Cold calling doesn’t have to be so cold

If you’ve spent the last six months cold calling a list with over 1,000 names pulled from a database (i.e. all benefit plans with $X in assets, $X participants, in the state of Y) – we should talk.

You’re vertical cold calling – moving down a list, using the same pitch, maybe with a little too much selling and not enough information, and checking names off after the call, never to talk again. Odds are you sound the same as the other nine advisors who called the “decision maker” already this year.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good to have a large pool of prospects. But when it comes to cold calling – a good way to “warm” it up is by thinking horizontally.

Personalize your list

Horizontal cold calling is a more strategic approach to lead generation. You start the same way as vertical cold calling, identifying potential prospects, but your goal is to personalize your list.

The easy, vertical way to pull your list likely involves sites such as FreeErisa or to run a query of plan sponsors. Now easy is one thing, but chances are your competitors are doing the same thing, so when building your horizontal cold calling list, look for warmer opportunities like:

  • Referrals for clients or professional networks
  • Plan sponsors who share relationships with TPAs, CPA’s and attorneys you know or work with
  • Payroll companies
  • Non-profit organizations or associations
  • Partnering with other financial professionals

Choose your best prospects

Once you have a list, start carving out your best prospects. Find prospects that are similar to your existing best clients – industry, size, location and employee needs.

Make it manageable. A thousand names are great for an email newsletter, but it’s too many for cold calling. Focus on 200-300 that you plan on contacting at least three to four times over several months. This industry takes time, the typical sales cycle can take 12-18 months to close a piece of business.

Make the call

Once you have your list, each call should be a process of discovery and relationship building. The most successful cold callers consistently contact prospects – and develop relationships – with information and insight, not data, features or benefits. That’s exactly what we’ll cover next time– how to start building the relationship and overcoming objections.


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In addition to blogging here, I also tweet regularly about advisor-focused practice management topics like sales and lead generation, marketing, service and management/operations. Follow me on Twitter at @Rschutty.

Affiliation Disclosures

 Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company. Securities are offered through Princor Financial Services Corporation, 1-800-547-7754, Member SIPC and/or independent broker dealers. Securities sold by a Princor® Registered Representative are offered through Princor. Princor and Principal Life are members of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

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