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What are cold numbers?

Cold numbers refer to phone numbers that are essentially unknown to the person calling them. When someone calls a cold number, the person on the other end of the line is unlikely to know the caller or be expecting their call. Cold calling refers to the practice of calling cold numbers in order to sell products, services, obtain data, or schedule interviews. It is a technique commonly used in telemarketing, market research, lead generation, and recruitment.

Why are they called cold numbers?

Numbers are considered “cold” because the prospect on the other end likely has no prior relationship with the caller. The prospect does not recognize the caller’s name or phone number on their caller ID. As a result, the prospect’s initial reception to the call will be completely “cold” – without any warmth or prior rapport. This makes cold calling a challenging branding technique, as the caller must build credibility and trust entirely from scratch in a very short timeframe. It requires skill and finesse to gain the prospect’s attention, interest, and engagement through a cold call.

What are some examples of cold calls?

Here are some common examples of cold calling:

  • A sales representative calls a prospect they have never spoken with before to introduce their product/service and pitch a sale.
  • A political candidate calls voters asking for their support and vote in an upcoming election.
  • A market researcher calls people randomly to conduct a survey.
  • A recruiter calls potential job candidates who have not applied for a job to gauge their interest.
  • A charitable organization calls people to request donations.
  • An account executive calls companies they have no prior interaction with to propose business partnerships.

In essence, any unsolicited phone call to a prospect with no prior relationship could be considered a cold call. This initial contact is meant to spark the prospect’s interest and earn their engagement.

What are the purposes of cold calling?

Cold calling serves several key business purposes:

  • Lead generation – Cold calls are used to identify and qualify new prospects who have not been contacted before. Even if the call does not lead directly to a sale, it may generate a new sales lead.
  • Sales – While closing sales directly from a cold call is difficult, cold calling can feed into the sales process. The goal is to make prospects aware of your offerings and get them interested enough to have a follow-up conversation.
  • Market research – Cold calling people randomly can provide useful insights into customer preferences, habits, and market trends.
  • Brand awareness – Cold calls introduce your brand, products, and services to people who are unaware of you. It can gradually build recognition.
  • Relationship building – Even if no sale is made, cold calls can start the process of nurturing a relationship with potential customers.
  • Scheduling – Cold calls can be used to schedule follow-up conversations with qualified prospects at a time that suits them.
  • Recruiting – Calling job prospects out of the blue allows recruiters to identify candidates who may not be actively job searching.

While the primary purpose is lead generation and sales, cold calling offers additional benefits to organizations.

Is cold calling still effective?

The effectiveness of cold calling has declined over the years for several reasons:

  • Decreased use of landline phones – Most cold calling is directed at landlines. However, landline use has dropped as many rely solely on cell phones.
  • Rise of call screening – Features like caller ID, call blocking, and screening have made it easier to avoid answering cold calls.
  • Do Not Call registries – People can register their numbers on Do Not Call lists to legally avoid cold call pitches.
  • Competition – Since so many companies rely on cold calling, prospects are inundated with unsolicited calls.
  • Negative stigma – Many perceive cold calling as annoying, invasive, desperate, or a scam. They are unwilling to give cold callers a chance.
  • Legislation – Stricter regulations around soliciting customers for sales and market research without prior consent.

As a result, cold call success rates have dropped significantly. However, it can still be an effective tactic for niche demographics or personalized campaigns. The key is focusing on quality over quantity of calls. Targeted, relevant, one-to-one cold calling fares better than mass cold calling.

What are some cold calling best practices?

If you choose to use cold calling, follow these best practices:

  • Work leads that are as warm as possible – Target potential customers that you know are likely interested based on their demographics, needs, past purchases, etc.
  • Personalize – Use the prospect’s name, company, industry, and other details to customize your pitch.
  • Offer value – What benefits, opportunities, or solutions can you provide the prospect rather than a sales pitch?
  • Keep it brief – Get to the point concisely and do not overstay your welcome.
  • Do not overcall – Frequency of contact attempts matters. Avoid bombarding prospects.
  • Listen attentively – Let the prospect speak and address their specific questions or concerns.
  • Follow up – Seek their permission for a follow-up call or email if interest is expressed.
  • Train call staff – Hire skilled call center reps and train them on rapport-building and conversational skills.
  • Track and optimize – Use CRM software and monitor metrics to refine your approaches and scripts.
  • Obey regulations – Honor do not call lists, calling hours, mandated disclosures, consent requirements, and data privacy laws.

Proper preparation, segmentation, targeting, scripting, and agent training enable more effective cold calling campaigns. However, prospects still expect a personalized experience and value exchange.

What technologies are impacting cold calling?

New technologies are changing cold calling activities:

  • Auto-dialers – Automatically dial prospect numbers rapidly using calling lists.
  • Power dialing – Manual rapid dialing facilitated through a phone-PC interface.
  • Preview dialing – Display contact info before the call connects so agents can prepare.
  • CRM integration – Sync cold calling data across customer relationship management platforms.
  • Call analytics – Provide data on call outcomes, agent performance, wait times, and other metrics.
  • Call recording – Allow call reviews for quality assurance and training.
  • VoIP calling – Make inexpensive calls over the internet instead of traditional phone lines.
  • Screen pop – Automatically access relevant customer records and history when a call connects.
  • SMS – Send text messages when prospects can’t answer calls.
  • Robocalling – Use prerecorded voice messaging to prospects instead of live agents.
  • Click-to-call – Initiate calls directly from a web browser.

When used properly, these tools can optimize connections, productivity, and results. However, improperly used, they can worsen cold calling experiences and damage brand perception. The human touch remains important.

What are the pros and cons of cold calling?

Cold calling has some notable pros and cons:

Pros Cons
  • Low cost lead generation tactic
  • Reach prospects that may be unresponsive to other outreach
  • Make contacts at targeted companies
  • Increase brand visibility and awareness
  • Personalize communication
  • Build relationships
  • Schedule further interactions
  • Convey enthusiasm and confidence
  • Very low success rate
  • Often considered intrusive or annoying
  • Time consuming with wasted effort
  • Possibility of landing on do not call lists
  • Difficulty reaching decision makers
  • Need for high-skill call agents
  • Negative brand perceptions
  • Regulatory compliance requirements

Weighing these factors will determine if cold calling makes sense for your business strategy and audience.

What are some cold calling strategies?

Common cold calling strategies include:

Ideal Customer Profiling

Conduct market research to build a profile of your best-fit potential customers. Gather demographics, firmographics, interests, pain points, and other data to craft targeted calling lists.

List Sourcing

Purchase or rent calling lists from list brokers based on your ideal customer profile. Lists may be industry or geography specific.


Ask current satisfied customers to provide referrals to prospects that may be interested in your offering.

Event Participation

Network in person at trade shows, conferences, and other events to collect business cards and connect for future cold calling.

Gatekeeper Engagement

Make a great first impression with secretaries and assistants to increase chances of getting through to decision makers.

Value-Driven Scripts

Script calls around specific value props, ROI, or solutions you can offer rather than generic pitches.

Targeted Messaging

Research prospects beforehand to tailor messaging to their pain points and interests for a personalized call.

Response Tracking

Gauge the effectiveness of scripts, agent performance, call times, and other variables using call analytics.

Multiple Touch Points

Pursue several methods of outreach such as email, SMS, social media, and direct mail in addition to cold calls.

What are common cold calling mistakes?

Cold callers make these common mistakes:

  • Calling without clear objectives
  • Generic, canned pitches
  • Talking too much rather than listening
  • Sounding robotic or scripted
  • Aggressive tone or high-pressure tactics
  • Ignoring do not call lists
  • Failing to personalize
  • Refusal to take no for an answer
  • Not knowing when to end the call
  • Forgetting follow-up
  • Poor data practices
  • Untrained or unmotivated agents
  • Calling outside ideal hours
  • Not tracking results
  • Disorganized calling

Avoiding these missteps results in more effective cold calling that provides value to prospects.

What are some cold calling statistics?

Here are some notable statistics on cold calling:

  • Only 2% of cold calls convert into appointments or sales on the first call []
  • It takes an average of 6-8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect [PhoneBurner]
  • Voicemails get returned only between 1% – 10% of the time [Sales for Life]
  • Intelligent call assistance can improve cold call success by up to 100% []
  • 87% of customers prefer email, social media, SMS, or web chat over cold calling [Opus Research]
  • 43% of B2B decision makers do not take unsolicited sales calls at all [Demand Gen Report]
  • 52% of prospects say random cold calls have no value during the buying process [Beagle Research Group]
  • Cold calling remains the top lead generation tactic for 74% of sales teams [Atom RMX]
  • Companies that use targeted, account-based cold calling see up to 50% higher conversion rates [Forrester]
  • Ideal cold call times are Tues-Thurs between 4-5pm EST according to analysis [VanillaSoft]

These statistics indicate cold calling is still prevalent, though problematic. It remains effective when done strategically and selectively.

What is the future of cold calling?

Cold calling is likely to persist despite challenges, though several predictions for its evolution include:

  • More targeting of mobile/cell phones as landlines fade away
  • Use of AI to automate call list creation and data collection
  • Integrated cross-channel campaigns via email, social, SMS, etc. to warm up cold calls
  • Advancements in data analytics to refine approach and timing
  • More predictive lead scoring to qualify prospects from cold calling
  • Dynamic scripting based on real-time interactions vs. static scripts
  • Omnichannel call routing across media channels
  • Increased reliance on virtual agents and conversational AI
  • Extended reality to provide visuals during calls
  • Tighter data regulation and consent requirements

While still intrusive by nature, cold calling is likely to become more digital, automated, and integrated into omnichannel sales processes. The human touch will still remain vital however. Smart integration of technology with human interaction will define the future of effective cold calling.


Cold calling has been around for decades as a direct way to connect with potential customers. However, the dynamics of cold calling have shifted as modern technologies, regulations, and buyer behaviors transform sales and lead generation. Cold calling remains a staple sales tactic when executed strategically with care and personalization. But it must adapt to new realities to generate more warm leads rather than cold calls. Understanding the nuances, technologies, and best practices of cold calling allows organizations to maximize results while respecting prospects. With the right approach, cold calling can effectively complement holistic sales and marketing strategies.