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Before you pick up the phone to make that next sales call, double check your dealership’s rules for telemarketing compliance.
Just off the top of your head, what is your perception of the average telemarketer? Do you picture a sprawling call center filled with hundreds of agents chatting away on headsets? Are they robotically reading from scripts—but mostly getting hung up on by frustrated callers who don’t want to hear from them?
Telemarketers are so annoying, right?
Ready for some news that may surprise you? Your dealership likely engages in telemarketing practices. And if you are, it’s critical to the future of your business that your team is fully on board with telemarketing compliance when reaching out to prospects or clients.
Under the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act (TCFPA), “telemarketing” is defined as “a plan, program, or campaign which is conducted to induce purchases of goods or services, or a charitable contribution, donation, or gift of money or any other thing of value, by use of one or more telephones and which involves more than one interstate telephone call.”
That means when you’re cold-calling or making other sales calls, you’re likely engaging in telemarketing. You don’t need to stop making those calls, though. You just need to be smart about telemarketing compliance and ensuring your team is following the rules.
Telemarketing compliance 101: Get familiar with the Telemarketing Sales Rule
The Telemarketing Sales Rule gives effect to the TCFPA. This legislation gives the FTC and state attorneys general law enforcement tools to combat telemarketing fraud, gives consumers added privacy protections and defenses against telemarketers, and helps consumers understand the differences between fraudulent and legitimate telemarketers.
How can you ensure your team’s telemarketing practices are on the up and up? Here are a few tips to help you out:
1. Know the essential information you must disclose during the call.
For example, one portion of the Telemarketing Sales Rule is prompt oral disclosures in outbound sales calls. Before you give a sales pitch, you must “truthfully, clearly, and conspicuously” state: your identity, that the purpose of your call is to sell goods or services, and the nature of the goods or services being offered.
2. Don’t get into work early or stay late to make sales calls.
You can only call consumers between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Anything before or after those hours will violate the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
3. You must transmit your telephone number and, if possible, your dealership’s name to your caller ID service.
This holds telemarketers accountable and makes consumers feel more comfortable.
4. Pre-recorded calls aren’t exempt from these rules.
If you make “robocalls,” or calls that you record ahead of time, a customer must give written permission to receive these calls. You cannot just record a call and then blast your entire database, regardless of whether they’ve opted-in or not.
These tips should not replace actual legal advice from a licensed, practicing attorney—they’re just meant to give you a feel for your auto dealership’s telemarketing compliance obligations.
The Do Not Call Rule and telemarketing compliance
You’ve heard of the National Do Not Call Registry, right? That applies to your dealership’s telemarketing compliance as well.
1. If you call a consumer and they ask you not to call them ever again, you must comply—and that doesn’t just mean crossing his or her name off your list.
You must make a note in your auto dealership CRM that this customer does not wish to be called anymore and everyone in the dealership should have access to this information. If a caller asks you not to call them anymore and either you or someone else in your dealership does call them, you could face a civil penalty of $40,654 per violation.
2. Compare your database against the National Do Not Call Registry at least every 31 days.
If any consumers in your database are on the registry, make a note of that in your CRM. This doesn’t mean you can’t call customers you have an existing business relationship with, but you can’t randomly call and try to sell them something.
3. If you’ve never actually looked at the National Do Not Call Registry, it’s time to get familiar with it.
Visit telemarketing.donotcall.gov, and you will be able to gain access to the database.
It’s unacceptable to claim ignorance when it comes to this registry; if a customer complains about your sales call, you can’t say you didn’t know they were on the Do Not Call list. It’s your job to stay on top of the registry to stay complaint.
Getting your sales team on board with telemarketing compliance
Ensuring total telemarketing compliance within your auto dealership requires more than just an e-mail memo sent around to your team. Schedule a full training for your team—you may want to have your compliance officer lead the charge—and provide regular reminders and refresher courses.
And yes, even your most veteran salespeople should be included. The Telemarketing Sales Rule didn’t come into play until 1994, and the National Do Not Call Registry wasn’t created until 2004. That means your more seasoned salespeople may have been trained during a period in which it was okay to call customers at any time of day, not disclose critical information, or keep calling someone even when they were asked to stop.
You can’t babysit your salespeople to verify that they’re following the rules, but you can give them tools—like checklists, desk reminders, and CRM training—to arm them with everything they need to be successful and accountable. It also doesn’t hurt to make your team aware of the federal penalties that they and the dealership could face if anyone decides to ignore telemarketing compliance. It’s tough love, but if they understand how much is at stake, they are much more likely to stay in line.