Avoiding sales pressure

Don't give in to the hard sell

Have you ever felt pressured into buying something you didn't really want? Salespeople use a range of tactics to persuade you to part with your cash. However, you don't have to give in to their sales pitch if you don't want the item or need more time to think about the offer. Read our tips on avoiding the hard sell.

Common sales tactics

Salespeople use a range of techniques to persuade you to buy their product or service quickly, rather than giving you time to research and compare products. Sometimes they will try to sell you a product and then sign you up for a loan to pay for it.

Here are some of the common high pressure sales techniques used by salespeople, whether they work in a bank or car dealership, or sell door-to-door, over the phone, at a seminar, online, or even a shopping centre.

'Our product is the real deal'

To get you to sign up, salespeople will tell you why their product is better than others. They may show you data or statistics to back their claim. Salespeople may also tell you that all the smart, rich or clever people are using their product. Don't take only their word for it, no matter how convincing their argument sounds. Do your own research.

'I hear what you're saying/I know how you feel'

Salespeople know the easiest way to get you on board is to become your 'friend'. They may tell you something about themselves to show they understand and share your concerns. If they can get you to trust them, it will be easier to persuade you to buy their product.

'Think about what this means for your partner or children'

Another persuasive technique is to make you think that if you don't buy this product, you are not doing the best you can for your family. For example, a life insurance salesperson may say you are putting your family at risk if you can't work to support them. Similarly, a salesperson may imply you are risking your children's education or future by not buying the educational software package they are selling.

'This is a one-time offer only'

You may be told that the offer is for 'today only' or that there are only a limited number of items available, and if you don't sign up now you will miss out. Don't fall into this trap - take all the time you need to research and compare products before you sign up.

'Here's a little token of our appreciation'

Sometimes you may get a gift like a free trip for attending a seminar. This is just a tactic to make you feel obliged to return the favour by buying their product. You don't owe them anything.

Dealing with a pushy salesperson

If you make a decision under pressure, the outcome is rarely good. No matter how attractive the offer or how insistent the salesperson is, you should never agree to anything on the spot. Here are some tips on how to take control of a situation when you are being given the hard sell.

Ask for time to think before you sign up

Be polite but firm - say you want some time to think over the offer and keep repeating your request until they agree. Take down their name and contact details and say you will be in touch if you have any questions or when you have decided what to do.

Check that the business the salesperson works for is legitimate

If you are looking to buy a financial service or product, tell pushy salespeople that you only deal with licensed businesses and that you would like a copy of their licence details and a financial services guide before making a decision. You should also double-check their credentials by checking ASIC lists or phoning ASIC's Infoline on 1300 300 630.

For non-financial products, see the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC's) webpage on identifying a genuine business.

Make an informed decision by reviewing any contracts

Ask for a copy of the sales, loan or credit contract they want you to sign so you can review it in your own time before you sign anything. If you read all the documents to work out the fees and charges, terms and conditions then you can see if the deal is really worth the money. This is particularly important if you receive a letter or phone call out of the blue from a company you have never heard of.

Be wary of verbal promises made by pushy salespeople

Get everything in writing before you sign up. Make sure any verbal promises are written into a contract or agreement to avoid disputes in the future.

Check if there is a cooling-off period if you change your mind

Find out if there is a cooling-off period so that, if you change your mind, you can cancel the contract or agreement. Cooling-off periods vary from state to state. Contact the consumer affairs agency in your state to find out what your cooling-off period is. See the ACCC's list of consumer protection government agencies.

Take your time to research the product

Never commit yourself without researching what else is available and comparing the features and costs of different products from different companies. You may find a better offer that's just right for you.

Put a 'Do not knock' sticker on your door

If you don't feel you have the strength to say 'no' to high pressure salespeople, you can put up an 'Do not knock' sign on your door. This sticker lets salespeople know that you do not want them to knock on your door. You can get a Do not knock sticker from the Consumer Action Law Centre website.

Do not call register

There is a Do not call register run by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that you can use to reduce the number of telemarketing and research calls that you receive.

Your legal rights when buying a product or service

There are laws to protect you from companies that mislead or deceive you to sell a product or service. The ACCC has a list of the consumer affairs agencies that can you can complain to, if something goes wrong with a product or service you have bought.

If it is a financial product or service that you are having problems with, find out how to complain to ASIC.

When salespeople are not allowed to call you

There is an ACMA industry standard for telemarketing and research calls that directs when and how telemarketers can contact individuals. Under the industry standard, a caller must not make or attempt to make a call on:

Days Research calls Telemarketing calls
Weekdays Before 9am or after 8.30pm Before 9am or after 8pm
Saturday Before 9am or after 5pm Before 9am or after 5pm
Sunday Before 9am or after 5pm Calls prohibited
National public holidays Calls prohibited Calls prohibited

To avoid buying a product that does not suit your needs, don't give in to high-pressure sales tactics. Remember that you are not obliged to sign up on the spot, and you don't owe the salesperson anything for their time.

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Last updated: 08 Apr 2019