Cold Calling Like A Pro

2 Apr

Ahh, the dreaded cold calling post!  But, since we all need to do it (at least in the beginning of our career), I might as well post about it and, hopefully, get some good feedback from all of you.

In my opinion, cold calling is an art.  Don’t get me wrong, everyone can pick up a phone, dial a number and spit out a script but the art of it comes in being able to sell.  Whether you are selling your product, your company or just an appointment, it’s important to have a plan before you start.

Before you pick up the phone, you’ll need a few things prepared ahead of time (and this list may seem obvious but bear with me):

  • A targeted list
  • A reason why you are calling
  • A basic script
  • A way to track your calling success/failures

Let’s break these down a little more:

  • A targeted list:  Who are you calling?  Will you focus on restaurants today or contractors?  Are you taking numbers right from the phone book or have you discovered a way to narrow the list down to only include those who are paying out the premium range you are looking for?  Knowing these answers will help you go from one call to the next seamlessly since there will be no floundering between calls.
  • A reason why you are calling:  Are you calling to give a quote over the phone, get the expiration date of their current policy or set an appointment with you?  Keep in mind, most people will only stay on the phone with you for a few minutes (if that) so you will want to get your question answered as quickly as possible.
  • A basic script:  I’m a big fan of not using a script at all because the last thing you want is to sound like you are reading something word for word.  But, having a general script in front of you, to remind you of your goal with the call, is a great way to have a little bit of a safety net, just in case.  Be prepared, however, to be interrupted by the person you are calling who may have questions to ask you.  You certainly don’t want to be so stuck on that one script that you can’t break loose to answer a question.
  • A way to track your cold calling successes and failures:  I keep a piece of scrap paper on my desk next to the phone with these categories – leads, call boss back, x-date, rejection, no answer, total calls.  Then, as I make each call, I put a small line next to the appropriate category.  This helps me keep track of how many calls I need to hit my goals.  It also helps me come up with ways to overcome any rejections since next to the rejections line, I list why I was rejected (my cousin does my insurance, I’m happy with my current company, etc).  I also have an excel file for leads, call boss back, x-date and call ratios.  Each excel sheet is updated appropriately at the end of each call.  At this point, I have 35 leads (those who want to get a quote now), 23 call boss back (with boss’s name), and 80 x-dates (all organized by month I need to call them back).  These are all potential customers and what I call cold calling success!

Since this is a post about cold calling, I should also address cold calling reluctance.  I hear over and over again that agents hate cold calling and dread picking up the phone to do it.  What I say to them is, “What is the worst that could happen?”  You may get hung up on, yelled at or just told no thank you.  But, these people will NEVER be able to jump through the phone and wring your neck!  So, who cares?  Just start dialing and the rest will fall into place!

Here are a few tips for getting over your reluctance (and/or your potentially robotic, monotonous tone):

  • Smile while you dial.  The person on the other end really can hear a difference in your voice.
  • Stand up while you talk.  You will sound more confident and your words will flow easier.

There are many other factors to consider as well when cold calling.  When is the best time of day to call?  How many hours should I be calling?  Where do I get leads?  What are some examples of scripts?

These are all valid questions and are ones I will address in tomorrow’s post.  For now, it’s your turn.  Have I forgotten anything on my ‘be prepared to cold call’ list?  Feel free to share with us all so we can learn from each other.

If you have any ideas or requests for future posts, please feel free to email me at

Melissa Ash

New Jersey’s Business Insurance Lady


12 Responses to “Cold Calling Like A Pro”

  1. tribalstylemarketing April 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    I continue to read your blog because it’s just the simple fact, you’re right on!

    I’d also say, do some research on the company or person you’re calling. You don’t have to know everything, but if you glance at their website for 5mins & see some news about them, press release, & what they do of course, etc. This will go a long way when speaking to someone to break the ice.

    • njbusinessinsurancelady April 2, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      Thanks, Tribal. 🙂

      I agree with your suggestion…to some degree. When I’m cold calling out of the phone book and have targeted a certain type of business (auto repair for example), I generally don’t do any research first. But, if I come across one that I really want to write but can’t seem to get past the gatekeeper, I’ll do some research at that point. And, you are right, checking out their website or any press releases they’ve done will help you, at the very least, get the name of the owner so you can call and ask specifically for that person the next time you call. Or, once I’ve set an appointment with the business, I’ll also do some research first to have something to talk about to ‘break the ice’ as you say. But, if I spent my cold calling time researching every business I’m about to call, I probably wouldn’t get much done that day. Do you research everyone or do you narrow down the list of those you need to research?

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. tribalstylemarketing April 2, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Well, first I start out by making sure I have correctly qualified my prospects. I only approach those who are spending money on advertising already. I have a few that I’m trying to nurture & educate to spend $$ on marketing, but for the most part those are usually a losing battle. These few are dear to my heart & I really want to help them & not see them go out of biz. Getting owners to listen & get with the 21st Century is like pulling teeth sometimes.

    In your field it might be a little different I suppose, because everyone needs insurance at some point so I can see what you’re saying. I’m a firm believer of not really ‘cold calling’ but ‘warm calling’. I do some research & make notes in my spreadsheet. I don’t know everything about them, but enough to get a conversation going. So, if I have to call back to gain some valuable info from the gatekeepers (who can be a vast resource of info), then that’s ok. Then, I know that they are in the market for some service I provide so I can be there at the right time & place. Next, I can ask them *if* I can ask a few questions to see if I can actually help them without trying to sell them. We know nobody likes being sold, but everybody likes to buy!

    • njbusinessinsurancelady April 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      Good point! And, in your line of work it would definitely make sense to check out a potential client’s marketing efforts first so you can make suggestions on how to make it more effective.

      Question: How do you make sure clients are ready to spend money on advertising first before you call them?

  3. tribalstylemarketing April 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    Only if I can get any of that info out of the gatekeepers or assistants, but otherwise I don’t. But, if I know they’re paying for Adwords, PPC, Facebook Ads, Billboards, Direct Mail, Yellow Pages, etc. already, then I know they’re a good candidate for me. I do mobile marketing through SMS, mobile websites, JV’s, Youtube, so that already sets me apart from what they’re used to.

    Like I said, I tend to shy away from most Biz who do not understand they need to market. Meanwhile, they awoke to the alarm clock they bought from credit card reward program, ate breakfast they bought w/coupon from direct mail, & drove their car that they bought from a guy yelling at them on Tv. Yet, somehow I’m the crazy one when I propose a marketing campaign to cross all channels! Doh! Gotta love this business!

    Do you find it’s hard to get appointments or do they come pretty easily?

    • njbusinessinsurancelady April 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

      Insurance definitely isn’t an easy business so it can be quite difficult to get an appointment if someone already has a bad taste in their mouths about insurance agents. And since most people put all insurance agents in the same category, I either have to spend a lot of time getting people to overcome that or just move on to someone else. But, when someone is looking to save money or just had a bad experience with their current agent, then it can be easy to get the appointment. The worst part about this business seems to be what happens after you do all the work and provide a quote. Many business owners will take your quote back to their current agent, threaten to leave them if they don’t match my lower number and then stick with their current agent anyway. Or they just decide not to switch because they ‘don’t want to go through the trouble’. Of course, I do all the work on my end and can usually get them additional coverage at a lower price but if they aren’t interested at that point, there’s not much I can do. And, being a woman has added another level to my ability to close a client as well since most male business owners will have an easier time allowing me to provide them with a quote but they want to close the deal with a man (which is where my ‘boss’ comes in. We’re pretty good at working as a team in that way.). But, as always, I’ve gotta keep plugging on because, otherwise, I have to explain to my kids why they can’t eat tomorrow!

  4. tribalstylemarketing April 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    I hear ya, I think many business models are tough these days.

    For your business, I would be concentrating on how I could provide more value to the client. Why should they buy insurance through your firm, what added value or benefits will it bring them?
    (besides lower prices, more coverage)

    • njbusinessinsurancelady April 2, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      Agreed…but that’s what I’m having trouble with. Saving money, gaining coverage and receiving great service seem to be what we are offering but it’s also what every other insurance agent seems to be offering as well. And, unfortunately, I don’t own the agency, so I am stuck in some ways with what I can do.
      My goal is to get to a point where I can be considered an expert in business insurance so the value I’m offering my clients is my expertise (sounds bad when I read that but I’m sure you know what I’m trying to say!) and the ability to work with an expert, not just another agent.
      Any other suggestions? 🙂

  5. tribalstylemarketing April 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    That’s what I’m getting at, which shows me you’re on the right track. You’ve started a nice Blog, linking to your website, & Facebook is linked up. The biggest thing for your biz is relationships as you know. Best way to build them, is to have a Newsletter that your prospects & clients can touch or read online/email. Believe it or not, just because many people are overwhelmed with info & emails etc., it might not matter if they even read it because if they keep seeing your company every month or quarter in a nice newsletter that educates them, updates them, & along with a little bit of fun, you may not be in #1 spot, but you could be in the #2 spot when #1 screws up. Trust me, the #1 spot always screws up somehow. My friend was an Insurance Consultant so I got to know a little bit.

    Speaking at engagements, chamber & trade meetings are also great way to build business & become the Trusted Authority.

    Having a free report .PDF that says “The Top 10 Questions To Ask When Purchasing Commercial Property Insurance; -Commercial Liability, -Workers Comp”, etc. etc. Have a different report for each type if you want with a different landing page that captures e-mails which then sends them a nice newsletter every month or quarter. Put your prospecting on automation baby! (I sound like George Costanza)

    If you always compete on price etc., you will always find a way to lose because there is always a better price somewhere else.
    Ask Walmart (building new smaller stores) & Best Buy (closing 50 stores).

    If I didn’t overwhelm you yet, lemme know, I’d be glad to spill my guts for ya!

    • njbusinessinsurancelady April 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

      This is great info and I’ll take all the expertise I can get! 🙂 How would you feel about writing a guest post for us focusing on business insurance marketing? And, of course, you can put a link to your website/blog, etc.

      PS. LOVE the idea of writing the pdfs with landing pages to capture emails for newsletters! I’ll be working on that this weekend 🙂

  6. tribalstylemarketing April 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Sure, I’d be honored to do that! I believe WordPress makes that really easy for us. Just e-mail what you would like me to write about specifically because I can be an encyclopedia Britannica sometimes!

    A quick note, make sure in your PDF reports to keep is simple, use your company headers/footers etc. Have your link in the footer on every page or at least on the 1st & last page.

    I’m finding that the riches are really in the niches. So, since you already specialize which is good, for instance, if you personally feel like you can gain more ground with Women Entrepreneurs, maybe you can focus there. Then, you can even segment down further as well. Women Entrepreneurs in holistic healing, or women owned small corporate firms etc. There really is no limit.

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