Does “Cold Calling” Really Work?

ThinkstockPhotos-122413523A sizeable number of people actively involved in marketing and sales have concluded that “cold calling” is, or should be, a thing of the past. But not everyone believes this to be true. A group of die-hard fans still insist cold calling can and does work.

Why has the once gold standard lost its glowing reputation? Several factors have contributed to the loss of popularity for cold calls. For one, the availability on the internet of vast amounts of information about anything and everything begs the mindset, “If I need this/that/your services, I’ll find you.” A second correlating factor is the reality that business people have never been busier. Honestly, who has time in the middle of an already overscheduled day to drop everything to hear an unsolicited sales spiel?

How would you feel if this scenario played out at home?

You’re home on a busy Saturday afternoon, arms full of the needed materials for tackling the next item on your around-the-house-upkeep-repair-improvement list. The doorbell chimes, and you shuffle the supplies to one arm and open the door. There stands a complete stranger, smiling as if for a toothpaste commercial. He/she immediately launches into a fast-talking spiel about… oh, let’s say the latest innovations in basement waterproofing.

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You half listen as the square pokes into your side.  “But we don’t have a—” you stammer as a box of screws, the tape measure and a pencil clatter to the floor.

Undaunted, the toothy salesperson’s non-relevant sales pitch continues. Gripping the remaining materials with both arms, you meet his/her enthusiastic gaze. “We don’t have a basement. Sorry.” The timing was bad. The subject matter irrelevant.  A waste of everyone’s time. You can bet every time you pass this business’s logoed truck; this unpleasant encounter will spring to mind.

As this go-getter traipses up and down the street, will he/she find someone interested enough in this product/service to sign on the dotted line? Possibly. Possibly not.

It’s unlikely, however, that cold calling will completely disappear. So, since sales calls will always be a reality, these tips can bring “cold calls” into the twenty-first century.

  1. Make it a two-step, low pressure process. Stop by a potential client company, leave information but skip the pitch. Follow up with a call, an email, a LinkedIn invite, a Facebook page message — some type of non-face-to-face contact.
  1. Change the approach. While traditional cold calling focused on getting the client to relate to the salesman, a better approach is to immediately seek to meet the client’s felt need. Make your M.O. all about addressing the client’s concerns.
  1. Go for “warm” rather than “cold” calls. Familiarize yourself with the basics about a particular company. For starters, do they use the type of employees you specialize in? Have they recently experienced an episode of downsizing?

You get but one chance to make a positive first impression. If you choose to cold call, warm it up a bit with basic information and a tweaked approach.

MORE: Walking away from business


Steve Isenberg

Steve Isenberg
Steve Isenberg is president of ASJ Partners, a marketing agency for the staffing industry. He can be reached at

Steve Isenberg

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