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Take your research skills to the next level.

If you are new to telephone research projects and would like to learn more about how to be an effective caller, you have come to the right place. 

Whether you’ve joined the Freshminds Projects network to expand your horizons, work on consulting projects in interesting fields, and gain more experience in the workforce, this article will explain the purpose behind calling projects, i.e., why they are so important.

We’ll outline some tips and tricks of the trade from some of Freshminds’ primary research analysts. As a former Freshminds researcher who has worked on multiple calling projects, I can safely say; there is a certain technique to successfully gathering data, and it mainly comes down to the 3 Ps; preparation, patience and persistence.

First, let’s explore why telephone research is an important methodology. 

Why Is Telephone Research Important? 

Before we get to said techniques, it would be beneficial to understand the reasons for these kinds of projects. At Freshminds, we have various clients in different sectors. However, the bulk of our projects are in professional services, retail, and private equity. 

If you don’t have a finance or business background, then it may be helpful to understand how private equity works. In Lehman’s terms, a private equity (PE) firm deals in buying companies needing a revamp. They establish a strategic plan to restructure the company’s operational side (i.e., new management, new products, fresh new ideas) and ensure the company turns a profit within a certain period. 

Once they do, the PE firm will sell the company to new owners and keep the margin made in profit. These are big and financially significant projects, so it is in everyone’s best interest to conduct appropriate research into the market to ensure the viability of the project. This is called commercial due diligence (CDD) and is a common project for our Freshminds analysts. 

CDD is crucial before mergers, acquisitions, or buyouts and enables PE firms to make educated decisions based on the market and its competitors.

Freshminds has worked on important CDD projects which have had major impacts on the market. Lien Pham, a Consultant on Freshminds’ very own in-house consulting team, explains this well:  

“As an impact of our CDD work, we have conducted due diligence projects that have resulted in acquisitions worth 25 million and up to 250 million EUR”.

As mentioned above, you can use tactics to become effective at telephone surveying. You’ll find that once you master getting past the switchboard or reception, it will be smoother sailing from there. Here are some tricks of the trade provided by some of Freshminds’ top primary researchers; Zara, Eliana, and Graham. 

Telephone Survey Tips

1) Take time to familiarise yourself with the topic.

At the start of a project, take half a day to familiarise yourself with the industry you will be researching. By doing this, you’ll arm yourself with the necessary jargon in that field, as well as develop a greater understanding of the industry as a whole. You can also use this time to ask for any clarifications from the project managers. If applicable, make the necessary translations ahead of your calls. Even if you aren’t an expert, make sure you are at least comfortable with the subject. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

2) Be ready with your opener.

Write an introduction at the top of your questionnaire to ensure you will come across confidently over the phone. Using a loose cold call script can also help calm any nerves. State who you are and why you’re calling. Zara says: 

“I make sure to tell my interviewees that I am a researcher by profession but new to this industry. It usually puts the interviewee at ease and creates space for me to ask them additional questions on things I may not fully grasp”.

3) Make your call armed with a name and job title.

If speaking to a receptionist, front desk, or gatekeeper, make sure to have a name and job title ready. This will make it much easier to be transferred to the correct person. Zara says: 

“If the gatekeeper can’t get me through, but they seem friendly, I’ll try and get them to help me. I might say, ‘Maybe you can help me out! I’m trying to find out about X. Do you know about this? Any idea who I could speak to?’”.

4) Emphasise the purpose of your call.

Make it clear why you are calling, why you need their specific expertise, and how they can help. Eliana says:

“When speaking to the right person, don’t forget to stress the fact that Freshminds is absolutely not trying to sell anything and is only looking to collect insights about a certain industry.”

5) Make them feel useful and knowledgeable.

It may help to highlight that you are struggling to understand one aspect of the research and could really benefit from their expertise. According to Graham, it helps to show interest. 

“Often, people love to talk about what they do. If they feel they’re the expert and you want to hear their knowledge, lots of people are happy to help. Reassure people by saying, ‘I have a few questions, I won’t ask anything confidential, and we can skip anything which you may not be comfortable answering.’”

6) Check-in with your team.

Researcher Graham also recommends staying in touch with your coworkers. It is highly beneficial to check in with your team throughout the day. Whether it be for general catch-up, to discuss what has worked well, what hasn’t, or to discuss your findings, relying on help from the team is very valuable. They are going through the same process as you, and you can help each other out.

 7) Schedule a more convenient time to talk.

If the person you are trying to speak to is unavailable, schedule a more convenient time to call again. Mornings and the beginning of the week are busy times. If you call then, you will likely be asked to reschedule at a more convenient time. This will allow for more open and in-depth conversations, as they are expecting your call. 

 8) Don’t take it personally.

If the person is uninterested, and this will happen, politely end the call and move on. Don’t take it personally. People are busy and might not have time or want to make the time. Quite often, this is a numbers game, and no one can expect a 100% success rate. If you need, take a breather, chat with your team, and try again.

Final Thoughts on How to Conduct Telephone Surveys

Telephone surveys are not always easy. However, armed with the most effective tricks of the trade, like the 3 Ps; preparation, patience, and (polite) persistence and our recommendations, you will be ready to support any primary research project.

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