Telemarketing can be an extremely efficient way to increase sales, but it is a method that comes with a whole host of its own, specific challenges. Unlike with things like print ads, generally emails, and even text messages, timing is absolutely crucial. With other techniques, people can come to your content as and when they are looking for it: when they open a newspaper, swtich on the TV or the radio, scroll through their Twitter feeds, or check their phones. But when you’re placing a phone call, you hae to have some level of confidence that there will be somebody at the other end of the line with the ability, willingness, and time to answer the phone and have a conversation at that moment. Telemarketing also comes with its own laws, and businesses who choose to ignore or flout these regulations put themselves at risk of incurring fines of £500,000 from Ofcom and the Information Commissioner’s Office, telemarketing’s regulating bodies. Make sure you know the telemarketing rules, and avoid fines.

There currently aren’t any regulations on what time of the day cold calls can be placed in the UK – in the US it’s a different story, however, as telemarketing calls are restricted to between 8am and 9pm, unless the recipient has clearly stated that they would like to be called outside those hours. But just because it’s legal to call British residents at any time of the day or night, it doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Calling people when they are trying to sleep, for example, isn’t going to make your company very popular, and is highly unlikely to result in a sale.

It’s almost impossible to try and make a one-size-fits-all ideal time for a sales call. What you need to try and work out is when your specific target audience is most likely to be receptive to a phone call. Of course, that’s a very difficult thing to find out, but there are a few common things you can keep in mind.

Firstly, if you can, you should always try to agree a time in advance. Whether you do this by text, email, or simply having them tick a selection box when they subscribe, it is always best to have some confidence that the time you ring will suit them.

Of course, a lot of the time your calls will be placed to people with whom your company might not have had that much contact with before, or who haven’t specifically arranged a phone call with you. In these cases, there are still a few helpful patterns to follow.

In general, late afternoon and early evening is the best time to call. Bear in mind, though, things like parents going out to pick their children up from school, people going to do their grocery shopping, and so on. You should aim for the time after people have returned home from their day, but haven’t yet settled down to eating their dinner.

For those reasons, early mornings can be a really good option too. Obviously, you don’t want to call too early and wake anybody up. But around 8am-9am, before people tend to have left for work, tends to be a pretty successful time to call. Salespeople often find that people are more alert, receptive, and open-minded in the morning, before they have had to face the stress and demands of a working day.

Equally, if you’re going to be calling people at their place of work, earlier still tends to be better thanks to people’s increased freshness and willingness to listen, particularly as by the afternoon they may be in more of a rush to get their work done before they go home.

Beyond times of the day, you might also like to think of which days of the week to focus on. Research has found that Thursdays tend to be the best day of the week to place a marketing call, coming in at 20% better than Fridays, which are the worst day, according to a study of 50 companies, conducted by Dr. James Oldroyd. Mondays were also generally less successful.

To really improve your efficiency, you might consider using customer segmentation data to figure out when is the best time to call different customers, which can be done through trial and error and building up a set of assumptions. For example, if you know that some of the numbers you are trying to reach belonged to a retired couple, you know you have a much better chance of reaching them at home during lunchtime than you might with a number belonging to an office worker or a school teacher.

As strange as it may seem, you should also pay attention to your TV Guide when choosing when to place sales calls. Major television events tend to yield much lower conection rates, so avoid these. But even things like the major soap operas can lead to a dip in calls answered, as well as large sporting events like FA Cup matches, and so on.

Clearly, there is a great deal to take into consideration before scheduling your sales calls, and you need to remember that what works for one type of customer, or even one individual, isn’t necessarily applicable across the board. Give your salespeople a chance to experiment, and try to create categories for your numbers according to what daily and weekly habits they are likely to have. You can’t make any sales if you aren’t getting through to anybody, so don’t dismiss this first and vital step of planning your telemarketing campaign.