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Sales - 9 min READ

Does Cold Calling Work in 2019? It Does If You Do It Right

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Author photo: Brent Barnhart

Brent Barnhart


Does cold calling work anymore?

Depends on who you ask.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the old-school, Wolf of Wall Street-style of aggressive cold calling has gone the way of the dinosaur.

We agree.

After all, technology has changed dramatically and so has buyer behavior.

An overwhelming majority of consumers and B2B decision-marketers rely on the Internet to make purchasing decisions. At a glance, selling over the phone seems obsolete.

And so it’s no surprise why so many salespeople declare cold called to be dead and buried.

Don’t write off cold calling just yet, though. Despite popular belief, winning prospects through cold outreach is definitely possible in the Relationship Era (granted you know how).

Below we’ve broken down the current state of cold calling and how sales reps today can embrace a more positive approach to outreach over the phone.

Does cold calling work? Let’s look at the numbers.

The debate over whether or not cold calling works is a fierce one. To better understand the significance of cold calling in 2019, here are some key points to consider.

Phone calls are second only to referrals for reaching B2B prospects.

The takeaway: Although cold calling has its detractors, the naysayers don’t tell the whole story. Consistently making calls is undoubtedly one of the most important sales activities of any given team.

This includes reaching out to warm leads and cold prospects alike. If nothing else, cold calling is a proactive alternative to idly waiting for people to come through your pipeline.

77% of buyers have responded positively to an email from a prospective vendor in the last 12 months. (Source)

The takeaway: Sure, “does cold calling work” and “does cold emailing work” are two totally different questions. However, the sentiment remains the same.

Prospects can respond positively to being approached by vendors they haven’t heard from before. The principles that apply to cold sales emails can also be applied to cold calls (but more on that later).

As a benchmark, salespeople should be able to close 50% of their qualified leads over the phone. (Source)

The takeaway: We’re not going to try to argue that cold calls convert better than, say, inbound marketing or referrals. That said, there are many variables at play that determine how well your cold outreach efforts go.

For example, do you have a high-quality list? What’s your process for qualifying leads? Totally failing to close cold calls could be a symptom of a larger problem that has little to do with cold calling itself.

Ninety-two percent of customer interactions happen over the phone. (Source)

The takeaway: There’s no denying that digital communication dominates modern sales. Perhaps that’s why phone calls are still so valuable, though.

Cold calls allow for salespeople to highlight the human voice behind their companies. Whereas it’s easy to overlook or brush off a cold email, cold calls are dynamic and provide an opportunity for reps to compel their prospects to keep listening.

The majority of B2B decision-makers believe that sales reps are unprepared for sales calls. (Source)

The takeaway: Cold calling gets a bad rap from many salespeople and it’s not hard to see why. Reps would much rather talk to someone familiar and avoid the unpredictability and anxiety of cold calls.

Even so, being unprepared for outreach is a sign of poor sales prospecting training and signals the need for sales teams to consider how they can empower reps to do better on the phone.

Based on the points above, there’s clearly still value in cold sales outreach.

And so maybe the key question for reps isn’t “does cold calling work,” but rather “how do I make cold calling work?”

Image for post Crush your quota.

Crush your quota.

Learn about the 7 habits that reps should cultivate to close deals + crush quotas.

The dos and don’ts of cold calling in 2019:

The aggressive, spammy approach that people often associate with cold calling is indeed dead.

As a result, sales reps should consider an approach that prioritizes positivity and relationship-building versus trying to hustle people over the phone.

Whether you’re totally new to cold calling or want to step up your sales calls in general, any combination of these cold calling tips are fair game.

Do: Warm up your cold prospects.

Much of the fear and awkwardness of cold calls come from reps who know absolutely nothing about their prospects beyond a name and a phone number.

So why not take a few moments to learn more?

A quick Google search could help clue you in on key talking points or an angle for your cold pitch. This includes social activity such as recent tweets, “likes,” and company milestones on LinkedIn.

Additionally, following or interacting with your prospects on social media is a simple yet effective way to make you and your company more familiar to people prior to outreach.

Taking these steps might take you into the territory of “warm calling” versus a traditional cold call, but there’s no reason not to at least do minimal research instead of going into a call totally blind.

Don’t: Freestyle your calls (unless you’re really good at it).

Cold calls can go in a million different directions.

Immediate rejection. Sales objections. Off-the-wall questions.

To help guide your calls and avoid needless “uhs” and “ums,” we recommend starting with some sort of script.

Remember what we said earlier about unprepared reps? Even if you don’t follow a script word-for-word, having a cold calling script available can provide you with some much-needed peace of mind. Injecting your own voice into a script can help keep your prospects engaged, which actually leads us to our next point.

Do: Let your personality shine through the phone.

If you don’t want your cold calls to come off as awkward and robotic, be mindful of letting your true self and voice come through.

Warmth and personality go a long way when it comes to keeping people on the phone. Cracking jokes and getting to know your prospect aren’t distractions to scoring a sale: you’re sowing the seeds of a relationship. Check out some of our sales conversation starters that are brilliant for diffusing the tension of any given call:

  • “What do you like most about your role?”
  • “Can you tell me what you’re planning this year?
  • “How long have you been living in [city]? How do you like it?”

Don’t: Keep prospects on the phone for too long.

The goal of cold outreach should be to get your product in your prospect’s hands as quickly as possible. This means booking appointments and demos rather than keeping them on the phone where they could lose interest or hang up at a moment’s notice.

This is also why you should make a point to ask for an email address so you can provide them with relevant resources and links (think: webinars, demos, trials) that keep them in your funnel even after your call is over.

Do: Send your prospects a follow-up email.

Sending thoughtful follow-up emails to prospects signals that you’re committed to forming a business relationship.

Obviously, you should follow up ASAP with prospects who want to make appointments. However, you should also reach out to anyone who seems on-the-fence or asks to think things over.

To help speed up the process, consider crafting some follow-up email templates that address prospects at each of these pipeline stages. With the help of a CRM (like Copper, for example), you can send these follow-ups in Gmail in a matter of seconds—without having to write each message from scratch. (More Gmail tips here.)

Oh, and if you don’t have a prospect’s email address handy, you can always send a follow-up through LinkedIn.

Don’t: Treat cold calling as just a numbers game.

Yes, the conversion rate for cold calling is traditionally low.

That’s no excuse to take a brute force approach to your calls and power through them as quickly as possible.

Instead, treat your prospects like individuals and give them the attention that they deserve. Taking the time to do your research and actually listen to what your prospect is saying can be the difference that makes for a successful cold call. This is also why many sales experts such as Brian Tracy recommend frequently pausing during cold calls, allowing your prospects to tell their story and clue you in on how you might be able to help them.

Do: Track your time on the phone.

Just like you monitor your other sales activities such as email outreach, cold calling is no different.

You should use your time as efficiently as possible. Monitoring the results of your cold calls can help you understand how much time you should budget towards them in the long-run. By tracking the details of cold calls that resulted in positive outcomes, you can fine-tune your approach to outreach over time.

Copper allows you to log individual interactions with prospects such as phone calls (including direct call logging). If your CRM is synced with your phone contacts, direct call logging automatically stores the time and length of any given call into your CRM. Reps can then input details of the call like general sales notes or a reminder for a follow-up manually based on how the call went.

Your activity log gives you a more comprehensive view of your prospects and what you need to know to turn them into full-fledged customers. This might include questions or objections that they’ve brought up during your conversation that need to be addressed during your follow-up.

Additionally, pipeline reporting lets you examine the ROI you’re getting from phone outreach versus email or your inbound efforts. Based on these statistics, you can understand at a glance which sales activities you should prioritize and where you might be able to improve (both individually and as a team).

Don’t: Call prospects at random.

This tip is a two-way street.

For starters, you should have some sort of quota in mind whether it’s the number of cold calls you make per day or how long you plan to spend on the phone.

Secondly, you’re going to want to consistently call prospects during times when they’re most likely to respond. The ideal time to call may vary from industry to industry and you may also have internal data that tells you the best times to be on the phone.

That said, if you’re going into this completely blind and just need somewhere to start, this study notes that calls made between 8:00 am and 9:00 am or 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm tend to receive the highest response rate.

Do: Leave a voicemail.

Failing to get ahold of someone in real time doesn’t mean that your cold call is a flop.

In fact, leaving a voicemail is a prime opportunity to both grab your prospect’s attention and make your pitch uninterrupted.

Beyond relaying your phone number, you can also encourage your prospects to check out your website or connect with you on social media. This empowers them to gauge interest in your product for themselves before reaching out again.

If they do respond positively, you can consider them a lead. Check out our guide to crafting a voicemail script to see how you can make the most of your messages.

How are you approaching your cold calls in 2019?

After looking at the numbers and examples of how modern salespeople handle cold calls, you might still be wondering: does cold calling work?

Maybe it’s time to see for yourself.

The nature of cold calling has changed and we see that as a huge positive. Sales reps are still spending serious time on the phone and there’s definitely a reason for that.

With the help of the tips above and a CRM such as Copper, you can streamline and track your cold calling efforts while still sticking with the best practices of the Relationship Era.

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