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Practice Management > Building Your Business

You can't "just dial" anymore

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I’ve had a revelation. I don’t get too many of them, but I find myself saying something in my classes, over the phone to agents and when I’m musing to friends about my business: The concept of dialing your way to success is no longer true.

I wish it were. For many of my managers, it would be easier to just stick to what made them successful. And for many of them, it was their persistence and their consistent dialing.

I have in my classes some really tough people who are willing to dial 300 people a week, even 100 times a day. But I am now questioning them about their willingness to do that.

Someone called me for help yesterday. I had trained him at a national program and he called to ask me about gatekeepers. He wanted to call CEOs and didn’t remember if I had ever given him a written out version of the gatekeeper script on my audio CD.

I promised to email it to him, but in probing the problem further, we got into a nearly one hour conversation. I started asking who he was calling, why he was calling, the benefit of the idea he had, etc.

By the end of the call, I had convinced him to not make 100 dials a day (which he was committed to doing) and instead redirect the time commitment towards another idea.

He wants more business clients and is passionate about tax-advantaged ideas.

I get it. I know that it is a good flag to fly and reaching business owners is hard. Reaching CEOs is harder. So our conversation evolved into how he could maximize his time by rethinking his marketing and calling plan. The first line of thought is usually to cold call. But he is a two-year producer and needs something more immediate.

I convinced him that the same time it would take to dial 100 times a day should be converted into planned canvassing in several areas. He lives in a populated part of the country and there are thousands of businesses within 20-30 miles of his agency.

I told him to map out where he would go three times a week and talk to no fewer than 10 new business owners each time. He could plan the canvassing around the neighborhoods where he has other appointments. Then we talked about what he would say. He had to give me a little bit of product knowledge (mostly I only care about the benefit of the product to the business owner) and we put together a couple of sentences that clearly addressed a common problem business owners have, how his idea addresses that and how he would try to schedule a longer time to sit with the owner and personalize it.

He was excited at the end of the call. It was not only manageable, but he was more interested in interacting with small business owners than CEOs and gatekeepers.

I could have easily told him how to get past the gatekeeper and how to talk to the few CEOs he would get on the phone. I know how to do that. But I also know that it would take a long time — maybe weeks — before he got a face-to-face appointment. And he would lose his energy and passion in the process.

Being willing to dial 100 times a day no longer impresses me. It scares me. I worry that a manager has gone through tons of resumes and quite a few interviews to hire one person.

And to let that one person spend too much time trying to connect with hard-to-reach people will only frustrate them and make them consider another career. It is our responsibility to teach people how to make a success of the financial services industry.

Even if a manager were able to become successful dialing 100 times a day, I don’t think it will work now. The contact rate is too low and people’s energy doesn’t sustain them through the frustration.

I continue to cover cold calling in my seminars. But I also know that the numbers are not in our favor the way they were 20 years ago. We all need to reconsider that this is, and always will be, a relationship business. Keeping our producers out in their communities, talking to people and interacting with people is better than having them inside dialing and leaving messages.