Dialing and Smiling

Dialing and Smiling

Investopedia / Laura Porter

What Is Dialing and Smiling?

Dialing and smiling is a telemarketing technique in which unsolicited calls are made to prospective customers for a product or service. It is a slang term for cold-calling. By either name, the practice has acquired a negative connotation.

In the investing industry, dialing and smiling tactics are generally associated with high-pressure sales campaigns by unscrupulous stock promoters in boiler room operations. These salespeople use an upbeat and positive tone to sell highly risky or even spurious investments to unsuspecting investors.

Dialing and smiling is also known as dialing for dollars.

Key Takeaways

  • Dialing and smiling is jargon for cold-calling.
  • In the investing industry, this sales tactic is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Consumers can dodge dialing and smiling tactics by signing onto the Do Not Call registry.

Understanding Dialing and Smiling

Dialing and smiling usually involves calling prospective customers, not existing clients. A stock brokerage might use leads generated from a database of leads in an attempt to win new clients.

Dialing and smiling relies on leads, preferably ones vetted for net worth, income, profession, zip code, or some other clue to a target's ability to buy what is being pitched. Such lists can be purchased or built based on the needs of the user. Some dialing and smiling practitioners mine published corporate directories or call a company's main telephone line after hours to mine their electronic telephone extension directory for names and titles.

Combatting Dialing and Smiling

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has rules in place restricting cold-calling by securities firms. These rules, for example, limit the hours in which such calls can be made and forbid callers from making false statements. They also urge consumers to report violations to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Some jurisdictions have regulations in place to limit the nuisance of cold-calling practices. 

Dialing and Smiling and the Do Not Call Registry

Telemarketing calls to cellphones have become common, but they are in fact a violation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules which forbid automated calls to cellphones without the user's prior consent. Telemarketers generally use automated calls, switching to a live caller only when the call is answered.

The introduction of the Do Not Call (DNC) registry, which lists people who do not wish to receive unsolicited calls from telemarketers, has reduced the incidence of such calls. While the stiff fines imposed for violation of the DNC rules are a deterrent to legitimate businesses, they are less so for boiler room operators, which may be engaged in unlawful or illegal activities, to begin with.

Telemarketing calls to a cellphone are a violation of FCC rules.

You can enter your number on the Do Not Call list on the Federal Trade Commission's website. It is supposed to work for both landline and cellphone numbers.

Dialing and Smiling Tactics

While such rules have had a chilling effect on the most controversial cold calling methods, the best practices for dialing and smiling may be applied to many types of sales and client prospecting efforts. For example:

  • Don't fear the word "no". Most dialing and smiling callers are rejected many times a day. They quickly learn that the only failure is not making the next call.
  • Be prepared. A caller must understand the prospective customer's prospects, wants, and needs, and know how to address them. Pitches should be practiced. If possible, send an introductory email before calling.
  • Pace yourself. Break calling lists into manageable pieces but be sure to keep the momentum up. Calls are easier when you are on a roll.
Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Cold Calling." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.

  2. Federal Trade Commission. "Cell Phones and The Do Not Call Registry." Accessed Nov. 24, 2020.