From the May 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

I Love to Cold Call!

Use the right list and the right script, get down the right sound and hit the right numbers -- and it all comes together.

I used "I Love to Cold Call" to get your attention. Ninety-nine percent of the people who even glance at the title hate cold calling and would rather stand in a cold shower ripping up $100 bills than cold call. If that's you, you need to read this article. If you like cold calling or can at least tolerate it, you most certainly should read it. It will make it a lot easier and perhaps even fun.

Does cold calling work today? You bet.

A long-time student of mine, Ric Lager (lagerco.com), e-mailed me:

"I am in my 25th year of cold-calling as the primary method of building my business. I can't ever remember opening as many new advisory account relationships in such a short period of time as I have since last fall...

"With a little bit of pre-call research and a brief message targeted directly to the type of prospect I am looking for, my handful of hours on the phone each week has consistently given me seven to ten new accounts per month and at least $3 million to $4 million in new assets to manage."

Is it more difficult than three or four years ago? No.

Is it more difficult than 10 years ago? Absolutely.

Key ingredients? A good list, lots of calls, upbeat professional sound, and a good script for sure.

This brings up a favor -- one for you, and one for me.

For me: In a future issue of Research, I want to publish the best scripts of 2009. If you are doing any cold calling, I want you to send me a copy of your script. Go to www.billgood.com/coldcalling2009.

For you: Anyone who sends me a script will receive in return a booklet of all the good scripts I receive. I will publish some of these in a future article in Research.

To keep this article short and simple, I will ask myself some questions you have probably been wondering about:

What distinguishes one caller from another on that first call?

The first impression, which is created less by what you say, and more by how you sound.

If you were going to produce a 30-second radio commercial, you would know instinctively that the first few seconds make it or break it. Guess what? You have a commercial. It's a bit longer than 30 seconds, but those first few seconds make or break it.

Sound boring? Sound like you're sucking a lemon? That first impression will do you in every time. The correct sound is upbeat, positive and confident.

How should I allocate my time?

Allocate an hour or two a day of uninterrupted time for cold calling. You don't take incoming calls. You don't talk to clients. You don't send text messages or answer your cell phone. Call it your "Cold Calling Power Block." With cold calling you find prospects and stuff them in your pipeline.

Allocate a different block of time for your call-backs. During this "Pipeline Power Block," you only make follow-up calls.

During my Cold Calling Power Block, how many calls an hour should I make?

About 40 an hour, with gusts up to 60. Don't waste time leaving messages or taking call-back information.

If you are having trouble hitting 40, you are doing something else, such as making long-winded, bloated calls, or making notes on the computer after each call, or worse, trying to convert a cold call into a sales call.

What do you mean -- trying to sell? Shouldn't I be doing that?

Not even a little bit. Prospecting and selling are two different skills. They should not be mixed in the same time frame. When you're prospecting, you are just looking for someone who is interested and qualified now. Ideally, prospecting and sales should be done by two different people.

What is the objective of a cold call?

To find a prospect who is interested and qualified right now. I have labeled this prospect a "cherry." When you find one, you offer to send information, verify contact information, and move on. If you take a "big picture" view, we are using the telephone just like you might use direct mail. You send out bulk phone messages, pick off some responses, and then follow up on them.

How long does it take to find out if someone is a prospect?

It takes less than a minute to find out if someone is a cherry or a pit. When you get even a whiff of a pit, you utter the cry of the cherry picker, "Thankyouverymuch," and disappear into the electronic haze of the telephone system.

How should I get organized for cold calling?

The organized prospector never disconnects between calls, never updates a computer between calls, and never talks and writes at the same time.

What is the best way to organize your list for cold calling?

It's a high-tech system called "note cards." Print off your list on labels, slap a label on a 4x6 card, and you are geared for high-speed calling. Make your notes on the card while you are talking. If you have to update things in the computer, do it in non-optimum calling time.

Where can I find a good list?

First let's clarify: A good list is any list that will produce one to two cherries per hour. But to hit that number, all of the other variables have to be right. You have to be calling at the right time of day for that list, you have to sound good, and you have to have a good script. So you might have a good list, but a bad script. It will not then produce one to two cherries per hour. You might throw out the baby with the proverbial bathwater.

So where do you find a good list? It can come from almost anywhere. But there is a rule here. The easier a list is to get, the more advisors have it, and the less likely it is to be any good. The best list will be dug out of nooks and crannies by, guess who -- you.

How long does it take to find out if you have a bad list?

Maybe four to six hours. You pick a list, get a script, and make an hour or two of calls. If you're not getting good results, try a different offer in your script. If that doesn't work, try another. By this time, I would conclude: bad list.

What should I look for in a script?

The reason list development is so important is that by pulling people together who are demographically united in some important respects, you are more likely to craft an offer that will appeal to a lot of people.

While I cannot tell you for certain what offer a list will respond to, I can tell you what it most likely will not respond to.

"This is Alice Agar with Reliable Securities. I'm calling to introduce myself and let you know of the services we have available."

Or, there's this tested classic:

"This is Bob Loblaw with Loblaw Wealth Management. We offer a free portfolio evaluation service as our way of introducing ourselves to people in the community."

But don't believe me. Try them. Both of these are what I call service approaches. They don't work now. They didn't work last year, or 20 years before that.

Now get a different idea. Test it. Refine it. If it's a no-go, throw it out, too. And keep at it. Within a few days, you should find an idea that works for you in your market.

The trick here is: How do you know if it's your sound, the list, the numbers, or the script?

Well, we try to eliminate the sound by just knowing that a professional sound is a confident, warm, enthusiastic sound with proper inflection so it conveys authority.

Numbers are easy. If you aren't pounding out the numbers I've outlined, what's the point of discussing anything else?

Now we're down to the list and the script. I have good news for you. The form for the perfect script is done. I named it "The Greatest." You can have a copy of it at the website posted above.

Stick to this script form. Change the wording as you come up with different offers. Pick a product, a manager or a strategy. Offer some information. Then qualify for interest. If interested, qualify for money.

If the offer isn't generating enough prospects per hour, change the offer. Change it several times. Still not working?

Are you making the calls? Do you sound alive and well? Chuck the list, and get another one.

And when you get all the pieces right and it starts to work, you will easily say: I love to cold call!

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Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.

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