Cold calling is one of the scariest tasks for many real estate salespeople. It is a task that most sales reps shy away from. To give you more insight on cold calling, here are some questions and answers from Richard Pilarski, broker/owner of Re/Max Realtron in Toronto. He has 40 years of experience and is an expert at cold calling.

How many calls should you make?

Pilarski: I used to make enough calls to get 400 “no’s” a week. This meant the person had to answer and say “no” to my offer for it to count. If no one picked up the phone it did not count. When I called, I waited up to three rings before hanging up. Anything past three rings, the person wasn’t home or was in the middle of something important. Even if they did answer after three rings, they were usually upset that I called.

What times worked the best for cold calling?

I called from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and would do this from Monday to Thursday.

How do you call prospects when a lot of people are switching from land lines to cell phones?

There are many computer applications out there that can call hundreds of prospects. One of the best ones is Mojo Dialer and it can call up two phone numbers at once. The first number to pick up is the one you will be speaking to.

What improvements did you make over time with cold calling?

I started with different lines and questions. One of them was, “Your neighbour recently sold their house, would you be interested in a free appraisal?” I knew I could always force an appointment by asking a lot of questions, since the person will want you off the phone. But, the hard part was getting someone interested in selling when you showed up. So as the years went by, I became more straightforward with prospects.

What did you say afterwards as you got better at cold calling? 

The most effective line was, “Hi, it’s Richard Pilarski from Re/Max Realtron. Are you interested in selling your home?” It was the most direct method and I could tell if they were interested right away. If they weren’t, I could move onto the next person. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you say, with continued effort you will get success regardless. I have tried everything, and it just comes down to a numbers game. At the end of the day, some people are going to like you and some people aren’t going to like you. Using this approach, I could expect one listing within three months per 100 calls.

How did you handle rejection?

There is no such thing as rejection. The challenge I see people having is that they are afraid of the unknown. If you call someone and ask if they want to sell their house and he says no, that’s not rejection. He simply isn’t in the market at that particular time. You are catching people at stages in their lives, so you can’t take it personally. Real rejection would be if someone screams at you and tells you to get out of their office. Most agents get the concept of rejection wrong and they never become successful at cold calling.

How did you keep yourself motivated?

Let’s say you have 100 clients in your database and you are making 15 to 20 sales a year. If you don’t do anything, that client list will shrink and slowly die. So, you need to aim to improve that client list by 26 per cent per year. That way you will double your income in three years.

The reason to aim for 26 per cent as opposed to 50 per cent is because you want to set goals that are realistic. If you are setting goals that are extremely difficult, you will be easily discouraged when things aren’t going well.

Any funny or memorable stories when you did cold calling?

I remember calling this woman who was super nasty over the phone and told me to never call her again. I put down “do not call” next to her name. But three months later I called her by accident and only realized I had done so when the phone started ringing.

At that point I decided to stick with the call. The woman this time turned out to be extremely friendly and was not what I was expecting. I did not get a listing, but it taught me that when they are nasty it’s not because they are nasty people. It’s just that they may be going through difficult times in their personal lives and they take it out on the next person they talk to.


  1. I am “late to the party” here. But how can these calls be made without breaking the law ? Most people are on the “do not call lists” and random calling hundreds of numbers will surely get people in trouble.

  2. Nobody did it better than Richard Pilarski. I know, I was sitting in the office beside him when he made those calls. I can still hear his laughter when he talked close to 30 years later.

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