Secrets of Telemarketing From an Industry Insider

Photo: Meddy Garnet

They call you at all hours. They don't care if you're eating dinner or taking a shower. And they really don't like to hear you say no. They're telemarketers. And recently, someone from "behind enemy lines" came forward to give us all invaluable tips on dealing with those harassing calls.

The information comes from reddit's Ask Me Anything section (IAMA). Usually, people will put themselves out there to answer questions on anything from work and hobbies to computer games and, well, anything you can think of. Today, a telemarking insider came forward to reveal all on a profession that's about as beloved as dog poo on your shoe (he uses the pseudonym "Lotkrotan" to protect his identity).

He explains that roughly 90% of telemarketing calls are made from specialized call centers, not the business itself. From Bank of America to EA Games, everyone is outsourcing this stuff. Often, it's to places like India, but there are still plenty of call centers here in Uncle Sam's country. The numbers they call are on an auto-dialer which recycles numbers on a monthly basis. And as for the human you eventually talk to, they're armed with a bag of tricks loaded with everything they need to convince you to say YES.

The original post is quite lengthy. But here is a condensed and edited version that gives you the best advice in a nutshell. Follow it wisely, and arm yourself with the knowledge that will stop these people getting between you and your hard earned cash.

Here are the 10 top tips on dealing with telemarketers.

1. So you're on the Do Not Call List? So what?

This is not a cease and desist order to every telemarketer in the world. Bottom line, if you have ANY kind of relationship with the company, or it's a political or non-profit group, the list does not apply. You can request to be put on a do-not-all list for that specific company, or you can ask to be put in that call center's do-not-call database. If this doesn't work, you have the FTC on your side. Call them.

2. Never hang up immediately.

Why? Because the reps mark it as an early hang up. No pitch was made, so you're still a prospect. Hence, you go back on the list.

3. Don't be rude.

Aside from the fact that these people probably hate their jobs anyway, they have the power to put you back on the calling list. And they will if you're rude.

4. A simple NO isn't good enough.

Saying you don't want the product doesn't mean they won't bug you again. And again. And again. So ask to be taken off the calling list as well.

5. Trickery won't work either.

We've all done it: "Oh, he's not here right now" or "No speak English" may get you off the hook for that one call, but it won't stop the next one.

6. The telemarketer has to rebut when you decline.

Getting mad because they initially won't take no for an answer is not going to help. Reps often get fired for not rebutting at least once, often twice. But after that, it's time to ask to be taken off the list or speak to a supervisor.

7. You have rights.

Check out the TCPA. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 provides rules that telemarketers must follow, or face serious penalties. If a telemarketer breaks ANY of these rules, your have the law on your side (yes, you can sue). They include:

  • Solicitors may not call residences before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., local time.
  • The solicitor must maintain a "Do Not Call" (DNC) list, which must be honored for 10 years.
  • Solicitors must provide their name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and a telephone number or address at which that person or entity may be contacted.
  • Solicitation calls cannot be made to residences with artificial voices or recordings.
  • Calls cannot be made with artificial voices or recordings to cell phones or to any service in which the recipient is charged for the call.
  • Prerecorded or autodialed calls cannot engage two or more lines of a multi-line business or to any emergency number.
  • In a related section, unsolicited advertising faxes are also prohibited.
  • In the event of a violation of the TCPA, individuals are entitled to collect damages directly from a solicitor for $500 to $1,500 for each violation, or recover actual monetary loss, whichever is higher.

8. Beware of buying from infomercials

Many are legit. Just as many are high-pressure sales outfits with all sorts of upselling techniques and sketchy practices. Here's a direct quote from "Lotkrotan":

We used simple circle talking techniques to trick people into buying our product. In the infomercial it was $120. We had a list of people that called the number from the infomercial but didn't buy the product. We called them back and offered the same product for $45. Then if they refused we'd go down to $35 and eventually $25 as a last resort effort. They were willing to sell this product for $25, and people were buying it for over 4 times that much! (Employees got the product for $5)

9. Learn the rebuttal and "permission to continue" laws for your state.

Some states require that the rep ask your permission to continue. Others must terminate the call after your first refusal. Know the law for your state and it's another weapon in your arsenal. There's a ton of info here.

10. Remember, you're dealing with a real person.

This is a person with a real family, real bills and real problems, just like the rest of us. It's a minimum wage job and it's not pleasant. They most likely took it because it was all they could get and they're just trying to make ends meet. Before you get into a fit of rage over their call, remember that they're only trying to make a living and your attitude could get them fired.

Here's the complete text. I did my best to cut it all down for you, but it's well worth a read if you want to learn a little more. Also, the other links contain a lot of info, but that is also very helpful.


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Guest's picture

I appreciate the attempt to empathize with the telemarketer but they are still annoying the crap out of you. These people did not have a gun to their heads to get these jobs. They know what they are getting into. If you want to be just as annoying to them then I say go for it, game on!

Guest's picture

Or, just look at the caller ID and don't pick up if its not a number you recognize or shows as anonymous or blocked. If a number was shown in the caller ID and they call repeatedly and don't leave a message, add it to your blocked number list. Problem solved. Works on charities and political organizations, too!

Guest's picture

1) Get caller I.D. & only answer calls you recognize - if it's an 800 # or some unknown area code, let it go to voice mail. (We also have cell phones, & most of our friends call on the cells.)But in my case it's usually my friends who have blocked #s -
2) If you do pick up - you can tell it's a call center because there will be a lag of silence - or distant chatter - so hang up.
3) If someone gets thru- as a former telephone worker myself, I say that I sympathize with them & their hard job, but I am not a prospect & they should expend their energy on someone would would be!

Guest's picture

I agree with empathizing with them... they are another person after all. Let's hit it at the source -- it's the company's practice to make the buck first, worry about a relationship with their clients & prospects a very distant second that's creating this.

Point / suggestion #2: "Thank you, but no -- can you please take me off your calling list?" has worked for me 99% of the time. I can only remember once when the answer was *not* a quick, "no problem -- thanks and good night!" :>

Guest's picture

I am an Indian and I ALSO hate telemarketers call but I always keep in mind last part of this article. American cry hell out of themselves that India is taking our jobs and are super rude and arrogant to these telemarketers but the fact is american companies want to earn more profits, hence they exploit this population. On the other side, handful of Indians get jobs but what after these jobs, no career whatsoever. Seriously, anyone who hates telemarketers should talk to a real telemarketer to hear how this job is like. Trust me, its not the best job but at the end of the day, they have to bring food to their table too, just like you and me.

Guest's picture

excellent article. We could all give a little more empathy to someone who is working!

Guest's picture

I need to provide for myself, my wife, and my son. That does not justify anything that returns money to me.

What about the poor hit-men? They need to eat.

What about the pimps? They have rent to pay.

The mafia members have mouths to feed.

Please stop using that incorrect justification, "I need a job" does not make everything OK.

Guest's picture

Hi, I have to agree with the above article on all counts..I've worked as a telemarketer and as it's slightly more respectable cousin "market researcher". Rules are the same for both businesses (almost) are basically pestering people for info or opinions instead of money, but what I've noticed is that the most sucessful telemarketers or call center employees are usually the biggest jerks in real life. When they get off the phone with someone they've just closed on I've heard them go "what a sucker" or some such thing. Maybe that will help give a perspective on the voice on the other end of the phone. Yes, they're a real person, but that woman with the "little girl" voice or that soft spoken young man might be supporting a family but they also could be supporting an expensive cell phone bill or some frivolous habit you can't afford. So be polite but firm, and yes, they do have to rebut you and yes, you will probably be called back if you hang up. Call centers are merciless when it comes to poor performers. It's all about the money, yours.

Guest's picture

I'm amazed at the number of people who empathize with these callers. I consider them scum and can't help but wonder if their families know what they do for a living. These people need to go out and find a real job that contributes to society. They can go flip burgers, cut grass, shovel snow or nay number of honerable jobs.

Guest's picture

A lot of the people who do Telemarketing are unable to shovel snow or cut the grass. Some are kids trying to pay their way through collage by working a part time job or a single mom who has a low education and has no other option. To me any job that is not against the law is as you put it an "Honorable JOB!" Just because you do not like the job does not make it a bad job or something someone should be ashamed of doing!
I was a single mother with 3 kids and trust me I would have been very happy to sit in a chair in a call center and call YOU every night so I could put food in my children's tummies!!!!
Like everyone say just don't answer the phone or ask to be put on their do not call list. For goodness sake, try to show some compassion & respect for a fellow human!

Guest's picture

Honerable? Haha learn how to spell before you talk ****!

Guest's picture

Telemarketers are really aggravating and most of the time they aren't legit. Very few telemarketing companies aren't scams. This is the 21st century. There are other much more effective and less annoying forms of marketing. ie. Craigslist, brochures, business cards, the list goes on...

In response to the person from India: It is wrong that American companies are exploiting foreign workers. I'm from America and I do not agree with the way that these companies treat foreigners at all. They pay them in pennies to perform difficult tasks. And the thing is, it's not their fault because most people from India have not been educated in the ways of job searching. If there was more education for people in India about being selective about jobs like we are here, this wouldn't be such a huge issue. Indians and other foreigners can get higher pay for their skills and should seek after it. I've seriously considered speaking with someone about setting up some type of online workshop for the purpose of protecting foreigners from exploitation. If we educate them enough, the companies will be forced to stop paying slave wages for services that are valuable.

Guest's picture

I have always had good success with empathy dealing with telemarketers and collectors. Of course, the best method is to avoid the call altogether. I have been using google voice to send the repeat offenders directly to voicemail. This helps tremendously.

Guest's picture

The last one is significant, to remember you're dealing with a real person.

Guest's picture

My grandpa gets calls asking for donations from all kinds of organizations. He does give donations annualy, but they keep calling every day... How to stop non-profit solicitation calls?

Guest's picture

I don't understand why anyone would care about telemarketers who are intruding and forcing their way into my home without an invitation. Leave me along - get a decent job - this is an ignorant occupation meant to prey on the lonely and uneducated. How do these telemarketers live with themselves?

Guest's picture
Im A telemarketer

Seriously Im a telemarketer and i get paid pretty good and it is a real job i didnt finish school because i didnt have parents to make me and i got prego and had to do what i had to take car of my son so he dont have to do what i do...i stayed because i get payed good and get comission and i do a damn good job actually selling coding books to dr offices so remember i am human and do what i can i am very nice and respect all my customers wishes and alot of people in collage work with me as a part time job i get paid more here then i would flippin burgers like 3$ more haha 10 to be exactly alot od people are rude on here OMG

Guest's picture

I let them start their spiel, then set the phone down on the counter or bed, and walk away. When I hear the dial tone, I hang up the phone. The only time they're wasting is their own.

Guest's picture

This article is so enlightening I actually shed a tear. I have just become at peace with myself and am now sympathizing with my junk mail. Some real person actually mailed this to me. I just can't treat it like the trash that it is. That would just be so evil. Ohhh give me a moment while I dry my eyes....

Okay, I'm sitting by the phone right now, anticipating a live telemarketer's angelic voice. My evening will not be complete until I am blessed with the opportunity to purchase the unknown treasure which I have unknowingly been deprived of for so long.

OUCH! I just slapped the sense back into myself. For a moment there I almost gave sympathy and respect to a total stranger for the simple fact they are a person with a job.

Sarcasm OFF: Telemarketers get the same treatment as my junk mail. Well sort of. I don't yell at my junk mail before I shred it.

Guest's picture

After signing up on the do not call list and then also going through each place we do business with and call to not give our info to 3rd party affiliates the phones pretty much stopped. Now any call that comes in I look up on google and it usually comes up as a scam call or someone spoofing a legitimate phone number. We screen those now with our voice mail. With a senior in the household we get our share of the shady calls for donations as we seem to have ended up on a senior sucker list.

There are a lot of these sites now but most phone numbers I look up on google tend to be listed on

Guest's picture

Thanks for giving a summary of the list. Great information and it's easy to understand why telemarketers operate the way they do. They're just doing their job and because it can often be so umpleasant I'm not surprised its been outsourced as fast as possible.

Guest's picture

I'm the OP and I figured I'd clear some things up.

First of all, this advice isn't going to be helpful to everyone. The people it will be most helpful for are the ones that receive 3-4 calls a day per product and gets called on multiple products a day. Some people do get so many calls a day that they just get frustrated, yell, hang up, and do everything except for say "Put me on your call center's do not call list." So in turn, they get called some more.

The other people this will be useful for is the people looking to punish the companies that are operating outside of the law. If you catch a call center breaking the TCPA, it is VERY easy to file a small claims case on your own against the company. If they don't settle out of court, you'll get 500-1500 cash.

If you operate a business and are getting lots of telemarketing calls, you can sue to make up for lost time.

If you receive telemarketing calls on your cell phone, you can ctop them completely easily.

I work in a part of rural maine where call centers, grocery stores, and gas stations are the only jobs in the area. This call center being the only one hiring. I happen to have a kid on the way in a couple weeks, and was jobless just a couple months ago. I got hired within a week and now have been able to purchase everything we need that we didn't get from friends and family =]

I also tend to fight for sales less than most telemarketers. I don't care about my performance since I don't view it as a long term job. If someone polite declines, I won't even try to rebut. If someone is really polite with the call, but doesn't request to be put on the do not call list (usually the elderly) I'll do it for them since I don't want them to be bothered by our calls.

Telemarketing can be a viable sales platform. Most of the banks that have contracts with our call center sell extra services and such through the bank. They're available through the bank directly, but when you order by phone you usually have a review period to try the service out before you pay for it. I've never received any complaints about our company making unauthorized charges (although the sketchier call centers will.)

Guest's picture

PS thanks for the write up =]

I want this information to help out those that can use it.

Paul Michael's picture

for posting this on Reddit lotkrotan. It was a great piece and I hope this article did your original post justice.

Guest's picture

I have a more efficient way to solve this. Our cell phones are on the DNC list and have been for years. We have had two landlines, both end up bombarded with telemarketing calls starting the day they hook it up. The cable companies sell the number before they hook it up.

Our cell phones were being bombarded with telemarketing calls even though we were on the DNC list and would tell these people they needed to stop calling, take us off their list etc.

So I started only answering numbers I know or are in my cell phone address book. I put just about every number that might need to call me in the phone. Doctor's office, utilities and such. If it doesn't come up in caller ID then they probably have no business calling me. If I don't recognize a number I will google it to see if it is someone I might actually need to call back. Otherwise I hit quiet or ignore. I also shut down voice mail. This prevents market research and political calls from plugging up my voice mail box. If I see someone I know called me I call them right back anyways.

We did the same thing with the landline. If we didn't recognize the number we didn't answer it. Our newer landline used to belong to a woman who owed everyone in the world money. We would get ten calls a day rotating through Victoria's Secret credit cards, GE Money cards and a bunch of others. Since these were collection calls they ignored the DNC list. Even after we gave them this person's new address and phone number they kept calling. We found this person's new one with a simple Google search.

Your under no obligation at all to answer a telemarketing call. Most phones have a mute button to shut off the ringer for that call.

Guest's picture

last time, I answered, said "just a minute please," and laid the phone down and continued eating dinner--didn't hang up, just left him waiting. That ended that persistant telemarketer who'd left a dozen messages on my phone that day. He never called back.

Guest's picture

We had a financial planner who called us day and night. We told him to quit calling, asked nicely and then got rude. We were on the DNC registry. We could not get him to stop. Finally one day as hubby came in the house from work, he called yet again. Hubby went into the best spiel ever------"Oh, my god, my wife just cleaned me out today. I went to the bank, she cleaned out all the accounts. I just got home and she took all the furniture. I am destroyed." He never called back again!!

Guest's picture

I haven't had problems with telemarketing calls since I got on the Do Not Call list. I do still get some calls but they are from charities or companies I've had business with. For those I simply politely ask them to remove me from their calling list. That works easily almost every time. Years ago I would get a few calls every day but after the DNC list I might get 1-2 calls a month. Caller ID is also good to avoid phone solicitation.

I don't like telemarketing at all. But I don't think the people doing it are evil nor deserving of verbal abuse. It won't accomplish anything good to be rude to telemarketers.

Guest's picture

that's exactly what you should do. Leaving the phone off the hook doesn't work. If no one comes back within 30 seconds, we hang up and mark it as a call back. If they don't put you on the call list, or if they still call you after they've reqested, google the number and sue the company responsible.

Guest's picture

the rude calls only effect new hires. When you've done it long enough, you know how to avoid a call like that. For example, if I sense a customer is really annoyed because of the frequency of the calls, I'll make sure to let them know that I'm going to get them off our lists within 3 days.

The problem is that when you say "DO NOT CALL HERE EVER AGAIN" and hang up, it works, but if you'd said "can you put me on your do not call list," I'd tell you I would, and would also inform you it can take up to 30 days to remove you from our system. You don't just get removed from that product's list, but all of the lists that our clients run. A more efficient way of taking care of the calls is by requesting to be put on the call center's do not call list. This removes you from any and all telemarketing program that our center may contract.

Guest's picture

My cousin breaks into song whenever a telemarketer calls. She recommends show tunes for maximum enjoyment--she recently had a caller hang up on her!

Guest's picture

As a onetime telemarketer who hated the job, I have only one thing to say: The recession and its effects on the current workforce may, someday, put these writers in the unemployment line. When their qualifications are ignored by all, their wardrobes criticized, their faces and/or bodies scorned, they may find themselves at the door of the magazine crook, the siding contractor with a hidden agenda, the sellers of inflated and cheaply made vacuum cleaners, or the portrait vendors. Would they choose to decline the crooks, and take the lesser paid portrait job with no hope of meeting quota, a certain firing but a certain wage until then?

Then they might learn some courtesy and compassion, but I frankly doubt it. They'd take welfare before they would give human sympathy.

Guest's picture

A credit card company called my brother wanted him to accept
one of their cards. He is employed and in a good financial shape. But he pretended to be very happy, after all, he said, he was unemployed, and own money to everyone and it would be great to have access to credit that they were offering. He said that the voice of the person who was calling was getting more and more lower and the lady said that when and if he wanted he could to go to bank and finilly she hung up.

Guest's picture

Lay the verbal abuse on these scum. To hell with the "he's a person with bills etc." These firms engage in deceptive trickery, and deserve all the abuse that comes their way. This is the only form of pressure that will work if enough people use it.

Guest's picture

It's easy to deride telemarketers when they are faceless voices - but when you step back a little it is easy to see these are real people with a job which they probably don't like too much. Next time one calls I am not going to let myself down and be more respectful.