Cold calling is a bit of a dirty word in the sales world. Most individuals you interview hate receiving cold calls, whilst even the sales representatives have a dislike for the practice. Yet, it remains an important strategy for many companies and it has the potential to provide plenty of benefits to a business – if only conducted properly.

How to Make Cold Calling Work

© | Nikita Savostikov

This guide will look at 1) what cold calling is all about, 2) the reason it has a bad reputation, and 3) the advantages it offers to businesses. You’ll learn about 4) the core building blocks of a successful cold calling strategy and 5) the keys to a good cold call.


The practice of cold calling refers to a situation where a business contacts potential customers without their anticipation of such an interaction. It is essentially a technique where the business approaches individuals without knowledge that they are interested.

You shouldn’t confuse it with the opposite practice of warm calling, where the business has prior knowledge to suggest the person contacted is interested in the product. Cold calling can sometimes also be mistakenly identified as telemarketing. Whilst cold calling is a form of telemarketing, telemarketing is not limited to using cold calling as a strategy. In telemarketing, there is often prior research involved and it often includes further call-ups with the individual or business.

Cold calling strategies typically refer to phone calls, but cold calling can also entail different methods. For example, drop-in visits can be part of a cold calling strategy. The defining aspect of a cold calling strategy is its focus on individuals or businesses, which are not pre-screened or questioned to find out whether they are interested in what the business has to offer.

The practice is widely considered one of the toughest sales strategies, mainly due to its unpredictability.


Cold calling has received a bad reputation in recent years. Since the nature of cold calling requires the contact to be without a prior notice, it can often be considered rather intrusive. The strategy doesn’t involve any prior knowledge of whether the customer is looking to receive the contact and at what time, which can lead to the business contacting at inappropriate times.

There have also been certain examples of industries and businesses using aggressive cold calling tactics. Some of these have meant individuals have been contacted at a wholly inappropriate time, the sales pitches have been too intrusive and the person has been contacted numerous times a week or even a day.

With the rise of alternative marketing and sales tactics, such as social media, e-mails and text message marketing, cold calling has also been loosing more ground and popularity.


But despite the bad press, there are certain benefits a business can enjoy by using a cold calling strategy. If you apply cold calling in the right manner in your business, the strategy has the potential to:

  • Identify new leads –Cold calling is a great way to recognise new targets for your business. Whether you are looking to sell your product or service to an individual or a business entity, you can gain insight into a potential client simply by contacting people.
    In terms of cold calling from business to business, cold calling can be a great way to identify the people in the other business that might be interested in knowing about your business.
  • Gain insight in the market – If your business’ marketing tactics are not providing the required impact, cold calling can be a useful method for understanding the reasons behind the problem. By contacting the individuals, you can understand why people might not be interested in your product.
    If you reach out to people you’ve cold called in the past with no success, you can gain insight into why the particular campaign didn’t work. Perhaps what you offer is not the problem, but rather the way you were trying to sell it.
  • Cost effective marketing – Cold calling also tends to offer a more cost-effective solution to some other marketing methods. Telemarketing is often a relatively cheap alternative to advertising through other mediums and can help you increase conversion rates with relatively little effort.

On an individual level, mastering the art of cold calling can also be highly beneficial. Since the strategy is considered to be among the hardest sales tactics, you can learn plenty of transferable skills by becoming good at cold calling. These skills include the ability to solve problems quickly, increased creativity and enhanced interpersonal skills.


In order to avoid the negative response and to take advantage of the above benefits, your business must approach cold calling carefully. It is vital to device a solid strategy for cold calling or otherwise your business could potentially damage its brand, as well as miss the benefits.

For your cold calling strategy to work, the following three building blocks must be at the core of your plan.

1) Defining your target market

First, while cold calling doesn’t require you to know whether the people you are contacting are looking for your specific business, it also doesn’t mean you just dial a number and start calling. You need to define a target market before you start calling, because not everyone is going to benefit from what you are offering.

Before you make the calls or visits, consider the kind of audience you are looking for, the people or businesses that would actually benefit from your business. The art of cold calling is all about understanding who can benefit from what you offer and convincing the individuals or businesses to feel the same way.

Since you don’t want to be spending time with customers who have no need for your product, you need to be able to identify the ones that do. This will ensure you actually provide the right sales pitch to the right people.

In addition, if you are targeting business clients, then you have to do basic research before you call. What is meant by basic research is not detailed business and personal information – you simply need to know the name and the area of industry the business operates in. These can be found on LinkedIn and business websites in a matter of seconds, so don’t forget the basic research!

2) Having a reason for calling and a call to action

On the other hand, you also need to have a valid reason for contacting the people. In a matter of moments, you must be able to explain to the individual why they should take the time and listen to your pitch. If you don’t have a purpose for contacting them, you aren’t going to convince anyone to listen to you.

Essentially this means that your cold calling campaign must have a goal (for example, introducing your new product line for people), as well as a convincing value proposition for the customers (for example, they can gain free access to the latest medical research).

Having a goal for the phone call or meeting will provide more direction for the conversation. You are able to direct the conversation towards meeting the end goal, which doesn’t always have to be an actual sale. Furthermore, it also makes it easier to measure the success of your cold calling strategy. By having an end goal to each call, you can immediately see whether the goal was met or not.

As well as having a clearly defined objective for the call, you must also make sure each contact provides the individual with a call to action. This can be anything from offering a sale to getting them sign up with your newsletter. The most important thing is to offer this call to action. If you give the individual the option to react, it is much likely going to lead to a meaningful relationship instead of you just providing information about your business.

3) Employing the right personnel

Finally, your cold calling strategy must be built around the right employees. As we’ve mentioned above, cold calling is one of the toughest sales tactics in the world and not everyone is able to pull it off. Even if you take care of the other two building blocks, you can’t guarantee success without having the right people making the calls.

Part of the reason cold calling has such a bad name in the business world is because it has been conducted by the wrong people. Many companies tend to have the worst salespeople conducting cold calling and some companies still use the cold calling floor as a ‘punishment’ for bad sales representatives. Avoid this sort of approach in your business. Instead, you should opt to employ the best people for the position and get them to feel proud of what they do.

When you are looking for people to cold call for you, make sure you hire the people with the right skills. A cold caller will need to be:

  • A good communicator
  • Passionate about the job
  • Compassionate towards other people and their feelings
  • A great sales person
  • A quick thinker and a problem solver

Getting good at cold calling will take some practice and you definitely want to train your personnel, especially if they are new to the practice. Continuous analysis of how well your employees are doing is important in order to ensure they are meeting their targets, as well as enjoying what they do.


If you have the above three building blocks under control, you need to turn your attention to the actual call (the points also apply to a good cold meeting). It’s important to focus on the quality of the call because simple things can have a huge impact on how successful your cold calling campaign will be.

Apply enthusiastic and energetic approach

Have you ever received a cold call in the middle of your lunch from someone who sounded half asleep and unbothered about your response? If you have, then you probably didn’t end up having a meaningful conversation with the person, which resulted in you purchasing the product or service they were selling.

The way other people talk to us can have a huge impact on how we approach the situation as well. If you sound energetic and enthusiastic about the products, is much more likely the person listening will also feel excited to hear more. By sounding defeatist and uninterested, you channel these feelings to the person you are talking with.

Before you pick up the phone, try to get into that energetic and enthusiastic state. Make sure you smile while you speak and be as positive about the situation as you can. Don’t be too apologetic about the call – you are, after all, in the strong belief the person will benefit from what you are offering. This naturally doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mindful, which will be discussed in detail below.

Furthermore, make sure you try and get the energetic approach transferred to the individual as well. One way to do this is to ensure you aren’t the only one talking. Make sure the cold call pitch involves plenty of questions that challenge the other person to think and pay attention.

Prepare yourself properly

We’ve already discussed the importance of devising a plan of action for your cold calls. As well as having the overall reason for cold calling and the sales pitch for why the product and service matters, the caller must also focus on preparing themselves for the call.

It’s important to ensure the person knows the product and service on sale inside out, not just the benefits it has for the target market. You never know what questions the individual might ask and you must be prepared to give the answers – or know how and where the person can find out more.

It is a good idea to also have a sales pitch script at hand for the call. This doesn’t mean you must read out the statements and not step out of the script, but it can provide more structure for the call. Have the key points of the call prepared in advance to ensure you never miss mentioning them.

As mentioned above, the attitude of the caller can have a huge impact on how well the call goes. Therefore, you need to ensure you call when you are at the right mind set. It might sound odd, but sales persons can influence their ability to sell with a healthy lifestyle. When your body and mind feels good, it will show in your work as well!

Finally, be prepared for different responses. Anyone who’s cold called before knows you can be greeted with anything from real enthusiasm to outright hostility. It is crucial you are able to deal with different reactions and deal with them in a professional manner. Remember a cold first contact doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t win the customer over!

Catch attention immediately

When you cold call a customer, you are essentially interrupting them. The starting point of the pitch is therefore not ideal and you need to be able to turn the mood around immediately. There is a lot of pressure at the start of the call and you must be able to catch the individual’s attention in a positive manner.

It’s a good idea to overcome the initial annoyance of the disruption with something better. The person might have been in the middle of watching their favourite TV show and you need to tell them something, which is more interesting to them.

Don’t bother with too much personal rapport building at the start; you don’t need to be talking about the weather or their hobbies at this point. You want the person to have an instant reaction to whether you are offering something interesting with good value.

Check out the tips for nailing the first 20 seconds of your cold call from this YouTube video:

Offer options

Individuals who dislike cold calling often feel helpless. The aggressive cold calling strategy floods the individual with information and makes it hard for the individual to have a say or opt out from the situation. If you want to succeed with your cold calling, you need to offer options.

First, make sure you clearly give the individual the option to stop the call after you’ve told them your reasons for contacting them and how they might benefit from your business. Don’t simply let them hang up. Offer them the option of an alternative time for the call, a different contact method (for example, e-mail) or the option of no further contact.

In addition, don’t simply try to make a single type of sale. Instead of offering a product X, try tweaking the offer by offering a free sample or a try-out. You could even give options like a three-month subscription instead of six and so on. If the individual feels in charge, they are much happier to talk to you.

Be mindful

Finally, it is essential you are mindful about the situation. Cold call is essentially going to interrupt the person and you can’t just pretend it isn’t a minor disruption. You shouldn’t treat it as a cold-hearted strategy for pushing a sale – even when you don’t end up selling, you might make a further sale later if you made a good impression.

Always sound mindful about the situation and as mentioned above, offer the individual the option to have the conversation later or never, if that’s what they want. If the person you are talking with sounds truly agitated, don’t continue. You might have caught them at a horrible time and you don’t want to try your luck.

Be wary of the times you call or visit companies. Not only is it good manners to carefully pick the time for the call, it also makes more business sense in most instances. Calling to another business about a sale at 16.30 on a Friday afternoon is certainly not the time most people are willing to talk business.

But as mentioned earlier, don’t feel negative or ashamed your business uses cold calling as a strategy. Respect customer boundaries and personal freedom to choose, but make sure your cold calling strategy’s bottom line is to help people find the right products and services.

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