Staying Power

You Make The Call

Looking to develop a telemarketing program? Consider these 10 tips from Alert Communications Co., a telemarketing service bureau in Los Angeles:

1. Test your program first. Estimate the results you'll need to justify the costs. Give the test enough time to judge its effectiveness (you'll need to allow at least 20 hours per telemarketer just for the learning curve).

2. Assess the degree of difficulty of the calls to be made. "Don't hire an entry-level telemarketer to make a sophisticated sale," says David Kissell of Alert.

3. Write a complete script for your telemarketers to use. No matter the size of your company, Kissell recommends using scripts, at least in the beginning.

4. Use call screeners, such as your prospects' secretaries, as your allies. Verify with them that you're calling the right person and where to send information.

5. Role-play with your telemarketers. Have an objective observer comment on both the positive and negative points of the pitch.

6. Use direct mail in combination with telemarketing. "[Sending] a piece of direct mail before the phone call is a great door-opener," says Kissell.

7. Establish a follow-up and call-back system. "If I try to reach 100 people a day, the next day I can say `Here are my 20 hits from [yesterday]; they need to be followed up on,' " says Kissell.

8. Track outgoing call statistics. Use your calling statistics to identify your best lists and markets, as well as the best calling times. Also test which script works best.

9. Use your statistics to pinpoint areas for improvement. This will help you hone your telemarketing staff's skills.

10. Always reinforce the powers of listening. "Hire telemarketers who listen to what your prospects are saying and are not robots," says Kissell. "They need to listen and respond intelligently."

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This article was originally published in the February 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Staying Power.

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