What Is Cold Calling? Definition, Benefits, and Best Practices

As a sales professional, you’ve likely heard the term “cold calling” thrown around in conversations and training sessions. But what is cold calling, and why is it so important in the sales world?

In this article, you’ll learn how to cold call and gain a better understanding of the top benefits and challenges. Plus, we’ll explore cold-calling techniques and best practices for success.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cold calling is a sales and marketing strategy in which a sales representative reaches out to potential customers who have never had prior contact or interaction with their company.
  • It’s important for sales teams to follow the National Do Not Call Registry rules, respect consumers’ wishes, abide by applicable laws when engaging in cold calling activities, and only call during permitted hours.
  • Benefits of cold calling include generating leads, increasing sales, expanding your sales pipeline, receiving immediate feedback on your product or service, and helping build personal connections with decision-makers.
  • A successful cold call process includes researching prospects, preparing a cold calling script, making initial calls, following up with prospects, and building relationships.
  • Cold calling tips include implementing specific goals, personalizing calls and scripts, handling rejection gracefully, using technology, and having a positive mindset.
what is cold calling

What Does Cold Calling Mean?

Cold calling is the process of contacting potential customers who have had no prior contact or interaction with a company. It’s called a “cold” call because there is no relationship or connection between the sales rep and the prospect, making the call “cold.”

The cold call is a key component of sales and marketing strategies. It allows sales reps to reach out to potential customers, introduce their product or service, and ultimately solicit business. This is in contrast to “warm calling,” which involves reaching out to potential customers who have already expressed interest in a company or product.

Cold calling can be an effective way to reach prospects, but it’s important for sales teams to be aware of the potential legal and ethical ramifications. Many states and local jurisdictions have laws governing telemarketing, and there is also a National Do Not Call Registry, which requires companies to refrain from contacting individuals on the list.

Here are some cold-calling tips for sales professionals to follow:

Follow the Do Not Call Registry Rules

The National Do Not Call Registry was created to protect consumers from unwanted or intrusive telemarketing calls. Any sales team engaging in cold calling must comply with the rules set forth by the registry.

This includes registering your business with the registry, maintaining a listing of customer phone numbers on the do not call list, and refraining from contacting any individuals who have expressed interest in no longer receiving calls from your organization. However, this Do Not Call Registry only applies to consumer households, not businesses.

Respect Consumers’ Wishes

It’s essential that cold callers respect consumer wishes when engaging in cold-calling activities. If someone says they are not interested in talking further, salespeople should politely end the conversation at that time rather than continuing to push for a sale or trying to change their mind. A respectful approach is more likely to leave a good impression on prospects, even if they don’t buy something from you now.

Abide by Privacy Laws

When engaging in cold calling activities, sales teams should always adhere to state and federal privacy laws such as those outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Salespeople should never disclose sensitive information about prospects over the phone or record conversations without permission. Following these laws helps ensure consumers’ information is protected throughout the process and respects their right to privacy.

Only Call During Certain Hours

Sales teams engaging in cold calling must adhere to several federal and state laws governing the daily hours they are allowed to call. Generally, telemarketers must not call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., as these are considered inconvenient times that could disturb customers.

By following these tips and abiding by all applicable laws when engaging in cold calling activities, sales teams can ensure their outreach efforts are legal and ethical while protecting their customers’ rights and privacy interests.

The Cold Call Process

cold calls

Knowing how to cold call starts with understanding the process. To help your team become successful cold-callers, take a look at these essential steps:

Set Goals

Begin by setting specific goals for your reps’ cold call efforts, such as a target number of calls per day or appointments scheduled per week. This will help ensure they stay focused and motivated. Combine the goals with sales incentives for the best results.

Research Prospects

Before making a cold call, it’s essential for reps to gather information about the target audience, including pain points, to create an effective cold call script. A well-prepared script can make cold calls more efficient and effective. Scripts should include a brief introduction, a concise product or service explanation, and a compelling sales pitch for the potential customer to take action (such as scheduling a follow-up call or demo).

Personalize the Cold Call

During the initial cold call, reps should introduce themselves and the company, explain the purpose of their call, and engage the potential customer in a conversation about their needs and how your product or service can help them. Personalize calls by addressing the potential customer by name and referencing any relevant information gathered during the research stage. Reps should practice active listening and ask open-ended questions to engage the prospect in a meaningful conversation.

Prepare for Objections

Reps should be prepared with talking points that address common objections and concerns that may arise during phone calls. However, not every cold call will result in a sale or follow-up conversation. Sales teams need to accept rejection gracefully and use it as an opportunity to learn and improve their cold-calling skills.

Follow Up With Potential Clients

After the initial call, it’s important to follow up with potential clients to continue building the relationship and move them through the sales pipeline. A cold call is just the beginning of the sales process. To turn cold calls into sales, nurture the relationship with prospects by providing valuable information, addressing their concerns, and demonstrating how the product or service can solve their problems.

Benefits of Cold Calling

While it might seem outdated at first glance, cold calling remains an effective way to generate leads and increase sales. Below, we discuss the benefits of cold calling and why it is still relevant in today’s business world.

Expands Sales Pipeline

Not all potential customers are online, making it tough to reach them with some inside sales tactics like emails and social media outreach. A call lets reps introduce the business and engage with the prospect, creating a more personal relationship. This personal touch may help reps get a foot in the door.

Cost Effective

Cold calling is cost-effective, especially for small businesses. Creating an effective online marketing campaign can be expensive and time-consuming. Cold calling, on the other hand, has a low-cost structure. All you need is a phone, cold calling scripts, and a list of prospects to contact.

Provides Immediate Feedback

Cold calls provide an instant response from potential customers, allowing reps to adjust the pitch and approach quickly. If reps use an aggressive or off-putting approach or there is a flaw with the offer, customers will tell them, and they’ll get the chance to fix it. This instant feedback will help you and your team develop better sales strategies and pitches to close the sale.

Builds Personal Connections

A cold call enables reps to create a rapport with decision-makers, understand consumer needs, and explain how the product or service can benefit them. That personal connection strengthens customer relationships, making them more likely to do business with you.

Challenges of Cold Calling

Cold calling requires a strong work ethic and consistency, as not all calls lead to conversions. However, those who master the art of cold calling can develop a robust sales pipeline and increase their revenue. Below, we explore some of the major challenges of cold calling.

Unanswered Calls

Many potential customers may not answer calls from unknown numbers or be unavailable when reps call. Reps should be prepared to leave concise and compelling voicemails encouraging prospects to return calls or persuade them to answer next time.


In some cases, reps may have to navigate through gatekeepers (such as office managers or assistants) to reach the decision-maker they’re targeting with a cold call. Sales teams should be polite and respectful and build relationships with these individuals to increase their chances of getting through to the right person.


Fear of rejection is one of the biggest challenges sales reps face with cold calling, which can affect motivation. This fear can lead to low confidence, which then affects performance. The best way to overcome this challenge is through practice — encourage reps to start with small talk to build rapport with prospects before getting into their sales pitch. This helps boost confidence as they get more comfortable talking on the phone with strangers.

However, not every cold call will result in a positive outcome. Encourage reps to stay focused on their goals and use each rejection as an opportunity to learn and improve their approach. Managers should provide ongoing sales training and support to ensure teams have everything they need to succeed.

Cold Calling Best Practices

cold calling

Several best practices should be considered to ensure successful cold calls and positive customer experiences. From developing scripts to curbing aggressive sales tactics, here are the essential cold-calling best practices for creating successful customer relationships.

Establish Rapport and Trust

To build rapport with prospects, try some of these cold call strategies:

  • Find common ground: Reps should look for shared interests or experiences to mention during the conversation.
  • Empathize with the prospect’s pain points: Understand the prospects’ challenges and express genuine interest in helping them find a solution.
  • Be genuine and authentic: Speak honestly and openly, and avoid using high-pressure sales tactics or making unrealistic promises.

Work on Time Management Skills

To help reps make the most of their time, try the following cold call strategies:

  • Schedule dedicated blocks of time for cold calling and discourage multitasking or distractions during these periods.
  • Set realistic goals for the number of calls you want reps to make each day or week, and track their progress to stay motivated and chart improvement.

Have a Positive Mindset

To help reps maintain a positive mindset, try the following cold call tips:

  1. Encourage your team to focus on goals and the potential rewards of successful cold calls, such as increased sales, new business opportunities, promotions, and incentives.
  2. Remind reps of past successes and what they can learn from any setbacks.
  3. Discuss weekly or monthly cold call goal progression and sales incentives to motivate your team.

Be Mindful of Tone

To convey a positive and professional image, keep these cold call tips in mind:

  • Ask reps to stand or sit up straight while making calls, as this can help project confidence and authority in their voices and make them feel more confident.
  • Encourage reps to smile during the cold call, even though the prospect can’t see them, as this can make their voice sound friendlier and more approachable.
  • Monitor reps during cold calls to ensure they speak clearly and confidently, using a moderate pace and appropriate volume to ensure their message is easy to understand.
  • Avoid aggressive sales tactics, as these often turn off consumers, leading to lost sales and animosity toward the company.

Use Technology

The following tools and software can help make cold calls easier, more efficient, and more successful.

  • CRMs: Popular options include Salesforce, Zoho CRM, Microsoft Dynamics 365, and HubSpot. These tools let you store customer information and track activities like emails or calls in a centralized location.
  • Automated calling systems: Automated services like RingCentral provide features like dial-by-name directories and voicemail transcription that save time while improving efficiency. Plus, they often come with additional features such as call forwarding, call queuing, and interactive voice response.
  • Analytic tools: Predictive analytics programs from companies like LeadLander use data from online sources to identify prospects who are likely interested in your product or service.

Summing Up

Cold calling can lead to new business opportunities and increased sales success. Now that we’ve answered the question “What is cold calling?” you can turn cold calls into valuable business relationships and closed deals. 

However, making cold calls that lead to sales starts with fine-tuning your process, providing training and ongoing support for your sales reps, and using technology to manage and track calls.