10 Telemarketing Tips
Telemarketing can be a key component of an organization’s direct-marketing strategy — whether the goal is lapsed-donor conversion or upgrading existing donors to monthly giving programs. But it helps to learn a thing or two from experienced organizations — tips that can make setting up a telemarketing program a smoother process for everyone involved.
In a session at the DMA Nonprofit Federation 2007 New York Nonprofit Conference, co-presenter Vicky Barrett-Putnam, director of donor development for the Sierra Club, talked about her organization’s telemarketing efforts. The Sierra Club has five telemarketing programs (renewals; reinstates — lapsed members; monthly givers; additional gift appeals; and its mid-level donor program) and uses four vendors.
Ten things Barrett-Putnam says she’s learned about telemarketing in the past 15 years are:
1. Different firms have different strengths. Some do better on monthly giving calls, some are better at low-end calls, and some are better at high-end calls. Test different firms on your different calling programs, and don’t give everything to one vendor.
2. Stop rewriting the script. The callers are not going to read word for word what you write, and you don’t want them to. It’s better to tell them what they aren’t allowed to say and what they absolutely must say. Otherwise, give callers the freedom to have a conversation.
3. Stop over-monitoring. Pledge rates decrease 15 percent to 35 percent when calls take place in a monitored session, Barrett-Putnam said. Only monitor when a program first gets started, when you switch vendors, when you get complaints and when the program isn’t meeting its goals. If a vendor is meeting your goals, leave it alone.
4. Visit your call centers at least once a year. Callers love to see the client in person; it is energizing. Dress casually, like you’re one of the team. Bring gifts such as branded backpacks and T-shirts, and talk to the callers about the challenges of their job.
5. Never let the callers hear you say anything bad. Even if the program is failing, be positive around the callers. Only talk to the account people about problems. Try to maintain a “cool” image so that callers like you.
6. Test your firms. Call centers have high turnover, which can affect their quality. Barrett-Putnam said she tests all of her telemarketing partners and programs every other year.
7. Credit cards are a must. If the firm you’re using doesn’t have at least a 30 percent credit card rate, Barrett-Putnam advises you get rid of it. The credit card average gift should be higher than the pledge average gift.
8. Have annual contracts. Giving vendors a commitment of an annual amount in advance will make them more loyal to you. And she recommends contracting all of your vendors for all of your different types of programs; that way you can move a program to that vendor immediately, if necessary.
9. Listen to telemarketing calls you get at home. Make it your business to know who’s out there and what types of calls they’re making. If you get a good telemarketing call, ask the caller where he works. You might choose to test that firm.
10. Vendors are vendors, not friends. Don’t get so sold by vendors that you trust them completely and stop testing.
Vicky Barrett-Putnam can be reached via www.sierraclub.org
To hear more on this topic, check out this video of Steve Froehlich, director of analytics for the ASPCA and co-presenter of this session, in which he shares some telefundraising tips.