Telemarketing Is Not dead – It’s Only A Flesh Wound


Despite the rumours telemarketing is not dead. There is little doubt it has been seriously damaged by overuse and poor practice but in this post we discuss where it still has a place as part of a marketing process.

First, let’s look at some recent examples of calls to my own business and why telemarketing no longer works as a stand-alone prospecting or (worse) appointment setting tool.

    1. 1.       Pitch – I am in your area tomorrow and giving out 5 minute appointments tobusinessman reacts to telemarketing assess your telephone requirements.

What’s wrong? – Where is the value in that statement for me? We all know the appointment will be more than 5 minutes and I am not a complete idiot and can work out for myself that the purpose of the visit is to qualify me in / out and try to sell me something. It is all about the supplier and not me or my needs.

  1. 2.       I am from xyz and I would like to meet with you to discuss your insurance needs.

What’s wrong? – Similar to the above but not quite so bad – at least they have mentioned my needs but I have a good idea of what my insurance needs are / are not. I don’t need anyone to help with that.

  1. 3.       I am from xyz print company I noticed from your recent blog that you still believe print can be an effective way to generate business. We specialize in high quality print in low to medium volume. I wondered if you could spare some time so I could introduce the services we offer.

What’s wrong? – Not a lot really? They have done some research and know their product is likely to fit with my needs. They have told me their services are different in some way and there is no sales push. However, there is a problem and that is I do not have any print requirements at present and I am busy so they are highly unlikely to secure an appointment.

Prospects with no immediate requirement are a major problem for any push marketing technique and particularly telemarketing. Unless a major brand able to throw money at ongoing awareness campaigns any push marketing technique that reaches a prospect will be instantly forgotten unless there is an immediate and pressing need.

In the consumer world low value purchases that present little risk may be purchased almost on a whim but that is not the case with B2B where purchases may be extensively researched. A cold call or direct marketing approach is likely only to cause friction and not distract the prospect from their own research process unless very lucky and the communication hits at just the right time.

Let’s look at some numbers. If we assume it is possible to make 20 calls per hour on average (a challenge for those without experience and a thick skin) and 1 in 5 of those calls reach a decision maker then it is possible to reach approximately 30 prospects in a full working day. How many of those are likely to have a pressing need? Even if they are in buy mode how many will be put off by the fact you have interrupted their work flow and / or their inbuilt prejudice against cold calling

Many will say (with justification) inbound marketing is the solution. As inbound is based on delivering information (content) to a point it can be read and engaged with by a target audience it should be much more effective. It is available when a prospect is ready to research the products and suppliers that may support their needs, it builds credibility and draws the prospect in.

The inbound arguments all appear to make perfect sense but the reality is somewhat different. Building an effective inbound marketing process is far from easy and, once built, it is resource intensive. Any new inbound marketing campaign will take months to deliver meaningful results.

There is a great line in Michael Gerber’s book the E-Myth that states ‘keep the curtain up at all costs’. Behind the inbound marketing curtain is this. Yes inbound works but if you look behind the curtain of those using inbound marketing you will note they are also employing a large element of outbound.

So telemarketing is not dead, it is not even seriously wounded, it has just changed. Even with the best inbound strategy at some point a potential supplier needs to engage, one on one, with a potential customer and all the data and automation in the world cannot deal with that. My first boss in sales, nearly 30 years ago said ‘people deal with people’ and that (in my view) has not changed.

The best approach can be inbound marketing with some element of telemarketing (or other outbound technique) to take a sales process forward. Telemarketing has really just moved its position in the process from the first line of attack to a progressing element.

It’s only a flesh wound quote courtesy of Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Black Knight sketch.