From the June 2013 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

May 28, 2013

How to Win the Cold Calling Numbers Game

Sales is a numbers game. These are the zones with the numbers you will need to succeed

If you are cold calling now; if you intend to start cold calling; if you have to cold call and don’t want to—then you need to read this article very carefully.

I am defining the activities and stats you must control if you are to succeed. Sales is a numbers game. These are the numbers. I have also posted a stat sheet, yours for the taking. This free resource is at

Key Concepts Defined

Hot Prospect: Someone very interested, financially qualified, willing to begin the sales process by setting an appointment now. No appointment = not hot.

Cherry: A prospect who is interested, financially qualified, willing to receive investment literature. Mostly, your cold calling should focus on finding cherries, because cherries, properly developed, become hot prospects.

Appointment Set Rate: The percentage of cherries required to get a hot prospect. 10% means 10 cherries are required to set one appointment.

Hot Prospects/Sale: This is the number of hot prospects required to produce a sale. The best salespeople I know rarely close more than 50%. Rookies typically are in the 5% to 10% range.

Cherries Per Hour: This is how many cherries you can generate per hour. Professional grade is 2–3. Failure is generally 0.5 or even worse.

The Failure Zone

We are going to work backwards by starting with an annual goal, say $5 million AUM.

I will estimate how much selling time is required for you to hit the goal. Then I will figure out how much prospecting is required.

When the time required exceeds the amount of even an unreasonable workweek of 60 hours, we know we cannot succeed. Hence: failure zone.

By the way, if you thought building a financial services practice is a 40-hour a week job, you dream. It is at least 60 or more for at least two, or even three, years.

I am going to further assume you cannot afford seminars. Direct mailing is out of the question. Your “connections” are few and/or poor. It’s cold call or else.

I have built two models for your intense study. Initially, each will result in failure. Let’s call these models the “cold calling failure zone.” You cannot succeed if your stats fall in this zone. By applying failure analysis, we can then determine what you must do to succeed.

My first model assumes you intend to pursue a higher net worth clientele. Your average account size is $500,000. For most rookies or junior advisors, this is a fantasy. So let’s also build a second model based on average account size of $100,000. For those in rural or small town markets, this is reality.

Here are my assumptions for my failure zone models.

I am assuming, correctly I believe, that it is easier to open a new client relationship for $100,000 than $500,000. This is reflected in the higher closing rate and appointment set rate. Regarding the 10% closing rate for $500K accounts, that is an awful closing rate. Again, we have to start somewhere. An “awful close rate” is a decent assumption for someone new in the business, or needing to ratchet up to the next level.

Let’s take a step backwards and figure out how much selling time we need. I’m going to assume it does not take any longer to close a $500,000 account than it does a $100,000 account. From lots of narrative data, it might take less. However, we’ll assume it doesn’t take any more.

First appointment: 2 hours.

Half of your first appointments will produce a second appointment.

Prep time for second appointment: 2 hours.

Second appointment: 2 hours.

Half of your second appointments require a third appointment. Since most of these will be closing calls, I am assuming zero preparation.

To open 10 accounts with an average of $500,000 AUM: 425 hours or 8.5 hours/week.

Fifty $100,000 accounts: 1062.5 hours or 21 hours/week.

Let’s take another step backward. With up to 21 hours/week invested in selling, we could have a problem. Let’s push our analysis back into lead generation.

Now you see why this is a failure zone. There are only so many hours in a week. We need 121 hours to hit the goal on the $100K account plan, and 78 hours on the $500K plan. My inner southerner says, “this dawg don’t hunt.”

I wish I could say I have made some drastic assumptions, but based on many conversations, I have not. I have spoken to too many people who might cold call 2–5 hours to generate one cherry prospect. These stats are in a failure zone.

Success and Time

There are countless combinations of stats that produce countless combinations of cold calling success zones. The bigger the account, the more prospecting. The better the appointment setting skills, the less you have to prospect. The more cherries you generate per hour, the less time you have to spend.

Unless you are a scratch rookie, you have activities other than prospecting and selling. That’s why we need to take a quick look at total time requirements.

Cold Calling. Mostly you will need 10–14 hours a week of cold calling.

Lead Administration. This is staying in touch with existing leads, sending requested information, and dripping. Allow 7 hours/week.

Sales. This is meeting with and talking to prospects plus doing the required preparation. 8–21 hours/week

Client Investment Advice. This is what you came into the business to do. It’s meeting with and talking to existing clients, plus preparation and planning. Big wild card. Depends on how many clients you have.

Service. Another wild card. All I can say is: When you get your nose above the water line, hire a service assistant.

With these restrictions in mind, let’s modify the model to see how we can succeed.

$100,000 Success Zones

A cold calling success zone is four statistics that measure four activities. If one of these statistics is substantially out of the zone, the others must be unrealistically high.

Here are four zones for the $100,000 account model:

Zone A: This is professional grade cold calling. For years, I have said you need to average 2–3 cherries an hour cold calling. It can be done. It is being done. It must be done if you are to have a life.

But few start here. It takes some time to work out your script, list, optimum time of day, professional sound, and call volume. So the 10-hour plan is a goal, not a starting point.

Zone B: This is a more realistic starting point. Undoubtedly, it will take a few weeks to work up to 1.7 cherries per hour. But you should be there within a month or two. As you build your pipeline and are adding many of your cherries from your pipeline, your cold calling will shift toward Zone A.

Zone C is a warning. If it takes you seven cherries to set an appointment, and seven to close, even if you are averaging 2.5 cherries per hour, you have to cold call 19 hours/week. Selling time increases from 21 to 30 hours/week. This is clearly a failure zone.

Zone D is the same as Zone B, except we have improved your appointment setting and closing skills a bit. That reduced your cold calling hours from 14 to near nine. You are in the zone.

$500,000 Success Zones

To hit the goal pursuing higher net worth investors, you will spend much more time cold calling and less time selling.

Zone A: Once again, this is professional grade prospecting. You are averaging 1.4 HNW leads per hour. But appointment setting skills and closing skill—not so hot.

Zone B shows what can happen if your appointment setting skills improve. You cut your required cold calling time in half.

Zone C is the same as Zone A except prospecting is not quite as good. Plan on 20 hours of cold calling.

Zone D is the most likely starting point. Again, you will not average one higher net worth cherry per hour for the first month or two. But you have to get there.

Zone E tells you that you MUST improve closing skills if you just cannot hit one cherry per hour.

So there you have it—lots of ways to skin the cat. Next time, I will take each of the four key stats and show you how to poke and prod it into the zone.


Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing. His Gorilla CRM System helps advisors double their production or work half as much; visit His seminar program, “No More Pies,” helps advisors manage ETF portfolios using technical analysis; see And his blog,, has lots of useful information for advisors who need to beef up marketing. To preview Bill as a speaker, see his YouTube channel here:

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