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Be a telemarketer at least once in your lifetime. Really. It’s an experience that can be as educational as it is degrading. If you pay attention during your time as a caller, you might develop the abilities to focus deeper and ignore distractions, be assertive, accept rejection, and be subtly persuasive. Don’t forget the sales commissions, either.

Calling hundreds of random people hundreds of miles away requires staying focused during a repetitive task. Your work will be simply to read a script and reply with predetermined answers to customers’ questions. The job is designed that way. Your employers want to be fairly certain of how you are portraying their product, and won’t want any added liability of false sales claims you make up on the spot. Basically, they will pay for your time, and want to make sure of everything you do within that time. They want to precisely control what you say and how you speak, since you’re talking about their product. So be sure to understand these rules, since penalties will be in place for offenders.

Since you are in a competitive sales environment, there are more than just callers to deal with. Awards and bonuses are awarded to the top producers. Picky rules about sales pitch delivery are put in place to punish non-sellers with large pay deductions in order to encourage them to quit. While these rules apply to everyone, they are enforced preferentially on the lowest producers. In between calls, your office mates might try to distract you from sales by cracking jokes or playing other games. Be focused, or the joke will be on you.

You will learn to be assertive in your long hours of cold calls to strangers. An important point here is that each conversation you have is likely the only conversation. You will most likely never speak more than once with each person you call, and they have no way of identifying who you are. Even if you had some way of recognizing each other, you will likely never meet this person in your lifetime. So speak with them like it’s the last time you ever will, because it probably is.

Accepting rejection is a critical skill in this job. Know that none of what a customer might say applies personally to you. They don’t know or care who you are. You have only read a script to them that was handed to you as terms of employment. Screamed profanities followed by a crashing receiver are not the worst kind of rejection. They take little time, and have no risk of making your boss mad since you have a reason for not making a sale. The customers who consume valuable minutes with picky, obtuse questions only to reject you in the end are more frustrating. In a place where rejection is the rule and a sale is a rare, golden exception, moving on to the next call is key.

For most of the time, customers will react as the writers of the script have hoped or predicted they would. Unless the customer has some experience in sales and want to play games, they will likely ask only the questions that you have been trained to answer with more script. Even if they ask other questions, you will generally be prohibited from departing from the script. So unless you’d like your supervisor to deduct something from your pay, find a way to make the customers think they’ve asked a different question which can be answered with script. This valuable skill is useful elsewhere, such as during job interviews, introductions or situations where you’d like to give a well-crafted response to a question.

Pretending to be an authority figure while you’re selling is a great trick. It can encourage people towards the mindset of getting berated at work by their boss. If you can trigger a head-nodding or “yes sir” reflex in your customers, sales will come more easily. It’s hard to reject someone when that person inspires the fear of being fired or demoted. Don’t overdo this or any other trick, though. If the customers figure out what’s going on, they will laugh and hang up.

During your many randomly dialed calls, you will learn to quickly profile your customers for the likelihood of a sale. You ears will become attuned for the death rattle of overmedicated seniors slowly answering the phone. While they are less likely to hang up, this is mainly due to loneliness, not to be mistaken for willingness to buy or understanding of your product. Quickly saying that you have a wrong number will save precious dialing time for more likely buyers.

In the end, if you are lucky, you will have escaped with your self-respect while earning respectable commissions and skills to be used elsewhere. And just maybe, you will have learned when to hang up and move on to the next call.

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