Cold Calling - One of the Least Liked Tasks in Sales

Cold calling brings in new leads

Businessman talking on phone at desk
Daniel Allan/Cultura RM/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

"Cold" anything can be as unpleasant as it sounds -- jumping into something without any sort of warm-up. Cold calling involves getting on the phone with a potential customer without an introduction at a time when the person you're reaching out to least expects you to do so. It's no wonder it has a reputation for being one of the least liked tasks in sales.  

What Exactly Is Cold Calling? 

Cold calling involves soliciting potential customers who are not expecting to speak with you.

The term "cold" refers to the fact that you haven't laid any groundwork for your call. If you're calling prospects who have already shown an interest in your products, such as someone who has filled out a postcard or website request for information, it's referred to as "warm calling."

Different sales experts will refer to both phone calls and physical drop-in visits as cold calling, but most salespeople think of cold calling in terms of the telephone. When in doubt, you can usually assume that a reference to cold calling relates to phone calls rather than physical visits.

The Challenges 

Cold calling is emotionally demanding because receiving a cold sales call can bring out the worst in people. Salespeople launching into a round of cold calls can expect verbal abuse, prospects who hang up on them, and even occasional threats. The best approach is to remind yourself that they are not rejecting you personally.

They're simply reacting to the situation. Just let any hostility roll off. Disconnect and move on to the next name on the list.

Another challenge of cold calling is getting in touch with the decision maker instead of getting stuck in voicemail and never getting a call back, or talking with someone's teenage son who can't authorize a purchase and probably won't leave a message as he promised.

Some business-to-business salespeople find that calling either quite early or quite late in the day increases the odds of getting the actual decision maker on the phone since many executives work either early or late and the gatekeeper won't be there to deflect your phone call.

The best time for business-to-consumer cold callers to reach out is outside normal working hours when people are more likely to be at home. Be careful to respect dinner time and kids' bedtimes, however. You'll also need to be aware of time differences in different geographic locales.

Is Cold Calling Effective? 

Salespeople have mixed views as to the effectiveness of cold calling. Many believe that it's the most efficient and effective way to reach new leads. Others feel that cold calling has been eclipsed by the many new sales channels available today such as email, social media and text message marketing.

While some sales experts have extremely positive or negative opinions of cold calling, most accept the practical viewpoint that unless you have enough warm leads from other sources to completely fill your pipeline, you'll have to do at least some cold calling to make up the difference.