Telemarketing can be a very cost-effective approach to sales. Telephone sales calls are faster and lower cost than visiting customers in person, and at the same time can also be more flexible and compelling than a sales letter.
But telesales is also challenging. Successful cold calling is an art: it can be difficult to get people to listen let alone convince them to buy, and the inevitable rejections may hurt. Effective telemarketing relies on understanding how telesales can work for your business, and making sure that telemarketers have the skills they need.
Telesales works best if you are clear about what it can - and can't - do for your business. Selling directly over the phone - cold calling potential customers and trying to convince them to make a purchase - may not be a realistic option and could damage your reputation. Instead, you might use telesales as part of the sales process - for example, to introduce yourself to a potential customer before following up with a sales letter, or to make an appointment for a meeting.
Telemarketing can also be an important part of dealing with existing customers. Once you have a relationship, as well as responding to enquiries you may be able to use telesales to prompt repeat orders.
Whatever use you make of telesales, you'll need to decide which employees should be responsible or whether to use a telemarketing service. You'll also need to take into account legal issues, such as regulations covering unsolicited sales calls and consumers' cancellation rights.
Many people find cold calling unknown potential customers a particular challenge. Some employees continually put off making cold calls, preferring to concentrate on other tasks that they are more comfortable doing. Even when employees are motivated and incentivised, lack of confidence can undermine effectiveness.
The right approach can make cold calling easier: for example, if cold calling is seen as part of sales lead generation - identifying and qualifying sales prospects - rather than putting employees under immediate pressure to sell. While completely scripted sales calls tend to be inflexible and sound artificial, well-planned calls with clear objectives are more likely to succeed.
Telesales training can help employees develop the right skills and attitude. As well as being able to cope with potential hostility and rejection, successful telemarketers need a whole range of skills:
Unless you plan to outsource telesales to a telemarketing company, you'll want to invest in making sure that employees have the right sales techniques and negotiation skills.
Find more articles, videos and tools in the Resources box on the right.