So many people hate telemarketing calls that there are whole websites devoted to ways to torment and infuriate the people making those calls. Are telemarketers evil fiends who should be despised and tortured whenever possible? We asked Blue Avocado readers for their experiences as the wretched creatures:
"I was a music teacher," said Gayle Holtman of Indianapolis, "and I needed something to do for the summer. I got this job in the basement [if this were a film, this is when the audience starts shouting: 'Don't go into the basement!'] and was given a stack of cards and told, 'Just call these people.'"
Says another former telemarketer: "One call changed my life: I called this guy and he talked to me a little bit and then got off the phone. I called a week later and he ordered two subscriptions and said, 'Anyone who can sell me over the phone I want to meet.' That's a pretty corny line, but I did go meet him, and he hired me to work at the Chamber of Commerce."
Worst situation for one reader: "I was telemarketing for the symphony. My target was one season subscription per week. After two weeks I hadn't sold a single one. I sucked. It was too depressing. I quit."
At Center Stage Theater in Baltimore, Will Parquette didn't have individual goals as a telemarketer, but his group met every night at 5:30 pm for a meeting to prep for calling. The group's goal was $6,000 a night. Making 100 calls a night, it took Will four weeks before his first sale; that's 1,000 phone calls before a success! (Maybe the rest of us should stop complaining about three rejections for grant proposals.) "The artistic staff would come in and talk to us about the shows so we felt connected and knew how to answer questions about the shows."
Leah Pomerantz of Vancouver is something of a lifer: "I've been doing telemarketing as a staffperson or as a volunteer for 25 years." Selling what? "Got started calling Jewish teenagers telling them that if they donated $10 to this Jewish organization they could go to a dance . . . I've sold many different fundraising things, like baked goods for schools and even vacuum cleaners."
All our respondents said they gained hard-won, extremely valuable skills from telemarketing:
- "The woman who hired me told me it was an opportunity to work on yourself and your communications skills. I took that to heart."
- "You have a script, but you can't use it. You have to listen to the other person and, by listening, you know if you're being too aggressive, or too passive."
- "I learned to distinguish between features and benefits. Like a feature of a mechanical pencil is that fresh lead comes out when I rotate the tip. The benefit is that I always have a sharp point."
- "You realize there is a variety of people out there you haven't run into before."
- "I would get so discouraged. My boss said, 'You're going to make 10 calls to get one membership, so now you're only nine calls away.'"
And what happens when an ex-telemarketer gets a telemarketing call?
- "I'm particularly nice to telemarketers. I never hang up on them."
- "Sometimes I want to say, 'Let me give you a few tips . . . do you know how you sound?'"
- "I always say 'good luck with your calls' at the end of the conversation."
Even though everybody claims to hate telemarketing calls, the reality is that thousands of people respond positively to them. It works! That's why nonprofits continue to make the calls to explain their missions and ask for donations. Thank you, Will, Leah, Gayle, and Anonymous. Now we know something about those mysterious, invisible folks on the other end of the phone line.