How To Talk To People Who Don’t Want To Talk To You

To really catch the attention of decision-makers who are busy (and don’t want to talk to you), you need to be one step ahead.

How To Talk To People Who Don’t Want To Talk To You
[Image: Flickr user Gabriel Saldana]

“You’re more interested in what you have to say than anyone else is,” said 60 Minutes’ Andy Rooney.


Do any of these sound familiar?

“I’m busy. Can you come back later?”

“Thanks. We’ve got it covered.”

“We don’t have the budget for that.”

You’ve probably heard all the above: par for the course when trying to sell our ideas, products, and services. But it can be demoralizing to keep running into people who run the other direction as soon as they see you coming.


Here are three ways to motivate decision-makers to give you a chance in the all-important first minute.

1. Acknowledge that they are busy.

The first words out of your mouth should to be, “I know you’re busy, and may I have three minutes of your time?”

Do you know any decision-makers who aren’t busy? If you start talking and don’t immediately request a specific amount of time, people are already impatient.

If people don’t know how much of their valuable time you’re going to take up, they’re already resenting you because they’re thinking, “Don’t you know how busy I am?!”


By acknowledging they’re busy; people are more likely to listen up because they know it’s for a limited amount of time. Instead of being distracted and wondering, “How long is this going to take?” they know exactly how long this is going to take.

Plus, you’re asking instead of presuming. Instead of launching into a one-sided spiel that holds them hostage; you have respectfully requested their attention. They’re a lot more likely to give it because they volunteered to do so.

2. Ask for less time than they expect.

Want a quick way to pleasantly surprise and favorably impress decision-makers? Condense your request or proposal into a fraction of the allotted/expected time.

I had a client who was meeting with the CTO of the London Olympics. I asked him, “How much time do you have for your pitch?”

He said, “One hour.”


I said, “Mike, you don’t have an hour.”

Start by saying, “I can only imagine how much you have on your plate. I’ve distilled my pitch into 10 minutes. If you would like to continue the conversation after that, I welcome it. If you have something urgent to handle, we can follow up at a later date.”

That executive will appreciate you for being time-efficient and for honoring their packed schedule. They will conclude you are exactly the type of supplier they want to work with; someone they can trust to cut to the chase and not waste their time.

3. Eliminate doubts up front.

Put yourself in the mind-set of your decision-maker. Why will he or she say no to what you’re proposing? Why will they not be interested?

Bring that up first. If you don’t, they won’t really be listening; they’ll be waiting for you to stop talking so they can tell you why this won’t work.


Imagine they’re thinking, “You’ve got to be crazy coming in here asking for money; we don’t have any left in our budget.”

Voice that objection by saying, ‘You may think I’m crazy asking for money as there isn’t any left in your budget, but if I can have your attention for the next three minutes, I can show you exactly how we are going to recoup this investment in the first six weeks.”

Suppose they’re thinking, “We tried this before and it didn’t work.”

Voice that with, “I can only imagine you’re thinking, ‘We tried this before and it didn’t work.’ You’re right, AND I’ve identified exactly where we went wrong last time and how we can prevent that from happening this time so it will be an ROI for all involved.”

Remember, if you don’t address their doubts, they won’t consider anything you say because they’ve already made up their mind.


So, who is a decision-maker who may not want to talk to you? Are you meeting with a VIP client, requesting funding from an investor, proposing a strategic partnership? Use these three steps to overcome their impatience and objections so they’re motivated to listen up.

Sam Horn is on a mission to help entrepreneurs create more compelling presentations, pitches, and proposals. She is the founder and CEO of the Intrigue Agency, where she writes, speaks, and consults on strategic communications.