of whatever is offered including taxes. Then divide the cost of the item by your hourly rate. Is the item really worth spending that much longer at work?
  • When items are sold as a school or youth group fundraiser, offer to donate money directly rather than purchasing something. That way, you know the money will make it to the group and you don't risk ordering something that could possibly never come.
  • If you know you're not going to buy anything, don't linger after all your questions have been answered. It only allows time for more sales pressure.
  • Be aware of a sales technique known as the reverse. This is typically used in sales of memberships, but is highly effective in other sales as well. Essentially, the sales person tells the prospect, "You're not worthy of this product. I am not going to sell it to you unless you prove to me that you are good enough." This puts the prospect on the defensive—and once you start trying to prove the sales person wrong about your unworthiness, you start doing the sales person's job for him or her. It is very hard to disagree with yourself. The best defense, when asked to prove you're good enough for a certain item or club, is to say, "Well, I guess I don't meet your standards," and walk away.
  • Don't waffle. Decide, and then give a clear, firm answer and be confident about it.
  • Look past fancy packaging. The carton isn't what you'll be using—in fact, it only adds to the purchase price. Be mindful, too, of bells and whistles on the product, which may have little or nothing to do with performance.
  • Beware of department store sales pitches that urge you to buy now, while the item is on sale. Many stores, even reputable ones, routinely offer huge "sales" on items almost year round. The law requires that a price cannot be called a sale unless the regular price is in effect for a certain minimal period per year. That period can be as little as 2 months! So if you'd "save" $450 on a sofa set this week, as advertised, ask what the set will cost next week. You might very well "save" almost the same amount next week, because the set will be on sale ten months of the year.
  • A fundamental method of salespeople is to show how a reason not to buy is really a reason to buy. So do not give a reason when you say no. When the salesperson asks why you don't want the item, say, "I just don't want it."
  • Be mindful of the Latin phrase "Caveat Emptor"—let the buyer beware.
  • If you are being sold to on the telephone, say the expression "I'm going to stop you there." and remove the telephone from your ear.
  • Look at the costs and returns on the item over the long term. How long will you use it? How much will it cost you to maintain it? How much will this item cost you, in total, per month or per year? Will having the item save you any money? For example, $60 spent on a good knife may last you a lifetime and help to save you money if you use it frequently to cook at home. Before you spend $60 on an article of clothing, though, you should ask yourself how long you will wear it, how often you will wear it, and how quickly fashion (or your tastes) will render it obsolete.
  • Beware of a common tactic electronics sales people use, complimenting the current model you have, then denigrating it: "I like your phone...Wow, that's one of our old models." This technique of subtle put-downs is meant to make you want to prove yourself modern, cool, with-it. Remember, sales people are all about business, trying to move money from your pocket to theirs. It's foolish to feel a need to prove your coolness to them.
  • Don't watch so much television. It is chock full of ads, most of which subtly manipulate your thinking patterns. Watch a good burger commercial and you get hungry. Why? Advertising works. Companies don't spend billions of dollars on ad campaigns that return iffy results.
  • If a door-to-door salesman won't stop, hold up your hand and say "Please stop."
  • In general, make a point not to buy anything door-to-door or over the phone. There is always a degree of risk in allowing strangers into your home. If the sales person claims to have been referred by a named friend, phone that friend first, for additional information. Sales commissions usually drive up the price on door-to-door and phone-sold items, so look for the same or similar items in stores or on line to compare. Not all door-to-door sales people are bad; many a kid has worked his or her way through school doing it legitimately—and it is brutal work. So never be unnecessarily rude; this may be the one case where a kind word goes well with a firm no.
  • Pay with cash whenever possible. Using credit can make it too easy to spend money you don't yet have.


  • Remember that a salesperson is there to make money. This is what he or she does for a living. Treat him or her courteously and fairly, but do be firm.
  • If you buy an item from a street vendor remember that there is no store to complain to if your product doesn't work the way it's supposed to.
  • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Not all sales efforts are on the up-and-up. If you believe something might be a scam, don't bite, and do report it to the authorities.
  • Look out for recalled items and possibly dangerous items. You wouldn't want to walk away with a tainted can of dog food or a necklace full of lead, would you?
  • Don't invite a door-to-door salesperson inside. Regardless of what he/she wants to demonstrate, he/she is still a total stranger, and it will only make it harder to get him/her to leave.

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