To make telemarketing really work, you have to do it right. Check out these practical tips to get you started.
By Liz Lemarchand, MediaDev
More and more I hear people telling me that they don’t understand how telemarketing can work to generate leads in today’s (digital) age. They are skeptical, and probably for good reason -- most likely, they’ve been called (hundreds of times) by low-level telemarketers (reading a script word for word) about uninteresting topics. (In fact, the last time I was called it was about ordering frozen foods online …).
Well, I’m here to tell you that while it’s not easy to have your voice heard through the crowd, if you do it right, it can work.
I get called a lot. You would think that because of the nature of our business I’d be patient, listen to the speeches regardless of the topic, and politely tell whoever is calling why I’m not interested. But actually, I’m probably one of the worst prospects you could call. Why? Because I’m too tough on that low-level telemarketer that can’t deviate from their script and speak to me like a person.
I (like you, and many others) don’t have time to beat around the bush, and I want the telemarketer to use their own words to get straight to the point. And it bothers me that most can’t. They either aren’t allowed to be creative, or they just don’t know how to think outside of the box to position the solution in such a way that makes me feel “this is unique.” That’s the problem with 99.9% of the call centers out there and exactly why there is opportunity for the .01% that know how to do it right.
In a recent blog post I spoke about The Perfect Pitch. The perfect pitch is about having the right bait on the hook, and line-fishing. The issue that most telemarketing companies face is that instead of creating a bespoke campaign that’s tailor-made, they use a one-size-fits-all approach, casting out a gigantic net in the hopes of catching a couple minnows. It’s true that telemarketing is in some respects a numbers game: the more people you call, the more likely you will find someone interested in what you have to say. But, sheer quantity is no guarantee, especially when quality is the only way nowadays to get your message heard.
So, in this post I’d like to share a few examples of really bad calls I’ve received in the past to show what to do/not do when telemarketing.
Several years back (before I started working remotely), we worked in a big open-space (which, trust me, was much noisier than my current home office!). When the phone would ring, there were potentially 3 people who could answer the line (including myself), and redirect the call. I found myself answering the phone rather regularly, which meant that I was also subject to telemarketing inquiries (and was of course instructed not to let them pass through to the big boss!). So in a sense, I became the gatekeeper.
From that I experience, I can share TIP NUMBER ONE: MAKE THE GATEKEEPER YOUR BEST FRIEND.
On a particularly bad call I received one afternoon, there was a woman on the other end of the line (who did not identify herself), barking into the phone, “Put me through to the manager.” I politely responded with a “Could you tell what this is in regard to please?” at which point she barked again, “Just put me through to the manager!”
Now on the one hand, I was starting to get a bit concerned, but on the other, I wasn’t going to blindly pass the phone (partly because I was a manager myself, but also because I didn’t think that her approach of being rude was entirely convincing) without having more information first. So I asked her, “Well, could you tell me what type of manager you are looking to speak to? A Finance Manager? A Marketing Manager? An Account Manager? Or a General Manager perhaps?” And you know what? The woman was incapable of telling me what type of manager she wanted to speak to and just repeated again (louder and angrier than the first 2 times), “Just pass me the manager!” So, I did what any gatekeeper would do. I told her that without more information I couldn’t pass her to anyone, thanked her, said good-bye and hung up the phone. She did not call back.
This is where I could also add TIP NUMBER TWO: NEVER INSULT A PROSPECT. NEVER. NO MATTER WHAT.
Insulting the gatekeeper is a sure-fire way to get you blacklisted from ever getting your foot in the door in that company again. Just don’t do it. Do the opposite. In line with tip number one, try to charm the gatekeeper, make a joke, be friendly, ask for help, be polite, be nice. People want to help people that are nice to them.
Here’s story number two. Same setting (open-office back in 2008). Now this was during a pre-Skype age (yes, for you millennials reading this, there was a time when people worked in offices, and didn’t have Skype, can you believe it?) when I actually used a physical land-line phone to make calls. An inbound call came in, that I answered, and a young woman was on the line and her pitch started out well. She said, “I’m calling from XYZ telecom company,” (obviously not the real name), “and I want to know if you make a lot of overseas calls.” And in fact, I DID make a lot of overseas calls, but I knew she was a telemarketer, and I wanted to challenge her a little, so my response was, “Uhh, well, not really.” At which point she said, “OK, well thanks so much then have a nice day.”
I was stunned! I said to myself, that poor girl is never going to get any leads! Why? Because she should have counter-argued. She should have said, “What do you mean by that? How many overseas calls do you make a day?”To which I would have responded about a dozen. “How many minutes do you spend on the phone for each one of those calls?” To which I would have responded approximately 20 minutes. So my “not really” response at face value had she dug deeper would have given her a prospect who spends 4 hours a day making overseas calls! I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a lot! So that leads me to TIP NUMBER THREE: KNOW HOW TO COUNTER-ARGUE.
Don’t be afraid to dig deeper, ask questions and follow-up questions. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “What do you mean by that?” or “How does that work for you exactly?” Everyone is different. Every company is different. No-one can possibly know the inner workings of them all, but if you don’t ask questions, you won’t know if or how your solution could fit. Challenge what a prospect says (without being insulting of course) and be interested in what they say because it may give you the ammunition you need to make a great lead.
This also brings me to my last tip for the day. TIP NUMBER FOUR: KNOW YOUR SUBJECT. When you are super comfortable with the subject matter you’re calling about, it’s easier to counter-argue because you know the ins-and-outs like the back of your hand. If you are well prepared, you’ll be a more effective communicator. If you are convinced, your prospect is more likely to be too.
So to recap, here are my 4 tips for today:
And don’t forget to reread part one of this series: Why Telemarketing Still Works.