3 lessons a bad telemarketer taught me about communications

For some reason, we are experiencing an increase in those time-wasting, frustrating, painful calls from telemarketers that try to sell you something that you don’t want and you don’t need. We’re also getting companies that want us to send business their way because “we’re good” and “your clients would be happy using our services.” (Really? Is that why I get up in the morning? To introduce you, someone I don’t know, to the clients we have built strong relationships with over many years???)

So for any of you reading this that recognize yourself in the paragraph above—STOP CALLING! (I doubt this will do any good. It’s clear after about seven seconds of a conversation that they not only don’t read the blog, but aren’t clear about what we do here at AHA.)

I answered the phone the other day (everyone at AHA answers the phone, it’s how we roll) and on the other end was someone trying to sell me a listing for AHA in some online database that targets lawyers. We don’t get business from lists; it just doesn’t work that way for us. We build relationships, we showcase our expertise, and we are fortunate to receive referrals from colleagues, clients and even journalists. However, I happened to be in between tasks and had just poured a tea for myself, so I had a minute to “fully experience” this call.

She had a pitch, but it didn’t feel authentic. She kept telling me that she had a “free listing”—but the more I probed, the more I realized that there was some trickery to her approach. She sounded deceitful, which was a red flag, and she wouldn’t answer any of my questions with a direct answer.

Below is an excerpt of our conversation:
AHA: “So, this listing is absolutely free and there won’t be any costs at any point down the line?”
Telemarketer: “Let me tell you a bit about the listing, which would put you in front of thousands of lawyers…”
AHA: “So, to go back to my question: Is there any cost at any time for this listing?”
Telemarketer: “This (mumble, mumble) has no cost; it is a basic listing…”
AHA: “I am sorry I didn’t hear the first part of what you said. Is there any kind of a cost attached to this listing, now or at a later date?”
Telemarketer: “This listing is free during the evaluation phase of 30 days…”
AHA: “So there is a cost.”
Telemarketer: “No, it’s free during the evaluation phrase. Your name will be in front of thousands of lawyers who really need PR.”
AHA: “First off, there is a cost. Secondly, how do you know that these lawyers need PR?”
Telemarketer: “Let me ask you something. Are you or are you not the decision maker there?”

That’s when I realized that I was engaging her and wasting my time (and hers) and politely ended the conversation with: “Yes, I am the decision maker and my decision is to demand that you remove me from your calling list. Thank you.” And I hung up.

It felt like she was trying to con me. I got off the phone and I kind of wanted to take a shower. That interaction felt gross; it was deceitful, predatory and without ethics. Once I let go of my frustration and indignation over this ridiculous call, I realized that there were lessons to be learned from it.

Below are the three lessons a bad telemarketer taught me about communications.

Be Truthful

If there is an issue, a challenge or a cost involved, be upfront about it. Don’t misrepresent and don’t fib; if you do, you are going to be found out. People aren’t stupid, they can tell when someone is trying to pull something over on them and there are a lot of people out there that will check the facts you give them and bust you if you are wrong.

We pitch media and bloggers and reach out on social media networking sites all the time. It is our job to position stories and to highlight benefits, but it is done in an authentic way.

Be Respectful

When the telemarketer asked me: “Are you or are you not the decision maker there?” it was appalling to me. There are a lot of people who are influencers that may not be the final decision maker. Keep in mind that you don’t know the power or influence that a person may wield. Respect everyone.

I realize that time is money and that many sales books say to ask if that person has the authority to make the decision to buy, but it’s more complex than that. If you don’t acknowledge and respect the people on the team, you won’t get anywhere near the decision maker.

Be Authentic

I know that the telemarketer was just doing her job and she had a pre-written script that she was meant to follow. But from a communications perspective, it screams of being inauthentic. I am not saying that you shouldn’t have key points if you are calling media to pitch them or are being interviewed—references and resources are a good thing. But if you are focused on delivering a script like the telemarketer, you don’t really hear the objections or the opportunities; you are too busy trying to stay on script.

Do you have any communications lessons you have learned from bad telemarketers?

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