Basic guide to telemarketing print Print

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Many business owners are not quite sure what telemarketing is or how it might fit into their operations. This guide is designed to make you aware of some possibilities and how you might be able to apply telemarketing in your business. Used correctly, telemarketing tactics can significantly boost the performance of most businesses.

Telemarketing involves two main types of communication: inbound calls (such as enquiries and sales orders) and outbound calls (such as calls to potential customers).

This guide concentrates on the possibilities and potential of outbound telemarketing.

For some ideas on how to improve results from inbound calls, see our article on How to build strong relationships on the phone.


The right attitude

Outbound calling is much more demanding than handling inbound calls. It therefore requires more skill and training as well as persistence on the part of the telemarketer. Success requires in particular the right attitude.

The right attitude recognises that telemarketing is very effective and that many customers find it helpful. But it's important also to recognise that you're intruding into their business and their time without invitation. Therefore, your attitude should be honest, direct and quick.

The relationship balance

Because you're telephoning their workplace during their time, you should not have expectations of co-operation - you have to take customers as you find them. So don't waste their time. Appreciate the fact that they are not obliged to answer your questions - they are volunteering information as a favour.

If the call progresses to the point where it's clear they have a need for your product or service and want more information, then the situation reverts to a more balanced relationship. But they remain a customer you want to win.

Pay attention to marketplace feedback

If you're able to gain their interest by using a direct, honest and to-the-point approach, then you've been successful. But if they reveal they're not interested, or too busy, or say: "Don't call again", then it's better not to intrude further. Instead, move on to the next call. If you experience a high level of discontent or hostile reactions, perhaps you're at fault by calling:

  • The wrong market
  • At the wrong time (for example, stock take day)
  • The wrong company or person for your product

These factors should help you reassess your planning and approach.

Call frequency

Your aim in conducting an on-going telemarketing campaign is to keep in regular contact with key potential customers and key decision-makers in your market place. You must balance this against the risk of irritating your contacts by overdoing the frequency of your calls.

For more discussion on this topic see How to build strong relationships on the phone.

Make calls multi-purpose

All your telemarketing calls should serve three purposes: improving the accuracy of your database, prospecting for new business, and the specific reason for the call.


Specific reasons for the call

Here are the most common reasons for telemarketing calls:

1. Lead prospecting

This involves straight-out telemarketing canvassing calls designed to find leads, make appointments or uncover areas of interest.

Your aim is to reach the decision maker in the business, but you also need to be aware that sometimes an expression of interest comes from another key person - a staff member who is not the decision maker, but who does have influence.

For example, the plant engineer in a factory might be interested in your machine tool. The engineer might not have the authority to purchase, but his or her recommendation might also be accepted by the decision-maker without question if it's within budget limits.

To also approach the decision-maker in such a case might prove more counterproductive than leaving it to the engineer to gain approval.

2. Market survey

Market surveys can be a 'looking for leads' type of telemarketing call in disguise and are often perceived as such by decision-makers. Most decision-makers are very busy and don't appreciate being 'used' in this way.

You'd do better to collect the information from a lower-level but reliable employee. Often the receptionist can be your best provider of market information. But remember the rules - receptionists are also busy, so keep the survey short, and go only for the information you really need.

For instance, you might call the receptionist to find out how many computer terminals the business has, or how many laser printers they have (if you supply toner replacement cartridges) or how often they use courier services.

3. Company introduction

This is typically a telemarketing campaign designed to introduce your business to the decision-maker you're calling.

Your emphasis in calling is not to push sales, but simply to introduce the products or services of your business as a new supplier.

You offer brief reasons for your difference from the competition, but keep the call low key, asking questions such as "Could we have your permission to forward details about our company? How would you like us to send it?"

This type of telemarketing uses the 'nice' approach, but can fail if the call becomes too long and apparently pointless. To be successful it needs a good script.

It can, however, be an effective way to confirm essential details about the decision-maker for a follow-up direct marketing campaign.

4. Customer care survey

Remember the rule: it is far cheaper to hang onto and develop your existing customer base than find new customers. Many businesses go to considerable effort and expense advertising for new customers while at the same time losing their existing customers to the competition.

Often customers leave because they sense a lack of personal attention to their needs rather than through dissatisfaction. We therefore need to make customers feel they are getting better service than they can get elsewhere.

Customer care surveys conducted by telephone are a very efficient way of maintaining regular contact with your customers. Personal relationships can be maintained and enhanced by telephone contact almost as well as meeting face to face.

Your customer care surveys should form part of a comprehensive customer care programme involving all your staff. The feedback from the telemarketing can provide you with very valuable information if there are areas of dissatisfaction.

5. Enquiry follow-up

Businesses often put substantial effort into preparing quotes or drawing up specifications for potential buyers, only to fail through lack of follow up.

Senior staff may be involved in putting complex quotes together, but soon lose interest if the potential buyer delays making a decision. An attitude of "They'll call us if they want it" is common. However, you can do better than this.

A relatively junior telemarketer can still maintain contact and ask a series of key questions, such as:

  • "Are there any questions left unanswered or queries that need clarification?"
  • "Is our quote competitive?" If the answer is "No", then ask, "We gave you a very competitive price, so we can't be far off. Do you mind me asking how far off we are: 5%, 2%?" If the response is more than 5%, then qualify: "Are we comparing apples with apples?"
  • "When are you going ahead with this project?" If the answer is soon then follow up with: "So, our quote covers everything, you're looking to go ahead soon, and we're within 5%. Could we come and discuss price with you?

Whatever the response to these questions, you'll have learned a lot more about your competitiveness from this feedback than not bothering to follow up your quote.

6. Invitation

Demonstrations, promotional days, or exclusive invitations to closed sales are excellent ways of further renewing contact without appearing to be doing the same thing all the time.

Justifications for the invite could include:

  • A new product or service launch.
  • A promotional special.
  • Business birthday (for example, your 5th anniversary).
  • First pick for selected customers on the evening before your public sale starts.

Remember that your telemarketing call in this case, as in the others, should form part of your overall promotional and marketing strategy.



Telemarketing and training

There are many sources of telemarketing training. Visit and for details of two companies offering telephone contact training in New Zealand.

It is sound practice to check out references and ask to speak to other businesses similar to yours that have used specific training or consulting services before making any decision.

You may also qualify for free Enterprise Training workshops for small businesses. Visit for details of possible workshops on telemarketing topics in your area.


Other articles

For more information on telemarketing see these articles:


Further information: 

To talk to an ANZ Business Specialist:
Call 0800 269 249
Visit your nearest ANZ branch


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