Is Cold Calling Effective? What You Should Know.

Oct 04, 2017
3 min read
Cold calling is a traditional sales strategy. Learn everything you need to know about cold calling in sales and how to coach reps to add it to their strategy.

As you grip your work cell phone and scroll through your contacts to begin your daily calls, the momentary yet inevitable doubt creeps into your head: is cold calling effective? This question can be broken down into two concerns.

  1. Am I wasting my time with cold calls?
  2. Am I approaching cold calls all wrong?

If you read the headlines on major sales and marketing blogs over the last few years, this doubt is only natural. “Cold calling is dead” and “why you should never cold call” have become so prevalent on social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter throughout the last few years that this claim has gone unquestioned.

Cold calling as ineffective has become common knowledge. But is this really true? Is cold calling really dead? Or is the technique simply hibernating? Like any point of contention, there are two sides to this story. Or more like good and bad news in this case—regardless of where you stand on cold calling. What opinion is correct is ultimately up to you, but it’s worth examining both points of view.

There’s no value in an approach that entirely dismisses an entire sales technique. As we'll see, what’s true in some situations is not true for all situations.

The Case Against Cold Calling

The case against cold calling is endlessly documented. The major argument can be summed up like this: why would you cold call, when you can communicate through some “modern” mode, i.e., social media or email? While the logic is sound enough, this common sense response doesn't tell us the concrete reasons why.

The data tells us a lot more. For instance, 90 percent of B2B decision makers don’t respond to cold calls, but 75 percent of them use social media to aid in the decision-making process. Or how about that salespeople with a personal connection to a buyer are 4.2x more likely to land an appointment.

Worst still, 84% of B2B leaders start their buying journeys with referrals. 3 out of 4 business execs say they prefer to work with a salesperson referred to them. And the facts about cold calling go on and on like this. In the age of social selling, the data suggests that it’s passé to attempt to connect to anyone that’s less than a warm contact.

The ROI from other, modern methods is much more apparent, especially to a digitally connected salesforce. Even with cold emails, personalizing templates and hitting send doesn’t require the same time consumption and effort as picking up the phone and reciting a script to a stranger.

And with all the warm options made available by social media—like 2nd connection LinkedIn introductions—why would reps prospect any other way? To be honest, it doesn’t look good for cold calling. But again, there is another side to the cold calling story. 

The Case for Cold Calling

Research from Expertise Marketing found that out of 30 possible tactics cold calling rose to the top as the most effective. Unbelievable, right? And it may very be that the study's methodology was off, but this research tells us one thing: don’t put down the phone for good just yet.

There’s promise in a cold call and to throw out the technique from your tactics means you’re throwing out the tool that could work for a certain customer. Besides a possible shift in how buyers buy, there’s still the fact that sales reps either are not doing the right homework or lack the resources to make cold calling effective. For example, cold calling works better with a direct line to the buyer.

Rerouting through a front desk is a surefire way to give a warning signal to your target. Just as critical is the list you’re working from. With the right list, cold calls becoming increasingly more effective. These contacts are not necessarily warm, but if targeted your opening line may warm them up much sooner than if you're using a mass ZoomInfo list full of duplicates and outdated rosters. Why go through the trouble?

One big reason is that human nature makes phones harder to ignore than say email. Another is that you can identify challenges and qualify more quickly than in other modes of cold communication.

Conclusion: Hold the Phone

While the data overwhelmingly suggests that cold calling has come to an end and the future is social selling and other modes of digital contact, don't ditch the phone option just yet. Besides many of these claims suspiciously coming from companies with a vested interest in the end of the practice, these claims dismiss the possibility that cold calling could work for you.

Maybe you’re not the best email or message writer. But maybe you’re incredibly well spoken and know how to carry a conversation to close on the phone. There’s still a time and a place for cold calling. And what we may be seeing is a dip in the bell curve. It was only a few years ago that many said direct mail is dead.

The true question concerning cold calling is one of common sense: Why completely give up a tool that may very well land you that next big deal.

  • Sales Coaching and Motivation
Ronald Sierra
Ronald Sierra
Content Writer

Ron Sierra is a Content Writer at Xactly. He earned a literature degree from UCSC and specializes in creating value-driven content for professionals in everything from construction to tech to sales & finance.