Telephone marketing

Shelves containing lots of coloured telephones representing telephone marketing calls

Many businesses use telephone marketing to communicate with their customers. Any firm that sells direct usually handles enquiries, gives quotes and takes orders over the phone. Small firms that target business customers can use the telephone to call sales leads, give quotes and arrange appointments

Telephone marketing, or telemarketing, can offer several advantages over other forms of marketing. Unlike text marketing or email, you can talk to the customer directly and ask questions to gauge their interest, find out what their needs are and answer queries and objections.

Telephone sales calls to people at home, however, are often seen as an unwelcome interruption. If you are targeting consumers, you should think carefully before you use telemarketing. You risk alienating customers and you could damage your company's reputation.

In any event, you should always make sure that anyone you call is not registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

Calling business prospects

Telephone marketing can help business-to-business firms achieve a number of goals. You can use outbound telephone marketing to build your database, generate leads and appointments, follow up a marketing campaign and keep in touch with customers.

Business people are usually receptive to receiving sales calls as long as the caller is offering them something relevant. They may have made similar calls themselves to drum up business and they understand how it works.

Preparation and staff training is essential to maximise the success of your telephone marketing. Work towards specific sales targets to ensure you are making sales, not just making outbound calls. Prepare persuasive answers to common queries in advance, and have some questions of your own so you can find out more about your customers.

Telephone marketing is often used to generate new business by offering quotations or making appointments. Although it is harder to achieve, getting your foot in the door is the most effective way to make a sale. It's too easy for a prospect to rebuff you when you've sent them a quote.

To maximise your chances of success, it's worth making a two-call approach. In the first call, you can check the name of the decision-maker and get some basic information. Then you will be properly prepared for your conversation with the prospect.

When you can't get through

Don't you hate it when you can't get through to people you need to talk to? Telephone tennis - you leave a message, they leave a message, you leave one back… Or, even worse, you leave a message or send an email and you don't get a reply at all. So, you're faced with a tricky decision: do you chase it up and feel like you’re pestering; or wait and feel impotent?

When you are having no luck getting through, here are some things you can do instead:

  1. If you work in the same office, walk to the person's desk.
  2. Do things differently. If you've been in touch by phone and haven't had a reply, don't leave another message, email them instead. Or try sending a text message; people tend to reply to texts. Try saying something like: "Hi X, Let’s catch up today. I'll call at 3pm. If this time doesn’t work, please text me a time you’d prefer."
  3. During your first conversation, agree a time for your next conversation and get it in both your diaries.
  4. A final option (but one you need to be careful with) is to ask one of their close contacts for her advice. You could say: "I'm struggling to get through to X. How would you advise I contact her?"

Which of these is best? Communications expert, Andy Bounds, says, "It depends on the situation and the person you're speaking with. But I find a text usually works well. And it makes sense. People get hundreds of emails a day – most of them boring. It’s easy for yours to get lost in the noise… But they get fewer texts. And people tend to reply more quickly to them.

"Identify the people who aren't getting back to you. Now identify a new way to chase them. Remember: if your last chasing technique didn't work, it probably won't work next time either. So try something new. It’s often as simple as that."

How to persuade people to buy on the telephone

Cold calling can be very effective but many people lose their nerve Tension alters your voice and it can make you sound defensive, irritable or emotional. Confidence is essential - smile while you dial.

The best approach to telephone marketing calls is to ask open questions and listen to the replies. If you sell printer ink, for instance, asking, "do you need printer ink?" is likely to get a "no". Instead, ask if they have a printer and find out who is supplying their ink.

Ask clients what issues they're facing - and offer relevant solutions. Find out who the decision-maker is and what timescale they are working to. Don't just sell on price. Instead, show how you are different to the competition and get to know your clients and their business needs.

Receiving calls from customers

Telephone marketing is not just about making calls. Many businesses get the chance to turn enquiries into sales when people ring them. It is important to prepare for these inbound calls. You and your staff must be professional and helpful on the telephone and should be well informed about your products and services.

Always conduct staff training to ensure everyone is fully briefed and that they are giving a high level of service on the telephone.

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