The phone room
Years ago when businesses were trying to increase sales, they would hire appointment setters who would make cold calls over the phone for lead generation.
This was considered one of the least glamorous of jobs and because of this, managers would assign the least desirable rooms in a building and preferably with an open floor plan. These activities were also not seen as necessary to showcase to prospective clients who might visit. Because of this, they did not need premium office space or production areas to do their jobs.
The space often suited for this was the boiler room within the building. It was often an open area so managers could just look over and see that people were making calls since there was no software to track their activity back then. Also, since these departments were often loud, it usually did not affect other areas of the office.
Now lots of people have seen the movie boiler room and quite frankly that is a good representation of what these rooms were. Just a bunch of people on the phone dialing for dollars. However, the reality of the conditions were more aligned with the actual name because these basements were hot, stuffy and very uncomfortable with a lot of loud people around from all walks of life.
It could sometimes be less of a professional environment than you’ve seen in movies such as the Wolf of Wall Street. Since cold calling used to be as simple as learn a script, know the questions and the objections and just keep dialing until you book a lead, Oftentimes you would find people who would come in just for a few hours at a time. They would just arrive, make their calls, go through the script and leave to go to the next job.
This was especially the case if you were calling B2C. Homeowners would usually be targeted for calling between 5:00 – 9:00 PM. This is why you would find people from all walks of life using jobs like this to supplement their income.
These call centers used to run the gamut from having a chair, a phone on a desk and a Yellow pages or even White pages to call from randomly. Other times specific lists were gathered and even though these were more targeted than the haphazardness of a phone book, they were still low quality and it was more about making numerous calls and letting the numbers work in your favor.
Nowadays most companies have opted for utilizing digital online advertising to generate leads and will still sometimes set up people to call to follow up on those qualified leads. So even though boiler rooms are not as popular as they once were there are still companies out there that utilize this form of outreach and you have probably been contacted by them often whether it’s somebody calling to inform you about your car warranty expiration or a volunteer asking for a donation.
The reason boiler room stuck as a terminology is because even modern day call centers are still similar in fashion. You have numerous people in a tight space, even if it’s a large room, it just means that there’s more people that you could fill in that room who pick up the phone and make calls. There’s a lot of pressure, it’s uncomfortable and it’s just constant activity and noise.
Believe it or not, there’s nothing wrong with working in these types of call centers. If you do end up taking a job in this environment do not be discouraged. Especially if you’re starting out because this can give you excellent exposure to one of the biggest problems that salespeople need to overcome and that’s hearing of the word “no.”
Cold calling, especially in a boiler room environment, will toughen you up. It also gives you the chance to test out and try different skills and tactics. There is actually money to be made in all levels of sales, even in a situation like this. So if you do happen to be working for a company like this, use it as your training opportunity to get better at talking to people on the phone, at going through your sales process and learning how to communicate well in this medium.