Telemarketers rank somewhere below used car salesmen and just above politicians on the scale of respected professions.
Like you, I’ve had my share of telemarketing interruptions during dinner. But I’ve also been on the other side of the phone, having worked as a telemarketer for a few different organizations, including my college alma mater. I can tell you from experience, it ain’t easy. So I can empathize with those doing the calling.
The good, the bad and the sleazy.
Done well, telemarketing remains an effective prospecting tool. Here’s one personal example of a success story: I started seeing my current dentist after getting a cold call at home. I think it was an offer for a free cleaning and the call just happened to catch me at the right time. The appointment went well, so I kept going back. Now I’ve been a patient for… wow, more than 20 years, I guess. That’s a pretty decent ROI.
Done poorly, telemarketing can do a lot of damage by annoying prospects to the point of prompting negative word of mouth or bad reviews on consumer review sites like Yelp. And you may never even know it.
Done unethically? Well, let’s just say you should never give out your bank info or social security number over the phone.
Before getting to the 10 Tips for Telemarketers, I want to share an anecdote to illustrate some of the points.
Persistence is a two-edged sword.
Yesterday I got a call from a contracting company (who shall remain nameless) that wants to paint my house. It wasn’t the first call, or even the second. But yesterday’s call got me so incensed I told them to take me off their list. Then I called them back! Why? Well, first, some background.
This contractor company first called me about two months ago. I wasn’t particularly interested, but the caller was persistent. He said they had someone “in the area” and wanted to stop by and provide a free estimate. I didn’t go for it. But the company followed up with another call later. I ended up relenting, partly out of pricing curiosity and partly to get them off my back. (Turns out I wasn’t the only one to set an appointment just to make the calls stop!)
The person who came to my home was polite and professional. But the quote was too high and I wasn’t in a hurry to get the work done in the very near future. Thanks, but no thanks. I thought that was the end of it.
A couple weeks later I got another call from this company. But it wasn’t a follow-up.
It was as if I had never been called before or received an estimate! The caller apologized after I explained someone had already visited. I thought that would be the end of it. Nope.
A week or two later I got another call. Then another. And another. I told each caller to take me off of their list. (Yes, we’re already on the National Do Not Call registry, but a fat lot of good it does.)
Finally, yesterday I got yet another clueless call from the same company. Again, the caller had no idea I’d already received an estimate (and subsequent calls). Fuming, I asked them, again, to take me off their list.
After hanging up, I did a quick search and found negative reviews on Yelp citing the same complaints: overzealous and clueless telemarketers. That’s when I called the company back.
I asked the person who answered the phone (a dispatcher) whether their telemarketers ever make notes about the cold calls they make, such as whether the prospect had already received an estimate. He said he wished they did!
Consumers today don’t just get mad, they get even.
In addition to blogs and social media, there are a number of websites where consumers can take out their frustrations on pesky telemarketers. I mentioned to the contractor that his company was getting dinged on Yelp. He said he wasn’t too familiar with the Internets and such, but he was very apologetic. He took my name and number so he could remove me from the call list.
Five minutes later I got a call back from someone else at the company who mangled my name — just to let me know I was being taken off the list. He also said he was going to check back in a few months to make sure. (Huh?!?)
As a public service and to help fellow marketers avoid making the mistakes, here are some helpful hints for anyone considering or currently conducting a telemarketing campaign, whether outsourced or not.
10 Tips for Telemarketers
- Be brief – get right to the point.
- Listen – if you can’t overcome objections quickly and politely, move on.
- Practice – know your stuff and be ready for questions. (Your prospect is not reading from a script so you may have to deviate from yours to keep it real.)
- Take notes – jot down whatever the prospect says to aid your sales staff. Even if it means removing the prospect from your list.
- Follow up – you have to catch prospects at their moment of need, which may not be the first time you call. Patience pays off.
- Don’t argue with your prospect. (Like the mortgage lender who called me recently.)
- Don’t read – or at least don’t sound like you’re reading from a script, even though you are.
- Don’t ignore what your prospect is telling you.
- Don’t insult your prospect, even unintentionally with phrases like “you don’t understand”
- Don’t annoy or pester. Negative word of mouth travels as fast as the good kind, sometimes faster.
Have any other telemarketing tips, success stories, or horror stories? Sound off! It feels good to vent.