Wall Street Steward Blog

Smiling and Dialing

The art of the cold call.  Ahh, I know it well. 

When I was a young broker growing up in the wirehouse, I had the disadvantage of NOT having wealthy friends.Some advisors get into this business because they come from an affluent home, and just getting Daddy’s account gets them to $20 million in assets instantly. 

I had no such luck – sorry Dad – I love you and all, but Donald Trump you ain’t. 

Also, I was a mere 21 years old and fresh out of college.  Think about it, would you trust your life savings to a 21 year old college graduate without one day of experience?  Wait, don’t answer that.

Not affluent.  Young.  No money.

Armed with those crapburgers, I decided early on that cold calling was going to either make me or break me.  It was my only choice.  After all, nobody could see how young I was over the phone.  It gave me a fighting chance, and I knew it.

That being said, is there a more annoying thing on this planet than receiving an unsolicited telemarketing call?  Maybe listening to Mitch Daniel’s GOP response to the recent State of the Union wins by a nose, but the unwanted cold call is right up there.

Why do telemarketers still do it?  Two simple reasons:  it works and it is cheap.  It costs nearly nothing to provide a desk and a telephone, and the grueling nature of cold calling will simultaneously weed out the “weak willed” while also bringing in new business.  The problem is, as in anything, there is a right way to cold call and a wrong way. 

Here is my list of what to do, and although some will disagree, this is my list:

  • SMILE:  Most important….you must smile while you take this punishment.  For some reason, people can hear a smile through the telephone.  When you can hear someone smiling, it is more difficult to hang up on them.  Smiling also helps your enthusiasm.

  • BE QUICK and FUNNY:  You have about 10 seconds to grab my attention.  In those precious tick-tocks, you better say something that makes me laugh.  If you do, I will listen.  If not, you will hear the handset whistle as it slams against the phone while hanging up.  Be fun, be creative….“Mr Jones, I know you have been dying to receive a phone call on your day off from someone you don’t know, so I wanted to do you a favor….”  Some will be turned off by this, and they will hang up on you.  They were going to do that anyway.

  • ASK GOOD QUESTIONS:  Don’t say “Sir, do you care about orphans?” or “When that special kid crosses the finish line at those Special Olympics, just know that you played a part in that.”  Do not play with my emotions.  Ask questions like “Sir, if you cannot help now, we understand, but what can we do, as an organization, to receive your future consideration?”

  • LISTEN WHEN THEY SAY NO:  If they throw an objection at you, move on.  There are more fish in the sea.  You do not need to overcome 15 objections – simply save your time and breath and hang up and move on.

  • DO NOT USE MY NAME 15 TIMES:  I don’t know you, and you don’t know me.  It’s cool, but please do not say “Mr. Griffin, we understand if you are busy Mr. Griffin, but Mr. Griffin, if you could just commit to 30 seconds Mr. Griffin, we will make it worth it.  Mr. Griffin.”  No games…let it rip.  If I’m interested, great, if not, move on.

  • STAND UP:  I could always think better when I was standing on my feet.  Being “quick on your feet” sometimes literally means that.  For some reason, I had more success standing while cold calling.  Probably another energy thing.

  • RECORD/REVIEW YOURSELF:  Athletes watch game film to improve.  Actors shoot scenes dozens of times before getting it perfect.  Record your phone calls and review them.  This will help you pre-plan your calls, and make you better at thinking of what to say at the perfect moment.  Warning:  in the beginning, you will HATE how you sound on the recording, but it will wear off.

  • KEEP A TICKSHEET:  Have a sheet of paper that shows how many dials, contacts, prospects, and orders you have for the day.  This is an accountability tool.  Less than 50 contacts in a day is a bad day, no matter what.  This sheet will make you move on from the “chatty Cathy” who will talk your ear off but not give you an order.  The quicker you move on, the quicker you will find a yes.

  • PLAY GAMES:  Put 50 nickels on the desk…for every contact (an adult human being answers the phone) you make, you take one nickel and put it in your pocket.  As soon as all 50 are gone, you can go home.  Or, if that is too cheesy for you, play “hang up chicken.”  This is when you know you’re about to be hung up on, you quickly pound the “drop call” button and beat them to the punch.  Not that I have ever done that, but I hear it is a lot of fun.  HeHe

  • DIAL, DIAL, DIAL:  My numbers used to be that for every 200 dials, I would get 50 contacts.  Of those 50 contacts, I would get 5 prospects.  Of those 5, I would get 2 to meet with me, which would result in one new account.  Each new account, at that time, did about $500 worth of business in the first year.  So, each “no” is one step closer to a “yes,” and when I find a yes, it results in $500.


    This is just a starting point.  Before you pick up the phone, learn the laws.  Many people are on the federal do not call list, so that must be checked beforehand.  Also, check your state laws regarding acceptable times of calling.  Some are 9am-8pm, while others are 8am-7pm, etc.

    Also, you may have additional steps that need to be taken to maintain industry compliance, and make sure you do all of those first.  After that, smile and dial baby!