“Cold calling is dead!” some of you will scream.
Anytime someone in sales mentions cold calls, the eye rolls, and sighs of “this again?” are sure to follow. I’m here to say that cold calling is not dead. I’ve experienced solid growth through cold calling, and I know I’m not the only cold-caller here!
Quick disclaimer: cold-calling is absolutely a way to grow your business. However, as any good agent will tell you, you need multiple sources of incoming prospects. Cold calling can be a great piece of your overall marketing and outreach programs, as long as it isn’t the whole pie.
Let me tell you about my background:
In college, I worked for the university calling alumni for donations. Yeah, I was that guy, don’t judge. And I (honestly) loved it! I learned that I had a knack for connecting with people over the phone, and I didn’t have call reluctance like a lot of my co-workers.
I moved on to a full-fledged call center, working to help people sell products on their own websites. Again, I was relatively successful, but after about a year I became a bit burned out and didn’t love the product.
Next I worked at a company that helped people get out of debt using basic financial strategies. It might sound a bit lame, but it was one of my very favorite jobs, and I learned a ton.
Then I took all that I had learned, and applied it to insurance. As a newbie, there were tons of calls to be made, and I grew my book mainly by cold calling businesses, and writing commercial insurance. Then I’d cross sell the home, car, and life insurance.
Here are 3 tips from my experience about how you can improve your cold calling technique:
1. Choose your target market
That’s right. The first tip has nothing to do with actually making calls. But it’s a BIG deal to get this step right. After you know WHO you want to call, you can create a list and cold call like crazy. Here were some key questions I would ask as I chose my market:
So, I chose specific businesses - I started with auto repair shops- within a 20-mile radius. Then I could say that I’m a local, independent insurance agent that has carriers specifically for auto-repair businesses. Having a targeted approach helped my numbers improve.
Money-saving tip: Once you’ve chosen your target, don’t just buy a list. I use ReferenceUSA, which is a free library version of infoUSA. I’ve saved thousands simply by getting lists from the library. Check to see if your library or a neighboring community provides that service – it’s totally worth it.
2. Create, tweak, and use a calling script
First of all, USE A SCRIPT. If you’re “too good” for a script, then you’re probably one of those people who rolls their eyes when people talk about cold calling, and I’m not sure why you’re reading this article. Create your script, then tweak it as needed.
When I was cold calling auto repair shops, I found that minor tweaks had a major impact. For example, my original script was:
“Hi, my name is Ben with the IHT Agency. We’re a local, independent insurance agency that specializes in auto-repair shops like yours. How long have you been with your current insurance company? I got ya. I’m calling to ask if we could meet sometime in the next week or so to get a new quote for your business. When would be a good time for you?”
Then I changed it to this:
“Hi, my name is Ben with IHT Insurance Agency. We’re a local insurance agency, and I’m calling to see if there is a good time we could meet this week to get you a quote for your business.”
Boom! Over thousands of calls, I saw roughly a 10% increase in the appointments set using script two.
The important thing here is to create your script, then tweak it according to what you experience. I would guess that because auto-repair shops have a tendency of being short on the phone, they preferred my more direct request. Your scripts will be different for different businesses.
Create a script. Tweak it. Use it.
3. Find your "N"
In Nick Murray’s book The Excellent Investment Advisor, he discusses finding your “N,” which is the number of calls/contacts/presentations you need to make in order to get a new client. (He devotes a chapter to this, and this chapter is worth far more than the price of the book.)
With cold calling, I suggest you define your “N” as the number of calls it takes to set an appointment. With a good script and list, I could count on one appointment for every 20 contacts, and I’d get one X-date for every 10 contacts. Then half of the X-dates would take appointments at the time of their renewal.
The point is, track what you do, and don’t get discouraged when you get a lot of people saying “no thanks” or worse. I knew that it took an average of 19 people saying “no” to finally get a “yes”. Once I knew that number, it was fun to set aside an hour of my day, and know that I would walk away with at least one appointment.
How have you made cold calling work for your agency?
IHT is a multi-state insurance agency with dozens of branches across the eastern and central United States.