The Art of Telemarketing is Making a Comeback!

Posted on May 18, 2012

I have being doing some telesales this week, cold calling for new business, I have to do this because there is no real sign of a commercial recovery as the public sector that served me so well continues to shrink. Cold calling is an art that only a few select people can perfect with great skill as it takes persistence, resilience and skin as thick as a pebble dashed rhino (you can add the attribute of being a total cunt with regards to national PVC Windows companies, Britain’s number one pension thieves). Without these attributes you are up against it a little, though I have been reasonably lucky in life with regards to selling over the phone as I have generally worked for companies who have offered products or services that are of a decent quality and are actually used on a regular basis by the client on the other end of the phone. If you go in to sales, for God’s sake go in to a market where the products are high in quality and at least of potential use to the would be buyer, otherwise you will die lonely.

To do telesales successfully,  the first thing you have to accept is that than in reality, no matter how smooth you are (and you do get good after a while) the odds of a potential client needing your services or products at the point when you call them, are heavily stacked against you, it is purely a numbers game I’m afraid. The general consensus where I have worked and in the businesses I operate in now (electrical contracting and construction) is that for every one hundred phone calls made, you are only likely to get a four per cent success rate. For the other ninety six per cent of the calls you will get politely declined by seventy per cent, patronised and pitied for having such a shit job by fifteen per cent, told to fuck off by six per cent and threatened with violence or anal rape by the psychotic five per cent that remain. I have always taken patronising pity as the worst form of rejection, though the threat of a severely traumatised anal passage runs it rather close.

For my first job that involved cold calling I shall take you all the way back to 1990 and ACS Coffee Services in Basingstoke. This was a new and unique service at the time, where the client would receive free filter coffee making equipment in exchange for signing up to a year long contract to buy the beverage products that went in to the machine. These machines were all the rage in pubs, restaurants, cafe’s, golf clubs and boardrooms and those who got in to this industry early made a lot of money. I worked in an office full of similar aged individuals where our job was to bash out the phone calls using yellow pages, local newspapers or complimentary slips from local companies in an attempt to gain enough appointments for our territory representatives to convert in to business. I was fortunate enough to have in my territory a rep who was so good at selling she had the ability to flog a hog roasting machine to the local Synagogue. Aesthetically pleasing on the eye but with a mouth like an east end whore that would have an Irish tarmacadam operative reeling in shock, she is still the best salesperson I have ever met to this very day, blessed with all the attributes I mentioned above.

Whilst doing telemarketing this week, it came to me what an excellent apprenticeship ACS was for anyone embarking on a career in any sort of business, because if you can’t sell,  I am afraid to say you are a busted flush. We are now in a time after the false boom years of 1997-2007, where you have to pick up the phone and ask for work, sadly for the likes of me, it wont just turn up on your doorstep or email inbox without you asking, not anymore anyway. However, if, like me, you possess the ability to ring up and attempt to sell coffee to a mentally unstable landlord called Frank who has a history of violence and happens to be halfway through his afternoon nap at “The Sailors Fist” public house in Southsea, calling up electrical contractors to see if they require additional contract staff is like a stroll down to a trout stream through a sun kissed summer meadow. Sales people got lazy in the boom, in fact many younger sales people have never even carried out genuine cold calling, utilizing outside telemarketing agencies to do the their dirty work whilst they picked up the easy orders. These people are now in the process of experiencing the shock of a lifetime as their bosses urge them to get on the phone and find business. At least I have my ACS grounding featuring the bizarre management skills of my former boss (hello Jenny) who operated an extraordinary rule book that included a days paid bereavement leave after West Germany beat England in the 1990 world cup semi-final.

ACS was a crazy place to work in, it was brutally hard going at times, but I look back on it with fondness as it was the first place I felt the thrill of a sell as well as learning to cope with and dish out ferocious piss taking as a way to get through the day. Several people came and went in to this business in a matter of days when it dawned on them the mayhem they were walking in to, it was an atmosphere that would not be tolerated in a modern working environment and we were effectively caged in to a glassed off area to protect the accounts and admin people outside from the chaos that reigned within. We even had a private phone line that Jenny had installed so we could take ultimate revenge on the potential clients who had abused us the worst. With the way the economy is, to be a success, it is now the right time for small businesses to get back on the phone, be brave and take the rejection on the way to the rewards that putting in the hard yards might offer. I see a lot of companies that  are extremely quiet with regards to business but are making basic errors in sales and marketing, completing tenders for work, then sitting and waiting for an order to arrive rather than chasing it up through fear of failure and the cloud of depression that it brings.

Some people seem to see that selling their company is either beneath them or simply something they just can’t do, but a business that sits still and waits for its luck to change will ultimately stagnate before it eventually goes bust. Show me a good business and I will show you a good sales team. I have met some really good sales people in my time and contrary to popular belief, the best ones are not the smarmy snakes in the grass you might imagine, they are just resilient and very good at their job. The smarmy ones are just one trick ponies who are soon found out, or in the best case scenario, threatened with being  punched to the floor, something I once gloriously witnessed at Manders Paints as my former boss narrowly avoided the sideways intrusion of a flipchart in to his anal passage. This threat was offered  by a heavily tattooed decorator who should have been sectioned under the mental health act, though for that moment I was glad he was a free man to provide me with some high class entertainment. I warned him about the flipchart numerous times before we arrived on site, but he just wouldn’t listen, some sales people are like that, always right.

So the next time you get a cold call at work, remember that the person at the other end of the phone might be on number ninety of a hundred calls made that day. Either try to be polite or make their day by being one of the four people who will actually show an interest in their products. If they trying to sell you plastic windows at a starting price of £30k or a vacuum cleaner for £7k, by all means offer them the choice of anal rape or better still, a well rehearsed patronising riposte offering them your deepest sympathy to how they have stumbled across such a terribly shit job. They will hate that more than anything and will struggle to keep going through their pitch.

Right, better get back on the phone.

3 Replies to "The Art of Telemarketing is Making a Comeback!"

  • Michael Barrett
    May 19, 2012 (9:14 am)

    Great Blog, couldn’t agree more about the shock some companies are suffering now they really have to sell. I’m relatively new to the world of sales and still find the rejection even from a vaguely warm lead hard, but as you say running a small business needs must.
    Love the idea of a days paid leave when we lost to Germany. Could that be enshrined in employment law once we make the knock out stages of a tournament?

  • Patrick Bond
    April 8, 2013 (2:11 pm)

    Thanks Bob for this interesting blog. I also cut my teeth in the tele-sales arena via ACS Coffee Services in Basingstoke in the mid 1980’s. It was an excellent learning ground for me and has helped me in almost all areas of business that I have worked in since.

    I remember the office being run by Jenny Syrad and her father and found them and the rest of the staff really helpful and all in all it was a good fun place to work.

    Thanks again for the article its is very interesting read. All the best Patrick

  • Kerry
    April 9, 2013 (8:03 pm)

    I also remember it fondly. Certainly a unique experience!

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