Cardinal Rules of Telemarketing

During the process of writing this week’s post I took time out to answer an inbound phone call and as a result, was moved to set aside my original topic and concentrate instead on writing about the cardinal rules of telemarketing - rules we sales people ignore at our peril.

The call turned out to be from ‘Fraser' - who cleared the first few hurdles well - being both polite and helpful in articulating who he was and where he was calling from.

I’ll say right away, it’s my policy to take any and all calls, especially sales calls because like everyone else, I need to make an impression on others just as they need to make an impression on me so I think it only fair to give people a fair crack of the whip.

So, after a promising introduction, sadly it all started to go sideways ...

First of all he got the company name wrong and clearly hadn't thought to check the spelling or pronunciation. Secondly, he didn't know who the key decision maker was - in this case, me - so if he’d done his research, he would have been on to that very quickly.

These may not be fatal flaws but they get you off on the wrong foot if you’re aim is to make a positive impression on the telephone. Not knowing a company's name, how to pronounce it or the identity of the decision-maker you're after is bad form and more often than not, flags-up that the conversation ultimately isn't likely to go very far - you're setting yourself up to fail!

Anyway, being the understanding, even-handed person I am, I let Fraser continue and he introduced his value proposition, saying in a little more than a nutshell about what it was he did and what was on offer. When he did pause for breath, I suggested to Fraser that I wasn't particularly interested - my first objection. Rather than deal with it head on though and seek to understand the nature of my objection, Fraser was off again, telling me in even greater detail about his proposition and why I should be interested. Apart from the one-sided conversation, Fraser’s cardinal error was in not responding to an objection when it cropped up. Instead he steamrollered it, hoping it would disappear and this behaviour gets salespeople a bad name generally and turns selling into telling. If we are unable to get on the customers agenda and show more empathy, we are not going to be successful in telemarketing or indeed any other form of selling for that matter.

A superior strategy would have been to enquire about my objection to get a greater insight of where he should take his conversation next but no, Fraser was determined to stick to his script.

Anyone who saw the 2011 film ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ may remember the scene featuring Dame Judi Dench where she coaches the Indian call centre staff in the finer details of conversation over the phone. She encourages them to engage in a proper ‘conversation’, to build trust and understanding between two people that have hitherto never spoken before. Refresh your memory here (

By this point in our conversation, I was getting towards the end of my tether with Fraser so politely and respectfully suggested I’d had enough but no, he was determined to push on regardless. Any trust and respect that might have been generated had evaporated, replaced instead by simmering hostility from me so – time for the conversation to come to a close.

As important as it is for anyone in a sales position to be able to take a ‘No’ without fear of rejection, it’s equally important to know when to take ‘No’ for an answer and in this case, Fraser clearly had no idea where that point was.

In conclusion then, a list of the Cardinal Dos and Don'ts for telemarketing ...

  • Do your research and know names, details, business features, etc.
  • Introduce yourself by name, company and reason for your call
  • Get on their agenda; ensure opening lines of conversation are compelling
  • Stay on their agenda; be prepared to follow the conversation, leading it where it needs to go
  • Respond to objections as they occur - don't avoid them
  • Always have your objective in mind; trade up/down based on how the conversation is going
  • Plan a call-to-action and be prepared to deploy it
  • Be polite and respectful at all times

image - adobe cc