Cold-calling? Here are some tips

Let’s not sugar coat it: cold calling to sell small business insurance can be difficult. Most agents would rather have warm, qualified leads. However, cold-calling can be an effective lead generation technique if done properly.

The truth is, most prospects don’t react well to unsolicited calls, and as an agent, it’s hard to shoulder rejections and hang-ups. However, cold calling is necessary to keep the sales funnel full. The more calls you make, the higher your chances of connecting with someone who needs what you offer. Mastering cold-calling is a great way to make the best use of your time. Here’s how.

1. Know the law

Be well-versed in federal and state laws regarding calling, emailing, and texting consumers for marketing purposes. For example, there are laws regarding “Do Not Call” lists and using auto-dialers. Read the Federal Trade Commission’s guide for complying with the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).

2. Do your research before dialing

Look at your lead gen list and do a little research before picking up the phone. Most people have social media profiles with at least some public information. Check LinkedIn to learn about their current job, what company they’re at, and their education history to make your pitch more specific. Look at the company’s Facebook and Instagram pages to learn more about the industry and culture of the company.

3. Use several scripts

With a cold call, you have very little time to convince the person on the other line not to hang up. A script helps ensure you get your point across and have a framework for responding to the questions and possible pushback you’ll likely field. Your script should include the points you must convey right away, and it should help you get to know the person on the other line. Tailor the script to what you know about the person you’re calling. Forget about sales numbers for a moment and work to form a true connection so you’re not just another salesperson interrupting their day. And be sure not to read the script verbatim like you’re in a dramatic production. Instead, refer to it loosely to guide the conversation. A script is just a starting point so you don’t lose your train of thought and forget essential information. Keep rewriting it until it hooks more customers.

4. Practice your scripts

As you rehearse and practice your scripts, you’ll learn what sounds natural and what you need to add or change. Try practicing on a video call with a colleague, in front of a mirror, or record yourself and tweak your delivery as necessary. The more familiar you are with each script, the less it’ll sound like you’re reading lines. Run through your script just like you would do in real life; if you’ll be at your desk, sit up straight, and consider wearing your work clothes when you’re practicing. Remember that conversations with prospects won’t always go according to your script. Be prepared to listen and go off script if that’s where the conversation needs to go.

5. Project positivity

When you’re cold-calling, the person on the other end can’t see your facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues. Because you’re communicating solely with one sense, it’s important to strike the right tone. You want to be confident and friendly, even if you’re feeling low-energy or anxious. Experts say smiling sends positive messages to your brain so you’ll feel happier, which can be contagious.

6. Say their name

Using a person’s name during a cold call tells them that you know who you’re speaking with and that they are more than just another number on your list. It humanizes the person on the other end of the line—and the entire interaction.

7. Know—and believe in—what you're selling

Cold-calling is a lot easier when you have pride in your insurance agency and the products you represent. Agents and producers must believe they’re providing value to the people they’re calling. Without this belief, your voice may transmit your doubts through the phone, causing your prospect to doubt your sincerity.

For example:

    • Do you believe the prospect will be better off buying your product than sticking with their current insurer?
    • What value does the policy offer?
    • Do you believe your insurance product is worth the price?
    • Are you knowledgeable enough to know how to protect this lead’s assets adequately?
    • If you’re selling small business insurance, do you know the risks involved with the lead’s business and how to protect them?
    • How much wiggle room do you have to adjust an offer to meet a prospect’s unique situation?

The more confidence you have in answering these questions, the more likely you are to sell a policy—or two.

8. Listen to your prospect

Some agents make the mistake of dominating the conversation, but if someone is willing to stay on the phone to hear your speech, you should reciprocate and listen to them, too. Listening to what’s being said can enable you to fine-tune your closing strategy. If the other person isn’t talking much, ask questions to get the ball rolling and see where it leads. Asking open-ended questions will keep your prospect on the phone longer while helping the interaction feel more like a conversation than a sales pitch.

9. Plan for objections

You will hear the word “no” and lots of hesitation on the other end of the phone. However, great salespeople know how to flip a “no” to at least a “maybe.” First, create a list of common objections you’ve gotten when making cold calls. If you’re the owner of the insurance agency, share the list with your team so everyone can benefit from your research and encourage them to add their own input. Then, practice how to bring the conversation around the next time an agent encounters a common objection. For example, if you think they’ll say the product you’re selling is out of their price range, be ready to explain problems past clients have encountered with cheap insurers.

10. Be flexible

If a prospect says now isn’t a good time to talk, schedule another call at a more convenient time. Ask what time of day works for them, and be as accommodating as possible.

11. Lighten up

Sure, you want to make a sale, but you can’t move to close in the first minute. Take time to have a natural conversation with your prospect. Keep the conversation light and casual and maybe even throw in a joke. Laughter definitely can help grease the wheels.

12. Keep your cool

Even if someone is rude on the phone, resist the temptation to be rude in return. Your reputation is important, so choose your words wisely. Think of the conversation as free advertising to prospects. If you’re nice but don’t make the sale, they may still call you in the future. Shake off negative interactions before you make your next call.

13. Track your calls

Whether you use an excel file or a customer relationship management (CRM) system, be sure to track your calls. This will help you avoid unwanted repeats and keep track of the people you’ve connected with.

14. Follow up

It will likely take more than one call to make a sale. The prospect probably won’t be ready to make a final decision on a cold call. Give them another call, or let them know that you’ll follow up in a few days by email. Experts say it may take up to ten touches to close one sale. Some sales are marathons, not sprints. 

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