Smile And Dial: Cold Calling Strategies For Prospecting
I get asked a lot of questions during my workshops and presentations about cold calling.
They’ll ask me, “When you were younger, how did you meet with successful prospects and clients so quickly?” The short answer is through cold calling.
Now, of course, many things have changed since I was a financial advisor. So, naturally, the follow up questions are: Does it still work? What’s the best way for cold calling today?
First, I want to be clear that my prospecting system is focused on getting well nominated referrals. I encourage you to use the same.
This was my primary prospecting approach and the best system that worked best for me. This system has worked for countless other advisors I’ve trained to do it and will never go out of style. After my first few years in the business, I rarely did any cold calling.
However, when you’re newer in the business, you may not have many annual review meetings to prospect in that you can generate referrals from. If you find yourself in this situation, cold calling is one method you can use to supplement your sources of leads and referrals.
Cold Calling Challenges In Today’s World
In the 90s, when I was an advisor, there was no caller ID. People answered their phones if it rang. It was just the normal thing to do.
Today, everyone has a cell phone with caller ID on it.
We all screen our calls and, most often, if we don’t recognize the number, we don’t pick it up. But some people still do.
So, is there still merit to cold calling? Unfortunately, the ambiguous answer is maybe. Sometimes. For some people.
Some of the time you may get lucky and get an individual to pick up. Additionally, even if you don’t get a hold of them, leaving a strong voicemail may get you a call back.
While I would not rely exclusively on cold calling, for newer advisors it’s a tool you should have in your back pocket and you should know the best way to do it.
Strategies For Cold Calling: It's All About Association
The best strategy for cold calling is to call upon people who have some sort of common association with you.
There should be some special type of benefit or reason of why they would work with you, due to the knowledge or relationship that you have with a common group.
For example, one of the cold calling lists that I used and developed a large clientele from was the Northwestern University Kellogg Graduate School of Business. These were MBA students that went to business school in the evenings and worked during the day.
I had a list of MBA students that went there that had their name, major and their phone numbers. It also told me what courses they were currently in and where they worked during the day.
When I called the people on this list, I’d tell them that I work with a tremendous amount of Kellogg students. The benefit is that I could relate to what was going on in their world. I also understood their challenges with their busy schedules that included both work and school and could accommodate them.
On my calls, I would create desire. Listening to me, they would think to themselves, “You know, if this Jim Effner guy is working with a bunch of other Kellogg students, I think I want to meet him too.”
Another Unique Value Proposition
I also had a bank that I was able to generate many clients from. I had a copy of their benefit booklet that detailed the types of insurance and financial service benefits offered to their employees that I memorized. I knew every single detail of every single benefit.
So, when I’d call employees from the bank, I would say to them, “Listen, I’m working with over 50 clients from your institution. I know your benefit booklet better than your HR department. I promise you that you will find immense value in meeting with me. Having said that, I’m going to be at your bank next Tuesday. Does 1 PM or 3 PM be better for you?”
Just like the example before, this created a feeling of association. Hearing that I worked with so many other employees automatically attracted other employees to want to do the same. Additionally, by understanding their benefit booklet, it gave me a way to add a ton of value to their financial planning.
One Critical Key To Cold Calling
In my sales process, I teach a three-step meeting process for the financial planning sales cycle. It begins with a fact-finding meeting to get to know your prospect’s background. Then, it moves to a planning meeting. Finally, it moves to an implementation or closing meeting where the plan is implemented.
With this in mind (this probably goes without saying) when you cold call, you are NOT selling on the phone. The only purpose of the phone call is to get the initial appointment. Even once you get the initial appointment, with few exceptions, you should never be selling anything in the first meeting.
Doing so will immediately confirm the negative perception that the prospect already had in their head that, “this advisor is just trying to make a sale.” That’s a major turnoff and a bad reputation travels fast.
That said, if you’re up for trying cold calling, give it a shot using the strategies above. You can find commonalities with the school you graduated from or with large local businesses that are in your area. Get creative with it. While it can be a challenge to get the ball rolling at first, once you have established a base of clients from a specific place or group, you’ll find that their peers don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of working with you either!