I don’t begrudge people who work over the telephone doing their jobs one little bit. In a past life as a sales person, I personally sold several million dollars worth of services over the phone in a professional capacity.
That doesn’t mean, however, that a telemarketing call is always a welcome interruption.
Before the tips o’ doom and humor for dealing with telemarketers, a little background for why you listen sometimes.
One, consider the difference between sales people and marketers. Telemarketers are a volume-driven, numbers game. It’s like phone spam. Dial a bazillion times, if 1/2 of 1% respond to buying, minus my costs, and do I have a business? Sales people, good ones, have an attitude of ‘It’s a waste of my time to waste yours, but I’ve got something that might be of value to you. Professional to professional, would you like to learn more?’
Sales people have names. Telemarketers don’t. Telemarketers read scripts that they have trouble deviating from unless it’s on the ‘script tree.’ Sales people know how they’re going to open and close a call, but have a person-to-person dialogue skill set in the middle.
So when do you listen? When they’re pros and might have something you need. That doesn’t mean you don’t sometimes say, “I can’t have this conversation right now, but if you’ll give me your number I’ll call you back (or call me back tomorrow, or send me an email, or let me send you an email…).” Try THAT with a telemarketer.
So an idea or two for telemarketers (who, by the way, are probably really nice people stuck working for companies asking them to do inhuman things):
My wife hands the phone to my son. He’s four. He chats until they hang up.
I’ve known people who subscribe to things with their dog’s name so they know it’s a telemarketer. Or use your name backwards, so Rob Johns becomes John Robs.
You could say ‘Just a sec…’ …putting the phone down and letting it sit until they hang up.
I’ve never tried it, but I understand that if one of those auto-dialers gets you and you hit the pound key a pile of times that it’ll confuse the machine.
Finally, if you run a business: recruit them. Every once in a while you get a really tactful, literate person on the phone. In an industry with 35% annual turnover, someone like that isn’t going to be there long. Offer them a job at your biz.