You may have heard that Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch Wealth Management unit is banning trainee brokers from making cold calls. It seems that cold calling was a rite of passage that was from a bygone era for financial advisors. Times change. Financial advisors had to change how they sell as well. You may have to change how you sell as well.
Why change cold calls now?
There was an urgent need to do something other than cold calls. Merrill executives report that less than 2% of people who are cold called even answer the phone. Picking up the phone is just part of the problem. It could be that there’s no trust built with an unknown financial advisor and calls aren’t returned. You may have found similar results when you cold call on the telephone. I’m not against all cold calling—just the calls without a compelling voicemail message of who you are, why you are competent and above all, what’s in it for the prospect to return your call.
Who is already buying from your company?
You may have existing customers in other parts of your business who could buy your products or services. Bank of America has a pool of 66 million retail customers. It’s obvious that those retail customers would be the first ones to approach to learn their interest and needs for investing. Selling additional products to existing customers is the equivalent of asking a fast-food customer, “And do you want fries with that?”
Customers who already know your company should be the first prospects you consider instead of cold calling. Ask yourself if all of your customers are buying everything they can buy from you. They are perfect prospects if they aren’t buying every product they can from you.
Use your existing connections effectively.
You may know a lot of people without realizing it. These are the people you should be approaching for referrals. Start with your own company to ask for referrals. You probably have departments or staff in operations, credit, manufacturing or other functions. Speak with the people you know and ask them who theyknow who could be prospects for you. Ask them to introduce you. Your colleagues work with different suppliers who might be perfect prospects for you or they might know prospects for you.
When you ask for a referral you have to be clear about who you are looking to be introduced to. It’s not enough to say, “I’m looking for companies to call on.” You want to identify the job titles, the types of companies, the stages of growth and development or the work challenge that causes your products or services to be needed.
Link strategically instead of cold calls.
LinkedIn is a powerful sales tool to reach out to prospects. The problem is that too many people are using it incorrectly. The first less effective way is to reach out to anyone. Think strategically about who you already have some rapport or trust established.
You might have noticed that people almost always link with people from their alma mater. Do a search on your college and start with alumni who are local. Your common experience is usually enough to establish rapport. Those local colleagues are easier to meet with if you eventually do want to meet face-to-face.
The second mistake is to reach out with LinkedIn’s canned connection email. You’ve done nothing to indicate why you want to connect to that person other than you want to add them to your professional network. That’s not a good enough reason. Give a reason of why you want to link with them. Use the word ‘because’ because it is more persuasive. (Notice how I used the word ‘because’!) Give a reason that highlights their professional expertise with a subject that interests you and you have a good reason to link.
Cold calling is a tough way to start making a sale. Change with the times and use more effective and strategic ways to gain new customers.