Telemarketing: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Telemarketing Good Bad and UglyIf you think telemarketing is simply about getting someone to make a few phone calls on your behalf and see which recipients of said calls are open to your proposition, think again!

Effective telemarketing requires planning, training, experience and importantly must be extremely targeted. It’s imperative you have carefully thought through:

  • Who: who you’re calling, who is making the call and what the strength of their relationship to / with the call’s recipient is
  • Using What: what data you’ve used to make your decisions, what data the caller is going to draw on during the call and what data you’re looking to capture
  • When: when the call is going to be made, what the follow-up actions will be and when
  • Saying What: what and how you’re going to say what you want to say in a way that will capture the attention of the call’s recipient and have the desired mutually beneficial end-result.

It should absolutely not involve any hard selling (in my view at least!) or purport to be about something it’s not. I’m going to use 3 examples of recent calls I myself have received to explain.

Example 1: The Good

The phone rings, the person on the other end explains:

  • Who they are
  • What company they’re calling from
  • Why they are calling me in particular

Critically, they ask me if I have a few minutes spare to speak to them or would another time be more convenient.

The callers politeness, tone of voice and respect of my time has already kept my attention.

I’ve got a particularly tight schedule today so we agree she can call me back the next day at a specified time. Sure enough, the phone rings at the agreed time. It’s the same lady I spoke to yesterday and she briefly reminds me of her name, company name and that we spoke yesterday. Again, she asks if it is convenient to talk and explains a little more why she is calling.

The purpose of the call is to a) make me aware of some forthcoming changes that are going to affect me and b) ask me a handful of questions.  The call lasts no more than 5 minutes. I’ve been reminded of something that is pertinent to me, the company has gained some insight on my perception and satisfaction of the service I receive from them and I put the phone down feeling a bit loved and valued.

Example 2: The Bad

The phone rings, the person on the other end explains who they are, what company they’re calling from and why they are calling me in particular.

They also ask me if I have a few minutes to go through some information I have previously provided to check it is still correct and where it can be added to, for free, to help further explain DMK Marketing’s proposition and services.

So far so good. This call I know isn’t going to be 5 minutes and whilst there’s likely to be an element of (unwanted) sales brought in at some point, there is clearly some benefit to me in continuing the conversation.

Where this call comes under The Bad category is the process by which this additional information was to be extracted. It was one way or no way at all; over the phone or not at all.

The caller was working to a rigid process, without any flexibility or understanding of my business. It slowly became clear that the information they were wanting and the time it would take to explain and collate it all would make this anything but a quick or easy phone call.

I had understood the call was going to be one thing when in fact it wasn’t that at all. It resulted in two frustrated people, neither one having benefited in any way from the last 10 minutes of conversation and a poor perception of the company on my part.

Example 3: The Ugly

The phone rings, the caller states their name, where they’re calling from, why and asks if I have a few minutes. Again, all good so far.

Except this time, from the ‘why’ explanation I know this call isn’t one I’m going to stay long on the phone for. Without needing to know more detail, I’m 95% certain it’s not relevant to me and my circumstances at the moment. I’m also, once again, strapped for time.

I explain both to the caller but (and this is why it’s The Ugly) she continues to tell me about the company and product she’s calling about. I ask if she’s seeking my involvement in it (aka advertising) and she just continues on as before. I’m still none the wiser what is wanted from me or how this phone call will benefit me in any way.

Again, I explain I really don’t have the time and we agree x day would be more convenient. We hang up. Note, no time was specified. When she calls on x day, it’s 2 minutes before I have to be in a meeting. The response I received was discourteous and accusatory. We hang up.

2 weeks later I get a call from the exact same lady who states her name, where she is calling from and why before she says: ‘I don’t believe we have spoken before’! I think you can probably guess the outcome of that particular call…I could have put the phone down but I didn’t….for the caller it took 10 minutes of my time before the message sunk in!

Can Telemarketing Be Effective?

Telemarketing is certainly an effective communication channel worth considering if, for example, you’re looking to generate or nurture leads, conduct some customer research or promote an event or promotion to existing or prospective customers.

But (and a big but), if it’s not planned or conducted by the right people, carefully targeted at the right people, with a clear, well-crafted message that is backed by hard data and, importantly, an understanding of who you’re calling, their business and how what you’re saying benefits  or impacts them, it can do more harm than good.


What examples of good, bad and ugly telemarketing approaches have you experienced?


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