“Take me off your list.”

We have all heard, or even said, this phrase. Households, business professionals, and anybody with a cell phone will use caller ID to block numbers because of telemarketing. The business practice has a bad rap, it’s true. But done right, it’s a valuable marketing strategy, especially for B2B sales.

Hiten Shah, founder of KISSmetrics, once told me that the dirty secret of Silicon Valley is that every successful startup still does phone sales. Most clients won’t close a big deal without talking it through with a real, live person. If you are selling something novel, it’s even more important to discuss it with someone to fully relay the value of your product. Telemarketing can make this happen.

Telemarketing: Guilty by Association

When most people think of telemarketing, they think of the ugly days of incessant calls (at odd hours of the day or evening), long voicemails, and high-pressure sales. Companies might turn away from telemarketing because of this, but they should think twice. Here are a couple misconceptions about telemarketing:

1.     Telemarketing means using big call centers with poorly trained reps.
This isn’t so. Companies can — and should — have their own salespeople making the phone calls. This way, they know the products’ in-depth details, and they can get to know their customers well. They don’t have to come from a big call center, either. Even one person can start making phone calls and turn telemarketing into a new acquisition channel.

2.     Telemarketing is for hawking shady services to unsuspecting consumers.
Telemarketers don’t always have poor intentions, and the effective ones direct their calls to targeted lists of customers. Most telemarketing is done in the B2B space because B2C telemarketing is highly regulated with the advent of the do-not-call list legislation.

Counteracting the Traditional Associations

The best way to transform this bad rap is for a salesperson to connect with the individual on the other end of the line. Ask questions and listen to what she has to say about your service. It’s likely she won’t respond positively or comfortably if she feels you’re reading a script word-for-word. Instead, have talking points and be personable. Carefully manage your own calling list so you’re not calling people back who asked you not to.

In-House or Outsourcing Telemarketing — What’s Better?

In-house telemarketing is almost always more efficient and successful than outsourcing. Your salespeople know your company’s products much better than anyone outside of the company can. Furthermore, they should have a passion for what they’re selling. There’s a difference between believing in helping customers and just wanting to get paid. Without this passion and knowledge, the recipients of the calls will view your telemarketers as stereotypical and bored, and the salespeople will burn out quickly.

Salespeople are also the first point of contact with the customers. They are in a position to learn about what customers want and what their fears or concerns are. Salespeople should communicate all of this to the marketing and product teams, which will result in success for the company down the line.

Using Telemarketing Efficiently and Effectively

If you don’t utilize telemarketing effectively, it won’t have the same impact on your business’s success, and you could end up wasting money, rather than making it. In order to make telemarketing a beneficial tool for your sales staff, you should:

  • Add a phone field to your sign-up form for prospective customers. Then, have a sales rep call that person later, instead of just emailing. This can improve your conversion rate.
  • When starting a business or launching a new product, call potential customers to learn about their needs. Build the product based on their feedback and “pre-sell” them before the product is released to the public.
  • Not everyone is Internet-savvy. Cold calling can help reach people who fall in this category.

Telemarketing’s Future

Because of its poor track record, B2C telemarketing might not recover and be what it once was. But big data has the potential to help telemarketers come up with targeted lists, instead of utilizing the low-quality, high-volume “spray and pray” approach of the ‘90s and early 2000s.

In the B2B space, telemarketing will never die; it will simply come to enhance the online strategies that companies are increasingly turning toward. Businesses should realize that different channels are complementary, not substitutes. Telemarketing can drastically improve your company’s conversion rates, customer service quality, and overall success. All it takes is a phone call.