What's it really like?
Rebecca Stevenson, 22, from South-East London has been a Telesales Executive for two years.
‘Since starting work as a telesales executive in 2006, I have risen to the role of Sales Development Executive. This involves working as a sort of ‘team leader’ for a telesales team, taking initiative to maximise our fundraising potential, and sometimes delegating tasks to the rest of my team, as well as helping more junior workers familiarise them with the demands of the task. My salary currently stands at £19k with a bonus of up to £10k. Before starting here, I’d been at university and working in retail for four years.
A typical day at work involves mixing incoming business with making outbound calls to clients. I will call leads, delegate tasks and initiatives to the rest of the telesales executives on my team – and of course I’ll have to keep up with my admin work at the same time.
I would advise any prospective telesales executives to make sure they are well organised in terms of time management, and to keep their confidence levels high when dealing with people internally and externally. Lastly, believe in the product you are selling! It’s a tad clichéd, but true.
As an insider, I’d also advise new executives to try not to use any newly-learned technical terms when speaking to clients about the products you are selling. Telesales executives often sell complex financial or advertising packages, so half the time your clients might not understand you when talking about the finer points of the product - the best thing to do is make it as simple as possible. They are less likely to buy into a product which they don't understand!
For me, the job is at its toughest when things go wrong internally and I’m left to deal with an irate client. The high point is more constant: I enjoy working in a busy environment and we have a great team here.
In the immediate future I am looking to climb the career ladder into a field sales based role, but in the long term I would like to get into the more strategic side of advertising.'
Telesales executives are office-based workers who sell products and services for their employer over the phone. As well as generating as much revenue as possible, telesales executives can be expected to manage accounts and maintain client relationships, all through making and taking phone calls.
The primary purpose of a job in telesales is, as the title suggests, to sell. However, the role involves an equal amount of administrative and managerial tasks, particularly within the higher echelons of the position, when executives will be expected to come up with deals and schemes to encourage their junior colleagues, and monitor the progress of the department.
Telesales executives must be able to negotiate and be quick to understand the values and terms of the product or service they are selling. Very large sums of money can be in play and the discounts agreed by sales executives make a huge difference to company revenue over the course of a financial year. Calls, pitches and deals may be monitored by the management, and sales executives need to ensure that all the business they are involved in is running flawlessly smoothly, and impeccably recorded. While the administrative functions that the role entails are less likely to be closely monitored in the same way as the pounds and pence will be, nonetheless, this part of the job is vital to the effective conduct of the role.
Telesales executives are the workers who generate the revenue, not only by selling services or products directly, but also by drumming up the advertising interests that keep the media industry afloat.
The target-driven nature of telesales can mean that workforces can be distressingly competitive. However, some thrive on the fast-paced, sociable nature of the job, and the tight-knit relationships that can build up within less competitive teams.
There is no strong gender bias within the telesales workforce. However, there are certain demographics that tend to work in the industry. Youths, students and immigrants constitute a majority of telesales executives, often working long hours for the minimum wage. As such, workers are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers. Membership of a union such as Amicus (see link below) can help protect you against these dangers.
The physical risks of working in an office are minimal, but they can include repetitive strain injury, back ache and headaches from working with computers. Executives who elect to work long hours should make sure they get up and stretch their legs, and give their eyes a rest every half hour or so.
Mental stress can also affect telesales executives, particularly junior members of staff or managers working in highly pressurised environments. Many workplaces now have support networks in place to help employees who might be suffering from stress or pressure.
Salaries for telesales executives are usually heavily bonus-oriented, with some roles earning a basic salary of as little as £14,000. On the plus side, the uncapped bonuses that are increasingly offered by companies mean that in theory, telesales executives can earn limitless wages.
Reputable firms offer basic entry-level salaries of £16-20,000, with on target earnings (OTE) often hitting the £30,000 mark.
Telesales executives are counted on to represent the company they work for to existing and potential clients. They are responsible for forging, maintaining and expanding links between corporations, and for the flawless administration of these relationships.
A typical day will include calling potential new clients and discussing future sales possibilities. Telesales executives will also check up on pitches sent out over the past month, and receive incoming calls from existing or potential clients with queries or new business.
Most companies will set targets in terms of call-rates, response services and numbers of clients helped, as well as the gross amount of revenue brought in. Executives will be expected to meet these targets on a weekly or a monthly basis and so each day’s work is completed with this in mind.
A good telesales executive will also keep up with industry news for their trade sector, and particularly, keep an eye on company developments for any major corporate clients, through monitoring industry press.
No qualifications are required for all entry-level sales positions, although a minimum of five good GCSEs are sometimes stated as a must-have. Other positions will require A-Levels or NVQs, and some will even stipulate a university degree. However, a university degree is not necessarily a prerequisite for this job.
Prospective telesales executives will need a high level of personal motivation – and preferably a thick skin! They will also need to be articulate, personable and willing to work as part of a team. Organisation skills come in handy when handling the paperwork and details for a number of accounts.
Foreign languages are very useful assets for any prospective sales executive, as any companies working with international clients will need multilingual executives. A good second or even a third language can help ease your rise through the ranks of account sales positions.
The job tends to operate within normal office hours - 9-5 or 10-6.
However, some call centres work throughout the night. These call centres can be exploitative, and any prospective employees should ensure they know their rights to pay and breaks, in order to ensure they are not working under illegal conditions.
Executives can be expected to work late in order to hit targets or meet deadlines. This expectation is rewarded with a reciprocal bonus paid out on a regular basis.
Some companies, particularly smaller or elite companies with small telesales teams, will require at least 6 months experience in the industry for new recruits to their teams. Higher-income telesales roles will also typically require this six months minimum experience in a similar role.
However, many of the larger companies now offer comprehensive training schemes lasting up to one month. Beware companies who do not require any experience and will not offer training - telesales can be a tough job if you haven’t mastered the basic tools.
As in most office-bound jobs, experience working with computers is a must.
Telesales executives could be selling almost any product, from double glazing to insurance.
Almost all big media companies now rely on telesales to generate the advertising revenue they need to cover the cost of going to press.
Major banks and insurance companies also hire telesales executives in the thousands.
It is worth warning that prospective employees should not hope to ‘break into’ an unrelated industry through a job in telesales. It is rare in the extreme that somebody working in telesales for ITV would be at an advantage when applying for a job in broadcasting, nor will a job selling insurance for Norwich Union get you a job in the city.
This job is a favourite with gap-year students and graduates, as the beginning of a career in sales, or a stop-gap before a career in another sector. As such, the role does not have the standard ‘career progression’ path that other roles may have. Telesales executives leave the profession to pursue a variety of professional interests, such as further education, the charity or voluntary sector and the media, as well as to rise through the ranks of different sectors of the sales industry.
Many telesales executives go on to work as managers or field sales executives in a client-facing role, handling more money or delegating to junior executives. Elsewhere, executives move into PR or marketing, or some executives use the role as a preliminary introduction before making a move into the more creative side of the advertising industry.