Telesales Operator

The Job and What's Involved

Call CentreMany different organisations employ telesales operators to make contact with people via the telephone. These include financial services, media advertisers, communication providers, home improvement retailers and business equipment suppliers. Their job is to try and persuade potential customers to buy their goods or services.

Also referred to as indoor sales people in the logistics industry, marketing sales executives or outbound service teams, telesales operators may work in a large call centre operation or in a small office team.

Their working day is spent on the phone making outgoing calls. Using carefully targeted information, a telesales operator's job is to build relationships with customers and gain their trust. While scripts may be used to ensure a positive and consistent message is delivered, telesales operators need strong interpersonal and customer service skills to help build a rapport and recognise potential sales opportunities.

During each phone call, typical activities include:

  • Describing the product benefits and special offers.
  • Giving advice about how these may benefit customers personally.
  • Persuading customers to accept a trial period or a visit from a sales representative.
  • Gathering and documenting information about the customer.
  • Entering notes into a computer, including dates for follow up calls.
  • Taking an order, and arranging for delivery of goods and bills to be sent.

Telesales operators may also conduct market research or satisfaction surveys after a sale has been completed or a complaint has been made.

The work is fast paced and intense. At the end of each conversation, predictive diallers usually connect the telesales operator to the next customer. These are systems that ensure that telesales operators no longer waste time dialling numbers and speed up contacts to potential customers. Telesales operators are usually set targets for the number of calls made or sales achieved within a set period. These targets are frequently linked to commission earnings. Digital displays in call centre environments are used to track the number of successful calls to motivate employees.

Many of the businesses that employ telesales operators remain open at weekends and in the evenings. This leads to extremely variable working hours and shift patterns. Full-time staff usually work 37 hours a week. There may be opportunities to work weekends, evenings or daytime hours only, or a mixture of all of these. Part-time opportunities are also widely available.

Telesales operators usually work in an office, although some, particularly charity workers, may work from home. Call centre-based telesales operators usually work in well-lit, large open plan areas, seated for most of the day at a computer workstation. Headsets are worn, allowing the telesales operators to keep their hands free to update computer records and access information from databases.

Basic starting salaries for telesales operators are around £10,550 to £12,000 a year. The commission on target earnings can increase basic salaries considerably.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Approximately 57,000 people in the UK are employed as telesales operators. The number of pure telesales jobs has decreased slightly in recent years. This shift may partly be due to contact centre operators undertaking more varied roles, including sales, service and research. Despite the outsourcing of call centre operations to overseas facilities, the trend among many companies is to resume these operations back in the UK. Finance and retail companies and distribution centres are the main employers of telesales operators, although employers cover the full spectrum of industries, including telecommunications, travel and tourism, transport logistics and utility suppliers.

There are job opportunities for telesales operators throughout the UK, but most are employed in the North West, Scotland, Yorkshire and Humberside, the South East and North East. Large contact centres can be found in towns, cities and on business parks. Many jobs also exist within smaller firms throughout the country. South-east England has the largest number of telesales operators.

Vacancies are usually advertised on company websites, in the local press and through recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements. Employers often regard sales techniques and the right personality as more important that academic ability. Some employers may ask for some GCSE/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent.

Good hearing and clear speech are important. Candidates may have to undertake practical telephone and keyboard tests as part of the recruitment process. Any customer service experience is also an advantage. Apprenticeships may be offered by some of the larger contact centres.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

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Training is usually provided in-house. It may include an induction period, with role playing exercises in a simulated environment, before making calls to actual customers.

Trainees then usually spend a short period of time gaining experience without the pressure of achieving targets. However, once experienced they are expected to progress quickly. Calls may be screened to ensure customer service standards are being met and to highlight further training needs.

Once in the job, employees can undertake a range of relevant qualifications such as:

  • NVQ's/SVQ's in Telesales at Levels 2 and 3.
  • NVQ's/SVQ's in Call Handling at Levels 1 and 2.
  • NVQ's/SVQ's in Contact Centre Operations at Levels 1
    and 2.
  • NVQ's/SVQ's for Contact Centre Professionals at Levels 3 and 4.

The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM) offers two levels of qualifications:

  • ISMM Level 2 Certificate in Sales and Marketing, which includes a written and practical test, or the Level 2 Award in Basic Sales Skills.
  • ISMM Level 3 Advanced Certificate in Sales and Marketing, or the Level 3 Award in Advanced Sales Skills.

Students wishing to undertake the ISMM Level 3 Advanced Certificate should either have:

  • ISMM Level 2 Certificate in Sales and Marketing.
  • NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Sales or Telesales.
  • Five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths.
  • Two years' accredited experience and learning.

Those working specifically in financial services may also need a qualification that meets the standards set by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Further qualifications also relevant to telesales operators include:

  • The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) awards for customer service practitioners, leading to qualified membership of the ICS.
  • The Chartered Institute of Marketing courses on telephone selling techniques and telephone selling skills.
  • The Institute of Direct Marketing Certificate in Contact Centre Practice.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A telesales operator needs:

  • Excellent communication and listening skills.
  • A polite, confident and friendly manner.
  • To be able to show initiative.
  • To be confident using computers.
  • A positive attitude.
  • To be flexible and quick thinking.
  • Perseverance, and to be able to respect customers' answers.
  • Good knowledge about all the company's products and services.
  • To be well-organised and thorough, even under pressure.
  • To enjoy working within a target-driven team environment.
  • To understand and comply with the legislation relating to direct marketing.

Your Long Term Prospects

Successful telesales operators can achieve rapid promotion and salary increases. There are often opportunities in larger organisations to move into team leader or sales management roles.

The persuasion skills involved in telephone selling are vital to a wide range of business functions. It may be possible to move into a related job, including face to face customer service, complaints handling or to another area of the business such as buying, marketing or training.

Get Further Information

Call Centre Association (CCA),
20 Newton Place, Glasgow G3 7PY
Tel: 0141 564 9010
Website: www.cca.org.uk

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),
Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead,
Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427500
Website: www.cim.co.uk

e-skills UK, 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Website: www.e-skills.com/careers

Institute of Customer Service (ICS),
2 Castle Court, St Peter's Street,
Colchester, Essex CO1 1EW
Tel: 01206 571716
Website: www.instituteofcustomerservice.com

The Institute of Direct Marketing,
1 Park Road, Teddington,
Middlesex TW11 0AR
Tel: 020 8977 5705
Website: www.theidm.com

The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM),
Harrier Court, Lower Woodside,
Luton, Bedfordshire LU1 4DQ
Tel: 01582 840001
Website: www.ismm.co.uk

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