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Since graduating and getting a job as a software engineer, I've started attending programming meetups on about a weekly basis. I enjoy the events and the people and if anything will do it more frequently in the future.

Somewhat routinely when I ask people about technologies they work on they will try to give me a sales pitch at a later time. This is awkward since I don't make those decisions and have no desire to lobby those who do.

How should I talk to people when my priorities are as follows (highest to lowest):

  1. Ask them how they solved specific problems in their line of work.
  2. Discuss various cool things that can been done with software.
  3. Not be given sales pitches for business software.
  4. Preach the virtues of Python, Linux, test driven development, etc.
  5. Talk about current events, the stock market, and television.

I personally am a software engineer, but this problem likely exists for other industries.

  • I'm not sure what a good tag for this would be, feel free to suggest some. – Joshua Snider Oct 18 '15 at 3:46
  • It sounds like these meetups are primarily for sales pitch purposes not small talk. – Kilisi Oct 18 '15 at 4:53
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    @Kilisi: It's only an occasional problem, so it's probably only some events that are sales pitches. – Joshua Snider Oct 18 '15 at 5:22
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    A "sales pitch" can be steered into a mutually rewarding dialog if both sides are open to it. Sales people know that not everyone they talk to makes purchasing decisions but they often find value in shop-talk with people who actually use the products they sell. And you can gain insight into upcoming industry trends and practices by talking to these folks. If you loosen up your priorities and become more flexible about what you're willing to discuss you'll have a better time at such events. – teego1967 Oct 18 '15 at 10:56
  • Just FYI - a Good salesperson cultivates relationships with entire teams, not just the ones with purchasing authority. You could get promoted, or take another position elsewhere where you will have an influence in purchasing, and you'll remember who was decent to you and who blew you off. Good salespeople sell to teams, departments and companies, not just individuals. – Wesley Long Oct 18 '15 at 18:11
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First, many meetups that I attend tend to be techie lead; meaning that those who are there to sell something to you (or recruit you for work) are taking advantage of the community; not contributing to it. So if that's the stated intent of the group; I'd worry less.

When I was at that point in my career; I'd typically start out explaining that I was there to learn what was out there. As time passed, I realized a few things.

  • Listening to sales pitches (and controlling the conversation through questions) taught me a lot - understanding the sales cycle and what problems other companies have can have a lot of value.
  • Often they gave their pitch because they felt they had to. Coming right out and stating that I wasn't interested, but was enjoying the conversation often led to an abrupt end or a change of topic away from sales cycle. Either way, solved!
  • I got better at identifying who to go talk to; and avoid the salesguys.

I'm a bit confused at what you describe as a sales pitch though. If someone works at, say, Oracle; and you talk database fundamentals with them; engineers usually won't try to sell you a license. Are you speaking with engineers or salespeople?

  • The last person had "Solution Architect" as their job title, but I'm not sure about the people before him. – Joshua Snider Oct 18 '15 at 5:26
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"I'm not making purchasing decisions, On the other hand, my opinion might influence purchasing decisions. So sell me on what the product can do for the users, not on what it can do for the business."

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