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Confessions of a Telemarketer: What It’s Like on the Other End of the Phone

November 24th, 2010

telemarketing-cartoon.jpgDuring the summer of her freshman year, Mary needed a job but wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of working in a restaurant or retail store, and couldn’t find other jobs for which she was qualified. Since she was in the process of earning her degree in Journalism, she pictured herself in a professional setting. Her friend Kyle mentioned that he had been hired by a local telemarketing firm.

What about the stigma?

Society collectively cringes at the mention of telemarketing. The job is, essentially, to sell a product or service to a person in their own home or workplace. These calls can intrude on family or private time, and the receiver isn’t necessarily in the market for such a product. Mary admits that when she told friends her summer plans, she felt embarrassed saying “I’m a telemarketer.”

However, it may be a viable career choice for a student like Mary, or anyone who lacks training to apply for other types of office jobs. Telemarketers are typically paid several dollars above minimum wage and often receive commissions or bonuses. They sit in comfortable chairs at clean workstations in a conditioned environment. For those with excellent ‘people’ skills, the thought of chatting on the phone all day might be a scintillating prospect.

Getting Hired

“It was almost too easy,” Mary recalled about her hiring process. She filled out an application but there was no interview, which is surprising given the necessity of good communication skills to do the job. Most telemarketing firms, however, do conduct a formal interview and perhaps even a follow-up. Once hired, newbies usually enter a training program to prepare them for the “floor,” industry slang for the space in which callers sit.

Trainees are often paid a lower hourly fee until they complete the program and are officially hired. Mary was pleasantly surprised that she enjoyed the training process, saying that “the exercises were simple and straightforward.” The instructor leads the group through mock calls, and depending on how a theoretical caller responds, the trainees press corresponding buttons and their formulated responses appear on their computer monitors. However, once training is complete, new hires often have an uneasy feeling about making that first, real call.

Making the First Call

New hires should expect their first shift to be exhausting. A telemarketing phone system is extremely efficient and keeps a frantic pace: calls are hurled at telemarketers with little warning, sometimes without even a ring or a beep of introduction. This is the opposite of what most people imagine; the telemarketers do not dial your number and sit and wait for you to answer. It took Mary several tries before she got her timing right, resulting in a few hang-ups and annoyed people on the other end of the line as she stuttered through her opening statement.

Telemarketers make many calls within an hour, and the vast majority end in rejection. It’s a career that requires a thick skin and eternal optimism. Mary was surprised, however, that most people she called were polite and didn’t yell at her for interrupting dinner, as she had expected. What she did not enjoy was her manager swaggering up and down the aisle, prodding the team to “Smile and dial!” or “Dial for dollars!” but some of her coworkers found this encouraging.

Executing a Sale

For a telemarketer, nothing is more rewarding than making the “sale.” Depending on the particular product the firm is pushing, a “sale” could be as simple as getting someone to apply for a credit card or accept a trial magazine subscription. Veterans advise new telemarketers to keep the conversation flowing, as an awkward science can be the kiss of death, allowing the potential customer a moment to get distracted and end the call. Keep the conversation lighthearted, be respectful of your ‘customer’ and interject a little humor to diffuse tense situations and create a sense of trust.

Mary made several sales, but ultimately she decided that telemarketing was not for her. “I’m not a saleswoman,” she explained, “I found myself lingering in the lunchroom during my breaks, dreading putting that headset back on.” Ultimately she spent her summer working two jobs, one in a store at the mall and another as a restaurant hostess. She missed the comfort of the telemarketing firm’s office, and the high, steady pay.

Things to Consider

If you think you might be cut out to work as a telemarketer, ask yourself the following questions before you apply:

  1. Am I outgoing and engaging on the phone?
  2. Can I sit still for eight or more hours at a time?
  3. Is this particular company selling a product that I believe in?
  4. Can I shake off a rejection, or do I take things too personally?
  5. Does the stigma associated with the job bother me?


This article on telemarketing was supplied by Dorian Gray from Constant Content. The names of actual people mentioned in the article have been changed by the author to preserve anonymity.


One Response to “Confessions of a Telemarketer: What It’s Like on the Other End of the Phone”

  1. comment number 1 by: Deandre Gregory

    Nowadays, telemarketer as a profession is truly renowned. I think people who work as telemarketer have an extraordinary stamina because they are working in a graveyard shift. They work as if they’re not humans. I salute them because despite the nature of their work most of them still manage to like their jobs.

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