Today, when my phone rang, and I saw Private Caller pop up on my caller ID, I knew who was calling – yet another telemarketer. Instead of listening to my gut and just letting it ring, I picked it up to ask to be put on their Do Not Call List. This time, when they heard me sigh after they asked if they were speaking to Mrs Steam-Burner (not my name) and as I prepared to launch my request, I was left with the dial tone. They had hung up on me. Nice.
I am not a fan of telemarketers but I’m the one who keeps picking up the phone, right? Still, they’ve taught me a thing or two about leadership that I can bring to work and life. Here they are…
Seven Leadership Dos and Don’ts from Telemarketers:
DO: Keep Going.
Telemarketers must get hung up on nine times out of 10, but they keep on dialing the next number that pops up on their screen. The next call could be the one that donates, buys the raffle ticket or agrees to the time-share presentation. As a leader, the same holds true for your ideas, insights and efforts. You may not solve the problem at hand on the first try, but each attempt gets you one step closer.
DON’T: Hang up.
When you hang up the phone it says you’ve made a mistake and are taking the fastest, most disrespectful path for your retreat. Leaders also “hang up the phone” when they abruptly end discussion - it doesn’t leave a warm and fuzzy feeling or make others want to engage in the future.
DO: Make a Connection.
Scripts can be useful but also can quickly become rigid, false and incredibly impersonal. A caller that wanted me to take her “short” survey once acknowledged that my child was crying while they were making their pitch, asked if they were OK, and if there was a better time to call. Recognizing the communication and connection is a two-way street humanized the caller and their cause. I actually rescheduled because her agenda didn’t trump my agenda.
DON’T: Fake a connection.
Sometimes I’ll be asked, “How are you doing today?” I could say I’ve been mauled by a pack of dingoes and they would say, “that’s great!” and jump into their pitch. As a leader, if you think it’s building rapport when you ask how someone is doing, but don’t really care at all about their response, you’re only serving to widen the divide.
DO: Ask, Pause and Listen.
Here’s a novel concept: Ask a question, wait for an answer. When telemarketers try to get me to buy in to their cause without connection, the battle is lost before it’s started. “Heart disease is a terrible killer. Don’t You Agree? Well, each year blah blah blah.” Even if I agree, I’m not really being asked the question. Leaders pull out that same tactic when they have an answer or an outcome in mind and are “guiding” people to agree with them instead of actually creating an opening for dialog. If you are simply making a point, don’t pretend it’s a question. (Click to Tweet) When you really want to know what others think, pause, listen, respond and learn.
DON’T: Keep on talking.
I may be one of the few people who does not want to interrupt someone who is speaking so I’ll wait for someone to take a breath before I jump in with a no thank you. You may feel like you’re being “heard” just because you’re not cut off as you race through your key points but if someone is just waiting for you to breathe, so they can speak, there is nothing compelling about your pitch.
DON’T: Lose YOU.
The best telemarketers and leaders have something in common. You get a sense of whom they are, not only what they do and what they want YOU to do. Hold an intention for a desired outcome but do it like you, not like a corporate zombie or a telemarketer. (Click to Tweet) If I’m going to go the extra mile for anyone, it’s going to be another human being, not a private number or a private leader.
Do you take telemarketer calls? What are some best practices from telemarketers that would benefit leaders to adopt too?