DSC Tech Library
Telemarketing Related Information
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The following is an article relating to the telemarketing industry including products and services in our business areas.
Telemarketing: The Art
by Jay Fairbrother
It's hard to imagine most of the calls we receive at dinnertime, selling everything from home security systems to magazine subscriptions, being described as an art form. Yet, communicating effectively by telephone is a dynamic pursuit in which skill and creativity merge to produce amazing, sometimes unpredictable, results. Unfortunately, much of what happens on the telephone is closer to profane science than sacred art.
Telemarketing developed out of the for-profit sales sector simply as a means of making more sales presentations than could be possible in face-to-face selling. The sheer quantity of presentations more than made up for any loss in effectiveness by not being face-to-face (percentage response decreased, but number of sales increased as a result of more contacts). Thus was born the telesales "numbers game" that has spawned today's billion-dollar industry.
Yet, the numbers game is a dangerous one, as it encourages focusing only on quantity, rather than quality. Telemarketing has earned its current reputation based upon people exploiting this non-customer-driven approach. While most telemarketers for nonprofits are suitably polite, few take the time to develop any real rapport, find out whom they're speaking with or customize the call to each prospect.
I am surprised at the number of calls I receive on behalf of nonprofits in which I'm never given an opportunity to speak before being asked for the sale/gift (an old-school sales principle says don't give the prospect an opportunity to say no before you ask for the order). This contradicts one of the tenets most development and marketing professionals consider sacred: provide prospects and donors ample opportunity to express their feelings, concerns and questions during the solicitation process.
Much more than a science of numbers, telemarketing can be an art form, which requires extensive training of callers who must become experts on your organization, learn persuasive communication skills, and develop individual styles.
With direct mail, the same message is delivered to each and every prospect. Telemarketing, by its very nature, can never deliver the same message twice. Each caller, on every call, delivers a slightly different message.
If you were to have callers read scripts word for word (please don't), the message would still vary. Each caller's tone, volume, pacing, enthusiasm, conviction, confidence, gender and age are among the many variables which affect the message, and therefore the results.
And this fails to take into account any input from the prospect. As soon as a prospect speaks, a whole new course is charted and all scientific validity of the resulting data becomes corrupted. Once we take our message out of the realm of flat, one-way communication and into the realm of one-to-one interactive communication, the possibilities are limitless. Suddenly, the caller's individual skills in effective communication, most notably listening and problem solving, affect outcomes.
While shopping for clothes or furniture, have you ever felt that your purchase decision was affected because you liked, or disliked, the salesperson? All too often, telemarketing campaigns are evaluated solely on statistical standards. Certainly, analyzing the numbers is important, and testing of lists advisable. However, the attention paid to the quality of the calls, the one-to-one interaction of the telephone representative and your prospects/donors can make the difference between a successful campaign, and one which potentially alienates your constituency.
I try to evaluate telemarketing programs based upon how much money was "left on the table" (how many sales/gifts were lost because the caller did not personally connect with the prospect and attempt to understand their concerns). Could the percentage response have been higher, the average gift larger?
When telemarketing is conducted as an art form, some surprising things happen. Because callers are given some freedom and flexibility in tailoring each call to your prospect, the results are not predetermined. For instance, direct mail can only use a scientific array to ask for an increased gift, typically a multiple of last year's gift. A well-trained caller, on the other hand, can ask for whatever they feel is appropriate. And often there are big surprises! In campaigns for museums and PBS stations, we have demonstrated hundreds of times that it's possible to upgrade donors from basic donor/member levels to $1,000 and higher gifts!
Unfortunately, many telemarketing campaigns are driven exclusively by direct mail principles with undue emphasis placed on the written word. For instance, how much importance is placed on scripting? Changing a few words or sentences within a script won't make or break a campaign.
Each call should take a life of its own, based upon two informed personalities discussing a subject of mutual interest. At this level, the caller's skill in directing the conversation toward a sale or gift is the biggest factor in determining the success of a telemarketing campaign. The best callers are people without previous telemarketing experience, who are good listeners, who are eager to learn about your organization, and who recognize that improving communication skills is a lifelong process, whether those skills are employed at home, at work, or on the phone.
Thus, the art of telemarketing for non-profits is a skill that can never be fully developed, can always benefit from training in persuasive communication skill and should never be treated as a science.
Jay Fairbrother is the founder and former President of Direct Advantage Marketing, a Pittsburgh-based telefundraising company. Their artful approach to fundraising has generated millions of dollars for over 100 clients. This article originally appeared in ARTS REACH Magazine.