Hello — would you like to buy a 401(k) plan?

I’m sure you’ve never opened up a cold call this way (right?). I’ve yet to meet someone who sold a retirement plan over the phone. The goal of your call isn’t to sell a plan; it’s to get a meeting.

Last week we talked about the first step to making cold calling a little “warmer – personalize your call list. Now, let’s talk about the initial call. Most often, it’s where you’ll meet the most opposition.

It’s so important to remind yourself that horizontal cold calling is a no-pressure approach – you’re simply gathering information. Your focus should be on the prospect – the initial call is NEVER a time to lay out the laundry list of services and recognitions your firm has – you’re just setting the stage for future discussions and, hopefully, a meeting.

For the initial call, establish a template for your discussion.

Some things to consider:

1.)   Interrupt their pattern – the most common cold call template opens up with a pitch on why you’re calling. “Hi I’m_______ with ______ and we specialize in…we are a fiduciary…we help with your fees and funds…”

I promise you this isn’t their first cold call, so try to interrupt the trained pattern prospects developed from previous callers.

Instead, try:

“I’m _______ with______did I catch you at a bad time?” or “I’m _______with ______. Do you have two minutes to speak with me?”  These help interrupt the pattern and it can change the tone of the conversation.

2.)   Focus on their needs – earth shattering I know – but getting an idea of what’s important to them is crucial.  If they agree to speak with you, think about how you can blend your firm into a question about their pain points.

Like this:

“We specialize in ______________. Plan sponsors call us because they’re concerned about ______________, unhappy with ______________or disappointed by______________.

I’m not sure if these issues pertain to you, but if you wanted to improve on

______________, ______________ or ______________, which would you choose?”

3.)   Ask for a meeting – it’s why you’re calling, right? Identify an opportunity to follow up – if you focus on their needs, the opportunity should present itself. (Note: if they’re hours away, think virtually about meetings – don’t get in the car and drive there, do video chat, Skype, webinar or a Google+ hangout during the next call to personalize the meeting.)

Overcoming objections 

There are bound to be objections, and handling those in a way that creates more conversation is an art.  Your response should focus on planting the seed for a future call – not changing their mind on that call.  Too often, we’re pulled into these types of conversations and we’ve lost the deal before we even get the chance to win it.

  • Each response to an objection should elicit a reaction or something for the prospect to consider – if you’ve said something that intrigues them they’ll engage you and often provide insight into their buying decision.
  • Acknowledge issues they bring up, but try not to respond with an over the top dump of facts and stats. There’s more fact finding to do – use the opportunity to ask for another call or meeting.
  • If they resist a face-to-face meeting, and chances are they will, wrap up the call and follow up with them at another time – it shows you’re engaged, and it helps gain credibility.

Cold calling is tough, and your investment may not always result in sales. If it’s not for you, consider looking into firms that outsource that function – the industry has really evolved over the past five years.

If you do continue to invest in cold calling, these tactics can help make the process more efficient and improve your close ratio. Keep it up – and let me know how it goes!

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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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