A few things I’ve learned about great Telemarketing Operations

I’ve learned a few things about great Telemarketing operations and share some of these in this short article.

Just like the inbound Contact Centre, great Telemarketing operations involves mastering the ecosystem – not just flogging Telemarketers to ‘do better’.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned and that I teach in my Telemarketing work.

1.  The language of Telemarketing

Like any industry, there is a unique language for Telemarketing.

Before your Team can do the data analytics and conduct performance management and coaching, everyone has to have the same understanding of the terms involved.

I always begin every Telemarketing Operations session with an exercise to allow folks to ‘guess’ at defining terms.

Here are some of the terms I ask them to consider:

  • Abandon Rate
  • Attempted Calls
  • Call Status Code
  • Contact
  • Contact Rate
  • Cost per Contact
  • Cost per Minute
  • Penetration Rate
  • Effective Calls
  • Ineffective Calls
  • Conversion Rate
  • Productivity
  • Quality
  • Qualification
  • Minimum Standard
  • The Telemarketing Script

Remember that the people in the room work in Telemarketing operations.  This is their daily bread and butter.

So you’d expect the exercise to turn out well.

But that’s rarely the case.

Of course by the time we end our session, they’ve mastered the terminology and know how to use it.

That’s the planned and desired outcome.

Lesson:  If everyone isn’t on board with the same language and understanding of terms you’ll get the Tower of Babel effect – and that’s not good.

Test:  Take a few of these terms and try it out with your Telemarketing management team.  How close or far off were they from the right answer?  And even more importantly – how close or far off were they in relationship to each other?


2.  Hire right

Put bluntly, ask yourself – how many of my Telemarketers can actually sell?

And how many of my Coaches can actually coach to a sales conversation?

Probably less than you’d like.

And yet, perhaps because of inertia or because of positive relationships between Team Members, Telemarketing operations carry folks who can’t sell or who can’t coach to sales.

Putting aside the need to clean house, the more important learning is – how can I reverse engineer what I’ve learned from my high performers and factor that back into my hiring criteria?

Because while it may take time, the effort to clear out those that can’t perform and hire in folks who can will pay off in better results.

Lesson:  If the wrong people are on the Team, you’re going to struggle to get where you want to go. 

Test:  Look at the spread of performance amongst individuals.  Is there a wide spread of performance?  That’s rarely a good sign.  We cover spread analysis in the next section. 


3.  Measure right

The focus here should be on sales.  And in particular, a metric like Sales per Hour which allows for individual and Team cross-comparisons, regardless of how many hours were actually worked.

Conversion rate is an important part of this – obviously.  But focusing only on the conversion rate results in poor performance management practices.

And enough about Quality already.

Yes – Quality matters.  But Quality is table stakes in telemarketing.

If your folks aren’t delivering your defined level of minimum standard quality – even after training & coaching – exclude them from your incentive system.  Send the message clearly.

The same for ‘Attendance’ which is a hygiene factor.

We always advise our Clients to consider the role of Productivity as well as the role of Conversion when measuring  and comparing the performance of individual Telemarketers.

How many Contacts (per hour) did the Telemarketer achieve?  How does that look in relation to others?

Be careful though.

The goal in Telemarketing isn’t productivity – it’s most often Sales per Hour.  But better Productivity ‘supports’ that outcome.


Just like the inbound Contact Centre – if the ‘spread’ of performance across your Team is all over the place, you’ve got a management problem – not a Telemarketer problem.

It’s the role of great Team Leaders & Managers to train, coach and manage individuals either up or out.  We’ve intentionally shown a diagram here that would be a source of alarm for a Telemarketing Director.

And use your management time wisely.

Does it make sense to spend hours helping a high performer increase their performance a few percentage points?

Or is it better to consider how to get your bottom third to perform at the level of your middle third?

You need to be able to consider where to spend your time so that the ‘most’ results will be achieved.

Lesson:  If you focus on the wrong measurements, you’ll struggle with getting better outcomes.  Sales per Hour, supported by Productivity along with minimum standards for Quality & Attendance put everyone on the right path. 

Test:  Go look at what your Telemarketing Team is measuring.  Does it work?  Is it yielding the right outcomes?  Does everybody know what we measure, how we define it and why we measure it this way?


4.  Train right

Most ‘good’ outbound training programs cover what needs to be covered.  But I think the real question is this.

Based on reverse engineering from the high performers on the Team – AND based on our regular and constant call monitoring – have we selected and defined the most important behaviours to be covered in training?

Because your Telemarketers deserve more than just to be trained.  They deserve training that has been proven to help them succeed in the job.

And that only comes through extensive data analytics that ties together the right behaviours drawn from high performers and extensives call monitoring.

As a closing thought for training, the use of a relevant script or call-flow pattern helps a lot.

Too many Centres hand their Telemarketers a set of FAQs or a set of brochures.  But Customers don’t talk like brochures or FAQS so getting a conversational flow going back and forth is important.

Lesson:  Everyone on the Team should be able to to name and describe the top 5, maximum 10 behaviours that high performers exhibit that correlates to better sales outcomes.  

Test:  Individually ask each Team Manager and Team Leader what they believe (or know) are the top 5 behaviours that the high performers are demonstrating that correlate to better sales outcomes.  Can they name them?  Is their alignment across the management population in what they chose to answer?


5.  Manage right

This category is a biggie.  So let’s jump right in with coaching.


If you’re not going to provide valuable, ongoing coaching then there’s little point to train.  Understanding and behavioural change happen under the guidance of a great sales Coach.

Training gets everybody on the same page – but it doesn’t fix a poor hire and it doesn’t provide lasting explanation and reinforcement of what it takes to improve sales performance.

And yet in Centre after Centre you’ll usually find little to no ongoing coaching.  Or – which is perhaps worse – coaching that centers around Quality – not Sales.

And for a Telemarketer that can be confusing.

Performance Management

Individual & Team results for telemarketing performance should be measured and managed hourly.  That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned in running telemarketing campaigns.

What’s the spread of productivity across my Team right now.  What’s the spread of conversion across my Team right now. 

By the time you look at weekly or (heaven forbid) monthly reports – the game is over.

All the improvements, suggestions, nudges and motivational opportunities have been missed.

I had a discussion with a senior Telemarketing Manager earlier this year.  She said, ‘Dan, our Team Leaders can barely do a daily basis analysis much less an hourly one.’

It took all my diplomacy at that moment to not say anything.  But what I thought was this – ok – as long as you’re fine with less than optimized performance.

I’m not a big fan of folks that put up barriers.  Yup there are always barriers.  But sometimes this is really resistance to change masked as a barrier.

If you knew something would work to give you better telemarketing results – wouldn’t you try?

Incentives & Rewards

This is a massive topic on its own.  So I’ll hardly do it justice here.

But high performers are driven by and large by money.  By creating a lifestyle for themselves and their family.

The right incentive system design for the right performance yields significant ROI.

Program Analytics

When you set up a powerful Call Status Classification Model, you’re able to analyze the various outcomes of your telemarketing campaign by day, by week, by campaign to date up to the ‘End of Campaign’.

What percentage of Nos are we getting?  What are the top 3 Nos we’re getting?  How many callbacks are happening?  Are there a lot of wrong numbers in the list?  For successful conversions, which of the product offerings are popular and which are less popular?  What are the top 3 reasons we can’t reach the decision maker and what can we do to overcome those?

When you learn to design great call status code classifications, you gain tremendous insight into the overall campaign – some of which allows you to make adjustments or tailorings on the fly.

For example, you may find that one of your Objection Handling scenarios isn’t working well.  So you can dive in, listen to calls and craft a modified response.

Obviously waiting until the end of the week or month will be too late.


Regular, valuable and relevant (Sales) coaching helps translate training into action.  It helps people succeed.  It yields results.  

Great performance management in telemarketing is conducted hourly, daily and campaign to date.  Waiting for the end of a week or month is too late. 

Great Telemarketers work for the money.  Money matters.  So the incentive & rewards systems matter too. 

Program analytics help you understand what is working, what is not working and where to focus improvement efforts in the ongoing ‘life’ of your telemarketing campaign. 

In closing

Of course any telemarketing operation is going to be impacted by laws, regulatory authorities, the calibre of the CRM and systems in use.  That’s a different set of topics.

But when it comes to understanding the totality of the telemarketing ecosystem, I hope that some of the points made in this short article are helpful to you.

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