Sales Strategies: Bob Petrocelli, New York Life Insurance Company

Westchester’s sales experts share their sales-boosting advice.



Veteran insurance broker Bob Petrocelli built his business the old-fashioned way: He earned it, one cold call at a time. Upon joining New York Life as a 24-year-old newbie in 1979, Petrocelli picked up the phonebook and started dialing—or dropping in on—any business that seemed successful. “I would walk right in and ask to speak to the owner,” recalls Petrocelli, who grew up in Larchmont and now lives in Rye. “It wasn’t easy, but I was doggedly determined.”

Fast-forward to today and Petrocelli counts thousands of clients—both individual policy-holders and large corporations—across Westchester and throughout the nation. He was named 2011-2012 Council Vice President for achieving the second-highest sales among all of New York Life’s 12,500 insurance agents. Petrocelli has also been selected for New York Life’s Chairman’s Cabinet (reserved for the company’s top 50 agents) four times in the last five years, and has been included numerous times in Top of the Table—a distinction reserved for the top 1 percent of all insurance brokers as measured by industry organization Million Dollar Round Table.

Along the way, Petrocelli has picked up some valuable cold-calling tips: Try business owners early in the morning (“At 7 am, they will probably pick up the phone, but, by 9, they are already working, having their third heart attack of the day”); always offer a well-defined pitch (“Hi, I’m Bob. We have a special program that is tailor-made for newspaper managers and will fully take advantage of the benefits from the new ‘XYZ Tax Act’”); and always give prospects a choice between yes and yes (“I’ll be in your area next Tuesday or Thursday to get together and answer any questions—which day is better for you?”).

Petrocelli has also perfected the art of follow-through—something he believes is crucial in sales. “If someone says, ‘I’m not interested now; give me a call in six months,’ I make sure to call in six months,” Petrocelli says, singling out one account who strung him along in six-month intervals for two years. After finally landing the meeting, Petrocelli spent over two hours with the business owner and walked out with the company’s entire insurance portfolio. “He stayed on as my client until retirement,” Petrocelli says.

He also points to treating every client like they are your only client as another key element of sales success. If someone has a question about one of our insurance products, “we never say, ‘Here is our 800-number or our web address, do it yourself,’” he says.

But it is Petrocelli’s own personal motto of “Never go home with a ‘no,’” that he credits for much of his staying power. “If something doesn’t go well at the end of the day, I will stay in the office and call people until I get somebody to say yes to something,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter if it’s just a client saying yes to breakfast.

That way, I go home with a positive attitude and I’m in a good frame of mind for the next day.” 

► Robert Bongiardino, Pamal Broadcasting
► Linda Ruggiero, Avon
► Susan Strawgate Code, Houlihan Lawrence
► Guy Forgione, White Plains Chrysler Jeep Dodge
► Jeff Griffin, ADP
► John Doolan, Heineken USA

► For more from 914INC's Q2 2013 Issue, click here.

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