What is Telemarketing?

What is Telemarketing?

telemarketing is a method of direct marketing in which a salesperson solicits prospective customers to buy products or services, either over the phone or through a subsequent face to face or Web conferencing appointment scheduled during the call. Telemarketing can also include recorded sales pitches programmed to be played over the phone via automatic dialing.


The rise of telemarketing can be traced back to the 19th century telephonists, or switchboard operators. Trans-cultural hiring of switchboard operators (mostly women) became especially popular in North America throughout the 20th century, partially due to popularity gained through advertising. After the shift from public switched telephone network to computer-based electronic switching system, the job of switchboard operators gradually diminished. However, with the rise of advertising and with the popularity of the telephone use, new jobs, including telemarketing jobs, were created.

Women in telemarketing

Telemarketing, as it was the case with telephone operators, is one of the fields known to be occupied mostly by women. The central reason for hiring women operators lied in the fact that women's work was considered a form of cheap labor: female telemarketers earned about one-half to one-quarter of men's wages. It was also highlighted, however, that women were more polite and well mannered than male operators. Moreover, the calming, more delicate nature of a woman's voice was considered to be women's natural quality, although no scientific evidence supports this statement. This naturalization led to normalizing the perception of women as telephone operators and consultants, which is currently reflected in the telemarketing industry.


Telemarketing may be done from a company office, from a call center, or from home. It may involve a live operator voice broadcasting which is most frequently associated with political messages.

An effective telemarketing process often involves two or more calls. The first call (or series of calls) determines the customer’s needs. The final call (or series of calls) motivates the customer to make a purchase. Prospective customers are identified by various means, including past purchase history, previous requests for information, credit limit, competition entry forms, and application forms. Names may also be purchased from another company's consumer database or obtained from a telephone directory or another public list. The qualification process is intended to determine which customers are most likely to purchase the product or service.

Charitable organizations, alumni associations, and political parties often use telemarketing to solicit donations. Marketing research companies use telemarketing techniques to survey the prospective or past customers of a client’s business in order to assess market acceptance of or satisfaction with a particular product, service, brand, or company. Public opinion polls are conducted in a similar manner.

Telemarketing techniques are also applied to other forms of electronic marketing using e-mail or fax messages, in which case they are frequently considered spam by receivers.

Robotic telemarketing

A recent trend in telemarketing is to use robocalls: automated telephone calls that use both computerized autodialers and computer-delivered pre-recorded messages in a sales pitch. Some can simulate a personalized phone call through personalized pre-recorded messages. These calls often include intentionally deceptive tactics, with computer recorded messages saying things like "Don't panic but this is your final notice" or "We have already attempted to contact you through the mail." The messages are often outright lies, intended to incite concern or fear in the potential customer.

Robocalls are known for failing to add numbers to their do-not-call list and repeatedly interrupting individuals at all hours of the day.

Telemarketing has recently been advanced to implement a programmed women’s voice as the operator instead of hiring a real women to perform the task (see example of Samantha West). This attempt showed to be unsuccessful. However, some scholars may argue that such technological advancements reinforce commoditization of a woman’s speech as a marketable entity and lead to “gendered hierarchy of communication”.

How to Be a Good Telemarketer

1. Prepare for telemarketing

  • Learn as much as you can about what you are selling. You should have a thorough understanding of what it is, how it works and how it may be useful to potential customers. Additionally, you should have genuine confidence in what you are selling, and in its value to the people you will be calling.
  • Learn about the company you work for. A good telemarketer not only sells a product or service, but also sells the company. You should be able to tell potential customers why they should choose you over your competitors. Study the company's history, philosophy, customer reviews/testimonials and industry ratings in order to be able to provide customers with a complete and favorable picture of who they are dealing with.
  • Make sure you understand the sales process. Once you convince a customer to invest in what you are selling, good telemarketing skills require that you are able to explain the sales process from start to finish. This includes closing paperwork, billing, shipping, refund/return policies, customer support and any necessary follow-up.
  • Compile contact information for your customers. You should have the business name, mailing address, phone number(s), email address, website, your manager's relevant information (especially if you work in a call center) and any other pertinent contact information that your customers may ask for over the telephone.
  • Practice your script. Read it aloud until you are comfortable that you can deliver it without any prompts.

2. Express confidence

A good telemarketer speaks with a tone of authority that puts customers' minds at ease. If you are amply prepared, then you should be able to talk about the reason for your call and your company with confidence.

3. Practice effective communications skills

  • Speak slowly, loudly and clearly enough that customers can easily understand you. Do not mumble.
  • Be considerate of the people you are calling. Introduce yourself and explain the purpose of your call as soon as possible in the conversation. Pause and take time to listen to responses as you go.
  • Find the right balance between saying too much and not saying enough. Dead air during a telephone conversation can be uncomfortable. On the other hand, you can overwhelm and confuse a potential customer by saying too much, too fast.
  • Avoid distracting conversation spacers such as, "um" and "ah."

4. Try not to sound rehearsed

Scripts are common in telemarketing, especially in a call center atmosphere, but it is possible to deliver a script without sounding like you are reading from a piece of paper. Take some slow breaths and relax before making your calls, then focus on the message behind what you are saying rather than the words themselves.

5. Maintain a positive mental attitude

Remember that some (or many) of the people you call may not be expecting your call and, additionally, may not be receptive to your call. It is not unusual for even a good telemarketer to be rejected by several potential customers in a row before reaching 1 interested customer. Don't take rejections personally but, rather, take them as opportunities to develop your telemarketing skills.

6. Stay resilient

Telemarketing is a numbers game, and it takes time and persistence to develop good telemarketing skills. Commit to making a certain number of calls each day and see those calls through.

7. Recognize when it is time to move on to the next call

If a contact is expressly not interested in what you have to say, then politely end the call and move on to the next call.

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