In defence of the cold-caller

As a member of the Direct Selling Association, I received the Trading Standards Institute’s (TSI) recent call to ban doorstep cold calling with trepidation.

Direct marketing is often criticised when reports of overbearing salesmen prompt consumers to question all forms of cold calling. A clear distinction needs to be made by our industry between this negative image and responsible above-the-line direct calling. If not managed carefully, the TSI’s claims could prompt discussions of banning all cold calling – a potentially devastating threat to the direct marketing industry.

After years of working in a successful direct selling arena, I must question the TSI’s findings that 95.7 per cent of consumers do not want doorstep sellers calling at their house. At CPM, we make face-to-face contact with over 4,000 homeowners each week through cold calling, and we have yet to receive a complaint. The TSI’s claim certainly does not reflect our experience, and instead I urge Trading Standards, businesses and consumers to co-operate in raising levels of cold-calling service to mirror those which we find work so well.

At CPM, we believe that face-to-face customer contact is often the best strategy for a client. By taking a product or service direct to a customer, an agent can better understand the customer’s needs and can explain issues surrounding the service, in a non-pressurised environment. Our clients can be sure that their customers receive a personal level of service, tailored to their needs, as opposed to that offered through blanket direct mailing or telesales.

Finally, it is crucial that direct sellers recruit agents responsibly. A combination of structured performance management and responsible pay packages ensures would ensure that selling agents believe in the value, not volume, of cold calling. This technique helps direct selling generate a positive customer response, and is one which all responsible direct marketing agencies should employ.

In these days of lost consumer confidence, it is vital that direct selling agencies employ responsible tactics and work together to raise standards of direct marketing. Without this, there is a very real danger that marketing agencies could lose the powers to use this effective selling tool.

Mike Hughes

Managing director

CPM UK

Sussex

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