Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Being the sole IT person here entails that I get to receive the various cold calls for different services/servers/IT products. I've always fended these off in a fairly civil fashion, but really that just wastes time. Anyone have quick, or at least entertaining ways to fend off the recruiters/outsourcers/vendors? Has anyone purchased any IT assets or services as a result of a cold call?


locked by HopelessN00b Jan 25 '15 at 1:14

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

closed as primarily opinion-based by HopelessN00b Jan 25 '15 at 1:14

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Start giving out business cards of your HR people? – Bart Silverstrim Sep 15 '09 at 15:11
Stop being so civil? – Wesley Sep 15 '09 at 15:20
There's a reason for caller ID, voicemail, and number blocking. – TheCleaner Sep 15 '09 at 15:50
A lot of these calls come from internal transfers from the operator - not possible to screen. – DHayes Sep 15 '09 at 16:01
Internal calls from the operator should be easiest to screen- assuming you have a good working relationship with your operator. – kmarsh Sep 16 '09 at 12:37

14 Answers 14

Do you speak a foreign language? Preferably an ancient one? Answering the phone in Sumerian tends to confuse the cold callers. Warn the family before you start doing it. The first time I did it they called the SWAT team thinking my office had been taken over by pirates.

Kidding aside...

When you say that you're "fairly civil" might that mean that you're too polite? Try being courteous but short. When they ask "can I speak to you about..." if it's not something that you're truly interested in always turn the conversation around to looking out for their benefit. Like this: "We're not in the market for a product like that now or anytime in the foreseeable future. I'll call you if we ever do, but for now I don't want you to miss out on another lead that is in a better position to purchase from you. Thanks for calling! click" If you truly are interested in the product to some degree, then give them a time limit and stick to it: "Okay, can you summarize the product or service in 2 minutes? I've got a timer here and a cranky database server that needs me in 5 minutes. Go!" Increase the time that you give them based on the interest in the product that you have. You must, repeat must stick to the time limit you set out. If you want, invite them to call back, but always give them a time limit. Maybe 5 minutes the next time. Always stick to the pre-stated time limit. Never let them get away with "Hey, I can call you back when you have more time." The answer is: "I never have more time. Talk to me now. This two minutes is your best chance... oh wait, it's now down to 1:40." If they can't handle that then you don't need to do business with a firm that can't respect your time.

Your profile in the various CRM management softwares that the companies in question use will have your tactic flagged; "This guy is always busy, he gives you a time limit. Talk fast!" You'll get a reputation, but if you stay truly polite but professionally short, it will be a decent reputation to have.


"Hi, I'm really, really busy right now. You're best bet is to e-mail me the information at..."

My e-mail client then filters and sorts and I have a folder with vendors I can look through at my leisure, or not, as the case may be.


I just check the caller ID of the incoming call. If I recognize the vendor as somebody I'm dealing with, or I'm feeling a little more hospitable, I'll take the call. If not, I let voicemail take it. If they REALLY want my business, they'll leave some info, maybe a website that I can investigate myself and I'll call or e-mail them if I'm truly interested.

With calls that get transferred by our operator it's always a crap shoot unfortunately. – DHayes Sep 15 '09 at 16:00
+1 for voicemail. – p.campbell Sep 15 '09 at 16:30

I hardly ever answer the phone because of this and rarely listen to VM. A couple ideas:

  • You have to talk to the receptionist and recruit or bribe him/her into helping you. Your time is much more valuable. Consider your approach and ask them to take messages, request email or fwd right to Vm.

  • If that doesn't work, recruit your boss to intervene. Tell him how much time/day you lose to this

  • when someone get's through as a courtesy, NEVER fwd them to someone else. Take their number, have them email but don't fwd.

  • ask them NOT to call.


+1 for bribing the front desk person. They make very little $ compared to us, and their workday is even more hectic and stressful then a new hire at an IT Helpdesk. – kmarsh Sep 16 '09 at 12:42
The fact that the receptionist makes less money s the point. The business needs to solve problems as inexpensively as possible. What I suggest you ask the receptionist to say is something like this: "He doesn't take cold sales calls, please forward any information to his email address. He will file it for future reference. His address is ..." – uSlackr Sep 17 '09 at 4:04

The Anti-Telemarketing Counterscript, if you have a little time to waste next time one comes a calling, can be entertaining.

Anal as I am, I have a laminated copy of the nicely formatted PDF version to hand (though I rarely have the spare time to waste so usually end up politely saying "no", less politely saying "no" if the hint isn't taken immediately, and hanging up after that).

Note: be absolutely sure a caller is a cold call that your company doesn't want to deal with, before playing games with them or being less than polite!


"Hello... Oh hi... no, sorry, we're going out of business and expect to be closed up permanently a week from Friday... you might want to remove the number from your database..."


I don't know if you can, especially if you have helpful front desk people that route calls to you anyway.

I just let calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail which then goes to email which then I can file like spam. If the number isn't recognized, I don't answer it.


I usually give them the number to a phone sitting in the server room. No one is in there so it can ring and ring and not bother anyone.

"Let me transfer you to our purchasing agent. Oh, here's his direct number for your records." – Dennis Williamson Sep 15 '09 at 16:19
Once, I was riding then the office elevator, when the phone rang, I answered it, and was connected with a very angry customer. Apparently one of our customer service reps would transfer callers to the elevator when he did not know what else to do with them! – BillN Sep 15 '09 at 18:13

I usually just answer their question "are you in charge of purchases?" by partly lying and saying "no, that's [insert another employee who's good at fending them off like some boss in finance or something]".


Put yourself on your country's Do Not Call register, if you have one, and then just dutifully report them every time they call you.

Not creative, but effective.

If you don't have a DNCR, well then you're stuffed.

businesses are expressly excluded from the DNC registry in the US – warren Sep 16 '09 at 4:09
Don't mean to be rude, but he doesn't specify a country, his profile doesn't specify a country, and where I live, anyone can use the DNCR. – Mark Henderson Sep 16 '09 at 4:40

I start by asking what they want to sell me this time. Anyone who says they aren't trying to sell anything gets hung up on, because that's just plain BS. This generally ensures the call is short - around 10 seconds being the norm, with me telling them straight out that I'm not interested. Depending on my mood I might even reverse it and start offering my services to them, which is pretty much guaranteed to get them to give up fast. If I'm still on the phone 20 seconds after I answer it's because I'm interested.

If you ever want to have a very short phone conversation with me just call and ask if I will take part in a survey. I was taught to be firm, not rude. Of course if you do it fast enough they won't be able to tell the difference.


I'm pretty much the sole IT person at my company, too, and I agree that you probably need to work on your receptionist and perhaps your boss, too. I'm fortunate that my receptionist can immediately smell a sales pitch, survey, or similar type call, so those calls rarely ever make it back to my room.

My boss is also aware of the impact that such calls can have on productivity, so even though my office is located nearby, my phone isn't included in the main office call group. That means it doesn't ring through and I don't have to do silly things like "phone duty" when everyone else decides to go out to lunch. It's a small perk, but I enjoy every moment of it!


After reading some of the responses, it dawned on me that I have full control over the phone system here. So, with the idea of transferring someone to a person better at fending off calls, I could very well transfer these people to a parking lot extension that loops the musical stylings of Mr Rick Astley.


Simply tell the sales person that a.) you are not in the market for $product and b.) please remove your name from their solicitation list. Professionally they cannot refuse you.

I was circumspect about doing this because sometimes you NEED sales people. You are not going to get a free demo of a $200K product by asking a question on When changing roles, and you are no longer purchasing stuff, you have to be professional and tell them- you are now wasting your time with me, for your own sake please stop.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.