What Is Cold Calling? Definition & Tips

By Vladana Donevski

June 19, 2023

Fittingly, cold calling is a method of telemarketing that sends shivers down the spines of many new salespeople. A LinkedIn report found that 63% of sellers cite it as the worst part of their job, while it’s fair to say people don’t appreciate receiving the calls either.

Nonetheless, cold calling is one of the longest-standing marketing traditions. When done right, it can deliver stunning results. This guide discusses the questions “what is cold calling?”, “what are prospects?”, and “how can you achieve the best cold calling success rate?” so that you are ready to master it.

What is Cold Calling?

Oxford Languages defines cold calling (often stylized as cold-calling) as when you “make an unsolicited visit or a phone call, in an attempt to sell goods or services.”

It is a sales outreach approach in which sellers target potential buyers with whom they’ve had no prior interactions. It contrasts with warm calling when the seller follows up on the previous prospect’s interest.

Cold calling in sales is a practice that has been utilized for decades and remains one of the most commonly used strategies. It allows companies to reach a vast audience in minimal time, keeping the cost per acquisition low even when conversions are not. Some key facts about cold calling worth mentioning are:

  • 57% of C-level decision-makers prefer to speak with a seller via telephone, while 51% of directors feel the same.
  • 28% of cold calls are answered, while 69% of buyers (B2B and B2C) have accepted a call within the past 12 months.
  • Cold calling has an average success rate of 2% across all industries.
  • Companies that write off cold calling as ineffective have a 42% slower average growth rate than those that still champion it.
  • Including both cold and warm calling, 92% of sales interactions occur via telephone, according to Salesforce.

While outbound cold calling may have a limited conversion rate, there is clear evidence that it still works. A fast and affordable marketing approach allows you to reach B2B and B2C prospects not available by other methods. Moreover, people are familiar with this selling practice, and many buyers feel more comfortable speaking to a sales agent via telephone rather than a screen. 

A Quick Look at the Key Features of Cold Calling

Understanding the meaning of cold calling is one thing, but understanding how it works is another. Cold calling involves reaching out to hundreds or thousands of people hoping for a respectable return of leads and conversions. While cold calling can extend to door-to-door sales and in-person visits, it usually refers to telemarketing.

It can be a practical part of an offline marketing strategy, and the average salesperson will make dozens of sales per day. Some other key questions to ask are:

  • What are prospects?
  • What is cold canvassing? 
  • What are discovery calls?

Prospects are simply the recipients of the phone call, and they could be B2B decision-makers or direct consumers. Forming a successful seller-prospect relationship during the conversation is crucial. Discovery calls are the first telephone interaction after a prospect has shown interest in the product or services via email, web contacts, or social media marketing campaigns.

The next thing to understand is the meaning of cold canvassing. It is a process in which a salesperson contacts a list of target prospects to collect more information. Sellers can subsequently use collected data to qualify prospects. It can help sharpen your future cold calling techniques, which is essential, as you can make the most impact at the start of the conversation.

Understanding the buyers’ pain points can be pivotal to successful conversion. After all, they want to feel that your products and services can solve their problems. 

The Challenges of Cold Calling Solicitation

When considering what cold calling means for your sales team, the acceptance of repeated rejections and building a sense of resilience are crucial for sellers. Supporting salespeople through rejections (and possible verbal abuse) is vital for business owners. Otherwise, your employee attrition rate could soar, which will cost you a lot of money in the long run.

Unlike email marketing, getting rejected in telesales can be demoralizing. It could lead to a loss of enthusiasm, reduced productivity, and lower conversion rates as buyers pick up on the negative vibes. There are many other challenges that you will face during this process.

  • Many people who pick up the phone won’t have interest in the products you’re selling or even fall into your target market.
  • Before making a call, salespeople will often have minimal information on their prospects.
  • 96% of buyers enjoy a product or service’s value proposition, which can be tricky to explain when cold calling.
  • Many people change their numbers when upgrading to a new handset, meaning a lot of dialed numbers could be outdated.
  • It often takes multiple touchpoints to gain a sale, meaning that even an excellent initial outbound cold calling action won’t guarantee a conversion.

Another challenging aspect is that companies must now adhere to the National Do Not Call Registry. Launched in 2003 by the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, it essentially allows consumers to opt out of receiving cold calls. Over 200 million people have signed up for the scheme, preventing sales teams from approaching those prospects. Failure to comply can lead to significant fines and lawsuits.  The National Do Not Call Registry only applies to individuals and does not extend to businesses, which is excellent for B2B sellers.

How to be Better at Cold Calling Marketing & Sales

The fact that cold calling is still commonly used as a sales strategy shows that it works. If you want to make the most of it, though, you must ask the following questions:

  • Is it the right situation to use cold calling?
  • How can the costs be made more affordable?
  • What techniques can be used to boost cold calling conversions?

How To Manage the Costs

As with any marketing strategy, you must focus on the expenses. There is no point in generating $1m of sales if the campaign costs you $2m. One of the best things you can invest in is your team’s virtual number system. The great news is that modern tech opens the door to remote working if situations dictate it, while you can also change regional numbers.

The correct numbers can reduce the rate of rejected calls, while call clarity will also mean that recipients are more likely to stay on the line. Reduced waste and costs should serve you well – virtual calls will cost less than traditional telephone line call plans.

When to Utilize Cold Calling

When making cold calls, you want to gain the best response rates. It may be better for sales teams to focus on other selling campaigns like social media marketing when working outside specific time frames. 

Research shows that 10 a.m. (15.53%) and 2 p.m. (15.01%) are the best times for cold calling, especially B2B, although all work hours are good. People generally do not like to be contacted in the evenings, on weekends, or during holidays. It seems that Wednesday is the best time to call, while Monday and Friday show worse conversions than midweek calls.

While cold calling is helpful in many situations, some industries show better returns than others. Real estate cold calling can be beneficial, especially if there have been a lot of sales in the area, as homeowners will naturally have spiked interest levels at this time. It can take six to eight calls for a prospect to convert, but most outbound cold calling strategies can quickly identify whether there is any interest or not.

Other services like investments in stocks or crypto are popular cold calling choices, with brokers regularly using this method. When dealing with products for B2C markets, commonly used goods such as household items can work well, as most people need the products. B2B cold callers can target businesses from a niche where their products will perform well.

How to Get More Out of Cold Calling

It would be easy to see the 2% figure when cold calling in sales and get discouraged. However, there are ways to take your cold calling success rate to the next level. So, as well as asking “what is cold calling?” all business owners should ask “how can my cold calling marketing campaigns do better?” before launching one.

Here are some simple tips that can help supercharge your cold calling activities:

  • Use cold canvassing to gain valuable insight into potential prospects. Getting through to people by understanding their pain points can help you work more effectively.
  • Consider using SMS marketing to reach out to new prospects. Those who respond positively can be considered qualified prospects, likely to embrace your subsequent warm calling.
  • Think about building rough sales scripts. Confidence, clarity, and cohesion will go a long way and create a more powerful impact. It doesn’t guarantee success, but it may boost your positive responses.
  • Aim for a talk-to-listen ratio of 55:45. You should speak a little more than the prospect to ensure that your points are heard while still learning enough from them to tailor the offerings.
  • Focus on the next step. In most cases, cold calling is used to arrange the next call or an in-person appointment, although there are situations where you can get the sale right away. Do not let yourself become distracted.

Last but not least, all call teams should be familiar with the products and services while maintaining a friendly approach. Do these things, and success will follow.

The Final Word

You should have a pretty good idea of “what is cold calling?” and how to use telemarketing and cold calling solicitation to win new leads. While you will need to appreciate the National Do Not Call Registry regulations, it can still be an effective way to improve B2C sales and B2B interactions. 

When used in conjunction with warm calling, your telesales efforts can yield truly magnificent results – just remember that your sales team must implement a winning strategy to showcase what your products and services can do for the prospect.


What does cold calling mean?

Cold calling solicitation is a sales technique where a seller targets a prospect they have not previously contacted. It is a direct contrast to warm calling, in which prospects have already shown an interest in the brand. In most cases, it is a form of telemarketing.

Does cold calling really work?

Yes, if done well. While cold callers must prepare themselves for repeated rejections and conversion rates as low as 2%, there is no question that it can generate sales and win new customers in both B2C and B2B circles.

What is a good cold calling strategy?

To boost your cold calling success rate, you may wish to start with cold canvassing to gain info about prospects. Following this, you should equip salespeople with tried and tested techniques combined with the ability to strike up a bond with the prospects.

Is cold calling ethical?

Cold calling can be considered ethical when selling a product you actively believe in.
While all cold calls will anger some prospects, most will accept receiving them from companies that sell good products, especially if they are not overly forceful.

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