Has a sales rep ever tried talking you out of a phone?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| January 4, 2013

When I was selling phones, I was always shocked when someone came into the store, or near the kiosk, and didn’t know what they were looking for. For a long time, I regarded cell phones much like vehicles: You go into the store knowing what you want, at least a little bit. But, there were more times than I could ever hope to count where a customer just wanted to look, and left it up to me, or another sales representative, to put a phone in their hand. But last year, and even in a few cases this year, we heard about it quite a bit.

I remember last year when Windows Phone was getting a bit more of the focus, there were a few stories that popped up regarding sales reps, or other wireless carrier employees, talking customers out of the mobile operating system for all sorts of different reasons. It didn’t matter why the customer was looking at Microsoft’s operating system, the reps were just ready to talk them out of it.

At the end of December, a news report started floating around about a wireless carrier sales rep using some choice dialogue to talk a customer out of an iPhone 4. In that particular situation, the customer was able to get a free replacement iPhone 4, and they went into the store to get one. The rep was quick to point out that the iPhone 4 wasn’t the phone for him, using some choice, colorful verbiage to get the point across, too. It went so far, according to the initial report to Tom’s Hardware that the sales rep told the customer their fingers were “too fat,” and that they should look at Samsung’s Galaxy S III instead.

In the majority of reports following along with the initial story, I saw several different situations pop up from comments, and even other writers. At one point or another, a sales rep has seemingly gone out of their way to talk the customer out of a phone, using all sorts of different excuses as to why one phone might not be particularly the “best choice” for that customer.

The trouble is that every situation is different. Certainly, every customer is different. Their wants and needs are different, so just trying to shove one phone into every customer’s hands doesn’t work. Even if you think one phone is the best device on the market, it may not be the perfect device for the customer.

I’ve never been talked out of a device before, but I have had reps try to do it. When HTC’s Trophy released on Verizon’s network, a sales rep tried pretty hard to get me to go with another handset, an Android-powered phone that I can’t remember the name of. The representative used several different reasons, ranging from small screen size, to Windows Phone 7 itself. “Too new, you won’t like it,” was one of the gems that made its way into the conversation.

On the surface, a sales rep talking a customer out of a phone isn’t a bad thing. After all, a customer may have just heard about a phone by word-of-mouth, or seen it talked about on the Internet at some point, and after hearing what they’re looking for, it may not be the best phone for them. But it’s all about the execution. It’s all about what comes out of the sales rep’s mouth. I’d call it a pretty safe bet that telling a customer that their fingers are “too fat,” isn’t the way to go. Just ask what the customer wants. If a big screen isn’t at the top of the list, then move on.

So this is where I want to hear from you, Dear Reader. I want you to tell me about your time with a sales rep at a wireless carrier when they tried to talk you out of a phone. What were some of the reasons they used? Did they immediately try to get you into another phone? Which phone was it? Has a rep ever said anything pretty “outside the box” to convince you of a phone? Let me know!