Cold calling still holds up as an excellent sales tool for advisors because, unlike digital marketing, it requires interaction with a prospect in real time.

As a financial advisor, you work to solve problems for people, says Mary Jane Copps, owner of The Phone Lady in Halifax. But you don’t really know if you can help a prospect until you speak to him or her.

Copps recommends using prospecting or cold calling as the final stage of a research process, after you have found out as much about your prospect as you can.

“In order to determine if I can provide you value, as a financial advisor,” she says, “I really need to speak to you and hear if you’re satisfied, and what personal circumstances I can help you with.”

After you have ensured you are not violating National Do Not Call List regulations, try these four tips for cold calling prospects:

1. Call your prospects at work
If your prospect works regular business hours, Copps always recommends using a prospect’s office number rather than a home phone number.

Most people no longer have land lines, and the telemarketing industry has left many people reluctant to pick up the phone.

“We’re very skeptical at home when the phone rings and we don’t recognize the number,” Copps says. “Also, we’re much more guarded in our personal time.”

A prospect can be more receptive when you reach him or her at the office.

2. Be direct
Your tone and language should let your prospect know that you respect their time and intend to get straight to the point, Copps says.

Start the call by introducing yourself and explaining your reason for phoning, Copps says. This introduction tells the person on the other end that you’re efficient and, hopefully, opens up an opportunity for you to make your pitch.

3. Craft a 20-second statement
The call should be more about the other person than about you, Copps says. For example, if you begin the conversation by stating that you’re a great financial advisor with an office in the neighbourhood, it is unlikely your prospect will end up booking a meeting.

Instead, tailor your pitch to meet the prospect’s financial needs, Copps says. If your prospect owns a photography business, for example, explain that 40% of your client base consists of freelance creative professionals, and that you’ve helped these clients create financial plans to save for both their long-term and short-term goals. This approach will grab your prospect’s attention because now the conversation is about him or her.

“As soon as someone hears that you want to sell something, they’re not listening anymore,” Copps says. This tendency is particularly common among members of the millennial generation, who make many purchasing decisions while online.

4. Start a conversation
The next step is to inspire a conversation by asking an open-ended question, Copps says, that prospects can’t get away with answering with a quick “yes” or “no.”

You might ask, for example: “How are you saving for short-term goals, such as a car or travel?” Depending on your prospect’s response, this is your opportunity to provide a solution that would lead to an in-person appointment.

This is the first part in a two-part series on cold calling. Next: Three mistakes to avoid when calling a new prospect.