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What makes a good outbound telemarketer? It’s a question I’ve heard asked for years, with some fascinating answers.

One manager claimed outrageously that a person’s weight was a factor in their telemarketing skills.

telemarketer rebel

The smart people at Cellarmasters Wines found that actors were some of their best telemarketers. There were a number of reasons for this:

  • All actors have three words in front of their job description: “out of work” – so there were plenty available to work, who lived locally in the eastern suburbs of Sydney.
  • They preferred part-time work as they needed the flexibility to go to auditions at short notice.
  • They saw the job as an acting role and weren’t afraid of rejection, it was just part of the act, so to speak.
  • They felt they were benefiting from the job in two ways – it helped their acting skills and it put food on the table (along with wine I assume).

Quite some years ago, I opened my first telemarketing division, as part of a B2B sales lead process in our marketing team. One lady (let’s call her Liz) stood out above all others in terms of closing appointments. After Liz had been with us for about a year, a staff member suggested that Liz was working another job – as an escort at a well-known city brothel. I had no idea how this person knew this, but she swore it was true.

The brothel was one of those illegal ones that operated in full view of the public, because the Madame threatened to reveal her client list if it was shut down – and that would have been catastrophic for the government and certain businesses who had accounts at the establishment.

After some deliberation, I took Liz for a coffee and a chat. This was not an area in which I’d had any management training and couldn’t find anything in the “101 HR Manual” to assist me. So I just winged it.

Liz admitted she did have another job (her primary job) and in fact her employment with our company was her secondary job. I was a tad disappointed. But our job provided legitimacy for her to justify her income. And it was only 4 to 6 hours per day, 3 days a week.

She explained how she came to work as an escort, working only for diplomats and politicians – and only on call-out from the brothel. She’d never worked the streets, only the ‘premium’ end of the business. And she was married to one of her former clients.

Liz was not embarrassed about it and obviously made good money, because in the early 1980’s she drove a sports car with personalised number plates and a car phone – this was when the only people with car phones were the security services.

Liz said candidly, but with a grin; “Malcolm, I can talk the pants off anyone – it’s why I’m so good at telemarketing”. I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I just nodded like one of those toy dogs in the back of cars. It was one of the few times an “open-mouth expressionless gawk” served as the best management tool.

Liz worked with us for a few years. I have no idea where she is now – I suspect retired and probably in good financial shape.

These days it’s even harder to get telemarketing to work, regardless of the skills of the staff, because people hide behind technology. They use voicemail to filter calls and given that good manners are not part of management training any more, most people don’t bother returning unsolicited calls. The right-party hit rates are declining as telemarketers spend more time talking to machines than to humans.

People hide behind voicemail

People hide behind voicemail

Maybe this will change when every phone call is a video call – that will make for interesting recruitment policies.

Gotta run, there’s the phone. Or should I let it go to voicemail?