Customer Service

Five Skills to Look for in an Ace Telemarketer

Everyone has received those calls: a saccharine, overly peppy voice chirping a greeting before launching mechanically into a sales pitch. Telemarketing often gets a bad rap, but if done effectively, it can be an important aspect of a company’s sales, so finding a skilled candidate can be a notable boost to your business. As noted before, though, most people aren’t crazy about getting sales calls, so it’s a fine art. What skills and traits should you look for to score ace telemarketer potential?


Listening and communication skills

It may technically be a sales pitch, but a telemarketing call shouldn’t feel like an infomercial. A robotic caller who immediately bombards clients with a sermon is likely to quickly turn people off, so you want someone who can turn the call into a conversation. Pay attention to how candidates both listen and communicate during an interview: how they respond to questions, how attentive they are, how much they talk and about what.

You want someone who can stick to the point yet make a conversation seem natural and can listen effectively to the other party. In the listening vein, being perceptive and able to read a client/situation (and respond to those cues) is extremely beneficial. Above all, the telemarketer should be able to make the call about the customer — what he or she needs and how the product/service can help — rather than the company.


Knowledge of phone etiquette, equipment, and technology

This one is pretty straightforward, but it’s so central to the role that it’s worth noting. A telemarketer’s entire job revolves around using a phone, so clearly those skills are crucial. While most of this training occurs on the job, knowledge of phone etiquette and operating technology is a huge plus.

This can usually be gleaned from past experience in secretarial, clerical, and customer service roles and the like, though you could also hold a practice call session as a test. In addition, a seemingly arbitrary but key aspect to look out for: enunciation. How does a candidate speak and enunciate in an interview? It may seem silly, but speaking clearly is vital for the job.


The right tone and attitude

The sweet spot of enthusiastic and natural is a delicate one, and finding someone who has it down is mostly a matter of intuition. A top-notch telemarketer is able to maintain a cheerful, positive, and energetic tone yet remain genuine, not syrupy or annoying. The right attitude and approach is also essential: polite, professional, and attentive, with the confidence to guide the conversation along.

And even though the interaction is by phone, a smile goes a long way. Smiling carries over telephone wires, and the customer will be able to sense genuine friendliness. All of this may sound a little flowery — it is, in a way, and there’s no real way to measure it — but these are the traits that set apart a great telemarketer from a mediocre one, so they’re worth keeping an eye out for.


Persistence, patience, and focus

Telemarketing is not necessarily for the faint of heart (or the impatient). Callers can expect to be ignored, hung up on, and even snapped at on a regular basis. They will have dozens of calls to make per day, and they have to maintain the aforementioned tone and attitude throughout. As such, the ability to pay attention for an extended period of time, stay on task, and be persistent in continuing to make calls is critical.

In addition, patience is a virtue. You want an employee who can stay calm and patient with long calls and disgruntled clients and maintain a pleasant attitude regardless of the situation. Previous experience may offer some clues as to this trait, though it’s often a matter of simply asking, posing hypothetical situations, and paying attention during an interview.



On any given day, a telemarketer will be going through a laundry list of people to call, and all that information can quickly turn into chaos without a sense of organization. They need to be able to keep track of people and calls, results, orders, and pricing and other details about the product or service they’re selling.

In addition, they’ll likely need to set and/or work with goals and schedules in order to stay on track with company sales quotas. An organized and methodical approach is therefore important to the success of this position. Asking about previous experience and work technique or style is often a good method to tell how a candidate will perform in this area.

Hiring for a telemarketer position isn’t an easy task, and many hallmarks for success are soft skills that simply have to be intuited from an interview. Customer service, clerical, and/or secretarial experience is often a plus, but beyond that there’s little concrete training or education that will prepare a candidate. All the same, the above skills are central to success in telemarketing, and keeping an eye out for those is a good bet to find a top match for the job.