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Cold Calling is NOT Dead!

Over the past few years ‘Cold-Calling’ had become a favored activity of choice to generate Sales as it is believed you can contact large numbers of ‘prospects’ in a short space of time. BUT, I heard that ‘Cold-Calling’ is dead… I have to disagree and here’s why;

I was recently at a Seminar when one of the business owners at my table said “cold-calling is dead”. I asked what had replaced it, he had no answer, but to tell me it was a useless waste of time as “you make no sales, pointless exercise, time can be better spent”…

General definition of “Cold-Calling”; contacting prospective customers or clients, typically by phone, when the contacted was not expecting the call… This can be viewed as a low risk option [to the business selling]  for a business to try to generate sales of goods or service.

What I think it is;

Cold-Calling; A process by which to introduce yourself or your Business to another business or customer with the intent to share relevant information and gain permission to contact again. No selling there!

I have never viewed cold calling as being part of my job description and I have been in Sales for nearly 15 years… So what do I do?


Research lists/build databases relevant to the project in hand. Get the appropriate contacts with-in the companies you want to break into. There have been posts where people will tell you Social Media is great for that. Yes, it will give you a name, but it wasn’t given to you. Use mutual connections to get introduced properly, I’m dreadfully old fashioned, you can bulldozer your way in, but all that does is knock things over and ruffle feathers. Ask for introductions, it shows you care enough to ‘ask’, this also allows your connection to talk about you to the person you need to talk to..

Prepare the Prospect

Send email or letter information, general marketing information, a precise explanation of the business and what you offer, information on an offer that may be on at this time. Have a reason to contact this prospect/business. A blind “we sell x y z, would you like to buy x y z” just wont work… Remember this isn’t “cold calling” as you know it…

Introduction Calls [used to be known as Cold Calling]

Once the information has been sent, give 3 working days for post and or the information to land on the appropriate desk. Then make ‘the call’. I [where relevant] introduced yourself, the company, the product/service you are offering and gave the ‘prospect’ a chance to speak. This is known as scripts/scripting, a whole other blog! [My dad always told me use my mouth and ears in ratio]

There is no way you are going to sell oh I don’t know, say Ice to an Eskimo unless you listen to him, listen and ask the right questions… You could find out he has a party coming up and needs a tonne more of the stuff 😉 We are now relationship building, even if they never buy from us, they will feel they know us and will therefore trust to pass us on as a recommendation.

The Science bit!

When ‘prospecting’, make sure you have avenues of possible future sales recorded. When I was an agent, the other sales agents on my team thought I was nuts, recording details not actually asked for by managers “extra work for yourself, good luck and no thanks”.

Extra Work???

Was it really extra work? If I was doing my job correctly, no! Typically we work in front of our computer or with a clipboard with a spreadsheet of information; Company, Contact Name, Email, Number. I would have columns for information I need to record, contact if initial is wrong, new number, best time to call, etc…  So whats one more column? If they say no thank you, be prepared to ask for a another lead, time to tender, etc. seconds to gain information that could be priceless..

This is business development, eureka moment anyone? I know a business directly linked to me that has a business development day each week, the name has changed, but the activity is exactly the same as when they had ‘cold-calling sessions’.

This revelation also turns the idea that ‘cold-calling is dead’ right on its head… If you perceive cold-calling to be a way to make sales, then yes, you may be going to work everyday faced with a litany of No, no, nil, NO, and no… See this as the business development opportunity that it is and prepare yourself to make connections, learn about the person/company on the other end of the phone. How “pointless” are these exercises?

Accept that if you chose this process to “make sales” then there will be more than one call involved [99% of the time]. A recent experience with one client showed; 40 business development [replaced the word ‘cold’] calls got him one coffee meeting… Consider the fact that this is the first time the contacted person is hearing about you, your product/service and they will probably like a follow up or some other type of information [website, email, booklet].

Now, tomorrow when you are about to make that cold… Sorry business development call, think about who you are talking to, not what you are trying to sell. You never know your day may end on a brighter note!

Image: “waiting for a call/Shutterstock

The Training and Up-Skilling of your team, whether it is just you a Sole-Trader or you and a team of 200 is vital in the development of your Business. I have worked for over 15 years in Traditional Sales & Direct Sales spheres; I advanced from being a Direct Sales Agent to becoming a Business Development Manager involved in the Recruitment and Training of other Direct Sales Agents. I have developed Sales Training Programs that are effective and fun, bringing Sales Teams together up and down the country. Because I have worked in a Sales and Customer Service capacity for over 15 years, in both the retail and direct sales environments, I have learned vital techniques that can establish Customer & Sales Agent behaviors. This has allowed me a great understanding of Sales Processes. I have gained valuable experience in all aspects of Sales, Sales Training and Customer Service: Sales Pipeline Establishment and Development, Objection Handling, Closing Sales, Business Development, Networking, Customer Service, Complaint Handling, Complaint Resolution, Training and Education of Sales Agents.

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  • Cold calling is definitely not dead. No matter how many marketing tactic there are, it cannot be denied that cold calling is and has been one of the most effective. The reason is because it allows companies to contact  prospects and get immediate response. I agree that cold calling is not a sales call, it is more of a business call.

    Thanks for sharing this Tori.

  • Hi Tori, 

    I started off my sales career as a cold caller and have managed to build a career around selling to this very day. Cold-calling may not be dead but sales people and sales trainers have for me it seems, done their very best to kill it! Ask prospects if they enjoy the process of being cold called, and I think it’s fair to say that the majority will say no, why: because cold-calling is usually a waste of their time and often just simply downright annoying. Prospects don’ care about your business, your products or your special offers. They care about their business, their products and their customers. So unless you’re in a position to have an intelligent conversation about what they actually care about, my advice is to not bother picking up that phone.We have to really understand that time is our greatest resource, both for our prospects and for ourselves. If you really want to make an impression and build a relationship, spend time wisely, researching your prospect, researching their business, researching their market and ensure that you have something of value to say when you pick up that phone.As an industry, and as sales leaders, we have to stop feeding young people in entry level sales roles,the drivel that passes for sales training/methodology. The majority of salespeople that enter into selling fail and the internet is now killing our industry slowly. The sales people that survive will be business experts and trusted advisers to their customers.    

  • Torihawthorne

    Call me crazy but to me Sales is an art form. We have been sold th ideathat sales is a job that anyone can do. When really its a job that needs time, care and patience. We need to train sales people effectively in research and development as well as selling. Commission only has a lot to answer for. It has created an army of what seems to me to be angry sales people, pushing for a sale as the sale is what is going to pay their wage. Companies pay for a research and Development, sales people are on the ground getting the feedback with every answer from prospects. You are right. Training is key, businesses need to put value into their sales by effectively training staff and sales agents/teams in methods that are proven to work. Not a whole lot of “go get ’em” cliches. Thanks for your comment Niall 🙂

  • Torihawthorne

    Thanks Amber 😉 I love business development. It means I am always learning. Even leaning things like how different industries react to different BD methods. And immediate response is so valuable too 😉 thanks again for comment. Tori

  • Elishbul

    Thanks Tori needed that. Especially this parting note.
    “This revelation also turns the idea that ‘cold-calling is dead’ right on
    its head… If you perceive cold-calling to be a way to make sales, then
    yes, you may be going to work everyday faced with a litany of No, no,
    nil, NO, and no… See this as the business development opportunity that
    it is and prepare yourself to make connections, learn about the
    person/company on the other end of the phone. ”

    Its about time a more human focus was put on Cold calling and in fact the phrase alone doesn’t do it justice- its about starting connections and worth remembering in a world that’s obsessed about social media when being a helpful voice on the line is probably one of the most social things you can do.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    That is so true Elish, I hate the term Cold-Calling, but actually love the task of doing it… I love connecting to people and sharing opportunities. I always smile when talking on the phone, an olden’ but golden rule 😉
    Social media has tried to take over that initial ‘cold call’ role but inevitably to take any relationship, business, customer, friendship or otherwise to a point of growing we must talk or meet.. I wish I could meet everyone I am connected to, maybe there is a tv programme there 😉

    Thank you for your comment 😉 T

  • Ruby

    Thanks for all the great ideas here.  I appreciate the experience behind what you are sharing.  Ruby

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thanks Ruby,

    My pleasure to share… Only way to let people know it works 😉 Tori

  • Great post Tori, cold calling is not dead but I’ve always hated that phrase – randomly calling people and hoping for the best is not good for either the salesperson or the potential customer.  We approach people directly in our business as many of our customers are venturing online or onto social media for the very first time and wouldn’t have found us any other way. I would definitely say we more often get a positive than negative response when it’s handled correctly.  It’s about the value you’re offering them as opposed to the sale you’re clocking up for your company and it takes people skills and the ability to really listen to your prospect as opposed to robotic training to do the job effectively. 

  • I love this post, and in fact had a very interesting conversation about this very topic at open coffee during the week. Both our consensus was that relationship building and nurturing, leads to better quality sales and longer lasting business relationships. Another word we used was trust – not the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind but having prospected, conversed, building a relationship, and nurturing that relationship, that prospect may never actually buy, but they will trust you enough to recommend or refer.
    Tori, Fantastic first post and a huge welcome to Bloggertone!

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Heya Debbi, thanks so much for your comment.. Its so true, we have to be well researched in who we are calling, why we are connecting and how to get the right message across.

    So true, its the value and them that’s important and not the sale… Its the cold calling term that makes it sound like such an awful task 🙁 I much prefer business development because that’s what it is 😉

    Thank you

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Oh wow, thank you Elaine *blushing*

    Its so true, I have never viewed my work as prospecting, but always relationship building. Trust and nurturing is key. We have to be open, honest and as helpful as we can as sales people, it’s never just about the sales we make today but the sales in our future business. The initial stages of the relationship build the foundations for a strong future, once we trust the foundations are there we should always have lasting business and referrals.

    Thank you again Elaine 


  • Thanks for your post Tori- good content.
    I’m putting a sales prsocess together at the moment and the above fits in nicely to that which I have in mind. How this system of generating leads is approached is all about mind set. If it’s seen as a way of dropping the net purely for the purpose of landing fish then it is not a substantial practice and relationships will not be firmly established. I want a relation ship with the fish:-) or rather the river the fish are in. The system you outline above is more appealing to me than just merely picking up the phone book and starting at A and working your way through it, which is what is generally perceived from the term “cold calling”.

    thanks again,


  • Derbhile

    You’ve sold me on cold calling. 

  • Tori Hawthorne

    WOW, Thanks so much for your comment Larry,

    I love your fish analogy, that’s it, the river is as important as the fish 😉 I am so glad my post has helped your plans.
    It takes time and it’s not a process that will bring immediate results but it will bring firm results and good Business Relationships.

    Good luck with your process, hope it goes well

    Tori 😉

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Hi there,

    Thank you so much for reading and commenting.


  • Puneet

    I have always used a friendly and a genuine conversation to “explore” and common areas of “interest” and that has got many coffee meetings. I like the way you have put it in a more transitioning manner from the traditional cold calling to the new age business development discussions.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Hi there Puneet,
    Thank you for your comment. That is really it, we need to move on from the hard sell and build relationships, this way we have a firm foundation for a great business relationship

    Thanks again

  • Alagu Subramani

    Tori, your post helps one regain their confidence on cold calling. The honest approach works and not all customers are irate, they would also like to listen to what is out there in the market. There should not be a restricted timeframe within which you would like to complete the cold calling activity. It should be an ongoing practice. I am sure there might be questions about Gatekeepers not allowing you to speak to the right contact, there are different timings when you can call the contact and also crisp emails do get the customers attention. This is a really good post.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thank you Alagu,
    Its true, it is an ongoing process, we can try and set days to ‘do it’ but that time frame can change by the prospect dictating when they can be called… We have to be flexible and patient and polite to Gatekeepers ;)Thanks againTori

  • Hi Tori, thanks for your perspective. I still see cold calling as important as well. It really is a good way of getting out there as long as you’re not being “COLD”.

  • Tori Hawthorne

    Thanks Myron,

    Me too. We need to connect as businesses and when we don’t know who we are calling the call is ‘Cold’. Mindset needs to change, it needs to be seen that we need to make these calls to grow and we need to receive these calls to know what or who is truly out there… 
    Thanks again Tori 😉

  • Francie

    I love this article and have posted on my FaceBook. Cold Calling is truly an OPPORTUNITY… a platinum opportunity to learn a great deal in a timely fashion. Thank you, Tori, for the GREAT article.

  • Great post Tori.

    I used to work for an IT training company that built it’s entire business from a database of 0 with cold calling. They had a great process though which involved cold calling to give something away for free, the thinking being that if you can’t give a company something for free, then there is no chance you will be able to sell them something.

    The follow up, post training day, was where as a sales person you were able to get some great feedback about the product being sold, the service delivery levels and obviously there was a super opportunity to build rapport, leading to goodwill and eventual further sales down the road. Not to mention a huge Database of the right contacts who you had marketing approval to contact.

  • Great Post Tori!  Cold calling is NOT dead and not a waste of time if done correctly.  There are 3 keys when making calls.  R – Relax,  B – Be Yourself,  C – care (care about them and how your product/service can possibly help them)   P.S. There is no room for ME in selling it’s about THEM.   You are rewarded for helping them.

  • Agree Carl! It’s just a matter of choosing and using the right tactics.

  • Cold Calling Sucks

    What you just described is not cold-calling. You have a bit of confusion, you specifically stated you sent materials in the form of an email/letter FIRST prior to a call. Many organizations, with sales, do not do such instances. Most go straight for the call itself as a form to solicit and make a sale, then you may get an opportunity to send information. You are being more consultative in sales than a direct cold call which is the best approach, but again, most within these roles do not have this ability. Get your facts straight before posting this information. COLD CALLING IS INDEED STUPID!

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