While not the most popular - nor the most well-received kind of marketing, telemarketing is actually one of the most effective strategies for a growing business to get in tune with their target market. When done correctly, you’ll be building a trusting customer base that knows your business wants to do their best to give value that will, in turn, drive more customers to your business.
But what is telemarketing?
If you’ve ever received a phone call from a business or service that asks you to switch plans, try out a new product, or asks for your feedback - that’s telemarketing. A telemarketer is a sales-representative that conducts lead generation primarily through phone calls. Telemarketers never meet their customers face-to-face and are often trained with a specific script and goals checklist to meet their quotas. Bigger companies or enterprises typically employ a combination of employer call centers, live chat, and automated telemarketing strategies, but more on that later.
Telemarketing can often be confused with tele-sales - they typically differ in outputs. Tele-sales opens and closes business deals and generates leads on the phone. Telemarketing, on the other hand, works to create opportunities and nurtures leads into multiplying. These may include:
- Market research through polling opinions from customers or decision-makers
- Collect accurate information to employ other marketing techniques - such as collecting emails of your existing customer base for more targeted email marketing.
A telemarketer may be a part of a growing business team, but they may also come from businesses that specialize in telemarketing - like “call banks” or third-party call centers. These telemarketing businesses are regulated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission under the Telemarketing Sales Rule that, and quote, “requires that telemarketers make specific disclosures of material information; prohibits misrepresentations; sets limits on the times’ telemarketers may call consumers; prohibits calls to a consumer who has asked not to be called again, and sets payment restrictions for the sale of certain goods and services.”
Don’t worry if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed - doubt comes with risk, and this article can be the best jumping-off point to guide you to be able to follow telemarketing techniques that are up to industry standard. Telemarketing only has a bad reputation because of less than well-intentioned individuals that employ “robo-callers'' that trap consumers in a loop of outgoing messages. But when used by savvy small businesses, telemarketing works wonders even with the smallest established connection with the target consumer market.
Here’s what you need before you start:
- Customer information - after your business has been around for a while, you should have - or consider to start growing, a small community for your customers. Telemarketers need to know that the person that they’re calling is familiar with your brand and services for a call to work. Better so if these customers have a record of following your business’s newsletter, or if they won a prize in a previous promotional campaign. The goal is to connect with a customer that already knows of or has previously availed of your products or services.
- Knowledge - a good telemarketer should know the products and company they represent to be able to answer any and all questions a potential customer might ask. If you’re looking to better your campaigns, make sure you know what these offers are and along with the terms and conditions for you to share with an interested party.
- Empathy - the goal of telemarketing is to nurture connections, not always to close deals. Callers with good empathy and listening skills are more likely to achieve success in a phone call with even the most difficult customer because they understand that not everyone wants to hear a spiel or be stuck on the phone for too long.
- An ongoing campaign - your telemarketing efforts should be one of a handful that is working together to give your customers value while giving you direction of which aspects of your business your customers tend to gravitate to. Support your calls and other campaigns by creating linkages to your sales promos, direct mail, and so on.
Telemarketing Tips for Success
- Focus your goals
Before you start telemarketing, you need to outline this project’s specific goal - are you hoping to collect email addresses? Gain feedback on a recent campaign? Inform them of an upcoming promo and encourage them to join your newsletter? It’s important not to overwhelm your telemarketers with too many objectives at once, and it’s smarter to start small before you build into your knowledgebase for calls.
- Have a basic script
You’ll need to be able to take your objective and spiel down pat for your callers to be able to represent your business accurately. Your script should also immediately communicate your objective to your consumers so you don’t waste time. Remember that these scripts aren’t meant to be recited word-for-word every time. Make your basic script open to more organic conversation for your telemarketer’s benefit - and your customer’s comfort. Nothing says a downer than a robotic, monotonous phone call.
- Speak slowly and clearly
While more experienced cold callers have a training advantage, starter telemarketers can benefit from remembering to speak slowly and clearly. It’s normal to encounter a few speaking hiccups when you start out - whether it’s speaking too fast, blurting out your script, forgetting your script. The key is to allow yourself to relax and learn. Remember to sit comfortably - not stiffly, and then take a few deep breaths before you start. When you’re ready to practice and enunciate, drop your arms to your sides and be mindful of the pressure on the diaphragm. This helps relax your body and, by consequence, relaxes your voice muscles.
Bonus: A script is not a cop-out - good copy is developed after multiple trials and errors, and a script works as a guide to help telemarketers focused on the goal of the call. Your script may change over time and go through different variations according to your needs. Strikingly websites are built to help you better design your web spaces that your telemarketers can navigate and access information as well - should they ever need to help walk through the site with a potential customer.
- Be prepared for a conversation
This is why your script should only cover the basics - the person on the other end of a call will potentially be asking questions to clarify if your role in the business and why you’re calling. Sometimes they may have a few concerns before you can even get to the point of your initial call. Anticipate this and then practice dialing back the conversation into your original reason for calling.
- Anticipate a “No” or “No, Thank you”
We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t mention that there will be calls that are going to be rude - that’s not on you. Most people don’t take kindly to calls of any kind, so try to maintain a professional distance, and if you’re feeling confident, you can politely argue your case to convince someone who’s at least on the fence. No matter the outcome, you can thank the person for at least answering your call and then try again.
- Always be polite
Sound life advice that also pays off - even more so, in a professional landscape. Knowing that you may not always be successful in every call, but you’ll at least be remembered in a positive light until the next call. While first impressions are important, being polite through a whole call - even the most difficult ones, leaves a lasting impression.
- Deliver what you promise
On more advanced objectives, you may need to walk through a few published materials with your client. If you say you have marketing materials for a promo you’re calling about, you’ll also need to be prepared to send it as soon as the customer expresses interest in seeing it. Never wait until the end of the long day to make good on a promise - interest is fleeting, and if they don’t get what you promised as soon as you said you would, you’re leaving them hanging, and they’re less likely to return as customers. And they’ll tell your friends about it too.
- Practice makes perfect
It can take a while before you get comfortable with calling strangers. Much like practicing your spiel, your actual calls are also going to take some getting used to. But when you remember that the worst thing that can happen is that the person at the end of the call says no - it simply becomes an area for growth. Take the rejection, and move to the next one.
- Obey the law
We briefly mentioned the U.S. Federal Trade Commission under the Telemarketing Sales Rule, which mostly focuses on protecting consumers (individuals) and not businesses. It’s your prerogative as a business to deliver the best product and services to your customers and treat what they give you with respect. The discomfort over sharing your information to a stranger who calls comes from the many previous instances of people who have been negatively affected by data leaks and hacking. You can lessen this risk on your end when you create an opt-in feature on your website that helps you gather data from your customers and see form responses and subscribers to your site’s content.
In the end, remembering the telemarketing sales rule of, to paraphrase the policy: “disclosing of material information; avoiding misrepresentations; following set limits on the call times; and respecting a consumer’s request of not to be called again” - is also in your business’s best interest.
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