Dear Dagen: When Cold-Callers Make House Calls

More tales from the cold-calling front. Readers and brokers weigh in.
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One reason people trade online is to avoid dealing with other human beings. So imagine the horror of one online trader when the doorbell rang and he found a live stockbroker standing at his threshold.

After last week's

column recounting some readers' experiences with cold-calling brokers,

Larry Heflin

wrote in with the following:

I found it very coincidental that yesterday I answered the doorbell to find a man who said he was with Edward Jones, and they were opening up a new office nearby. I was online, concerned about my short of the Nasdaq 100 tracking stock (QQQ) - Get Report, and I cut him off quickly. He wasn't obnoxious or pushy. But I still can't believe it happened.

I, too, would be stunned if an

Avon

(AVP) - Get Report

lady showed up at my apartment. But this is the method that Edward Jones brokers have traditionally used to build their client lists.

This conservative, St. Louis-based firm is known for establishing one-broker offices in smaller towns around the country. That one broker then builds a business by going door to door and getting involved in the community.

In the age of Internet trading, this flesh-pressing approach seems rather quaint. Of course, if the broker had come bearing a fruit-and-cheese basket, you might have let him stay a while.

Fighting Off a Cold-Caller

I continue to be impressed by the creativity -- not to mention pure venom -- used by readers to fend off cold calls. You almost start to feel sorry for those poor stock-peddling brokers.

"You asked for good and bad experiences with cold-calling brokers. I had one that was actually fun," writes

Norm Chester

. "The broker quickly named himself and his firm and asked if I knew of the firm. I said no. He said he didn't want to sell me anything but would like to call me in the future if a good opportunity came up. I asked him to repeat his name. He said Jim. I asked: Jim what? He asked why I wanted to know. I told Jim that that I had friends in the enforcement division at the

Securities and Exchange Commission

who really liked to hear about these calls. He wouldn't mind if I gave them his name, would he? He hung up and it was the last such call I ever received."

Ranabir Dey

uses a slightly different technique to keep cold-calling brokers from returning for a second attempt. "After hearing their picks, I just tell them I am a broker myself," he writes. "Actually I use this tactic with all telemarketing calls. I generally don't get a call back. Although, some of them do say, 'Thank you for wasting my time' before they hang up."

Reader

James Suller

estimates that he receives at least five calls per night from various salespeople. "My most recent coping mechanism is when they ask for James Suller, I put my 2 1/2-year-old son on the phone and he will start talking about how he went 'poop on the potty.' I often wonder how long the solicitor listens before hanging up. Since I incorporated this tactic, I receive very few second calls."

David Hachey

used to just listen politely and say he wasn't interested -- until he decided to try something a little different.

"Curiosity got the better of me a couple of years ago when a broker from a major firm called with a sure-fire proposal in which I couldn't lose. Yeah, right. But his enthusiasm seemed genuine, so I gave him a chance," Hachey writes.

"I asked, 'If it's such a good deal, will you personally reimburse me for any losses I might incur? After all, if we are to have a meaningful relationship, we should share the gain as well as the pain.' His response was that it violated his firm's policy. Probably true, but I wasn't going to invest without his personal guarantee."

In the Opposite Corner

I heard from some brokers who gave the other side of the story. And they pointed out that there are some ways to cold-call and close a sale without triggering tempers and streams of expletives.

"Being newly employed for a brokerage firm, I have learned first-hand from the cold-caller's point of view two things. No. 1: Cold-calling sucks and it is gut-wrenching, as one reader put it. No. 2: It does work," writes

Darren Deering

, who didn't identify his firm.

"Having said this," he continues, "I feel that there is a right way and wrong way to go about it. First, never call someone at work. Next, try not to call at dinner time (although they suggest you do this because this is when most people are home). And lastly, respect the people you are calling and be polite. No really does mean no."

Reggie Thornton

writes, "Your article the other day made me think of my days as a stockbroker. I could tell you some of the lines these guys used that turned me off to the industry, but I won't. Instead, I'll tell you what my father used to say to cold calls that he received: 'My son is a stockbroker. If I don't invest with him, then I sure as hell ain't gonna invest with you.'"

Maybe expletives do work.

Send your questions and comments to

deardagen@thestreet.com, and please include your full name.

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