Debitoor's accounting dictionary

Cold calling - What is cold calling?

Cold calling is the process of ringing a customer that has never previously had contact with a business, with an aim to make a sale

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Cold calling has a reputation for being decidedly challenging. When a salesperson for a company makes cold calls, they are reaching out to potential customers essentially ‘out of the blue’. The people they make contact with have not expressed interest or perhaps even known about the business or its products or services.

In its most infamous form, cold calling is known as ‘telemarketing’ - unsolicited phone calls from businesses with savvy salespersons that follow a script proven to produce results.

Cold calling doesn’t necessarily always occur over the phone. Door-to-door sales can also be considered a form of cold calling.

Who receives cold calls

While it might sometimes seem like these calls are entirely random, there is (or should be) a fair bit of research into market demographics on the part of the business. While quantity of calls is certainly a factor, it’s important that a company can narrow down a target audience that will provide higher chances of success.

Despite this, cold-calling is not considered a particularly effective approach to marketing, with an estimated 2% success rate. The response from individuals called ranges covers a broad range, but those making the cold calls endure repeated rejection.

While there are the few who agree to the sale, callers face many hang ups, verbal attacks, and even ridicule from those that they are contacting by working in the cold calling role.

Why do companies use cold calling

For many businesses, cold calling is seen as an eventual inevitability. Startups, for example, usually participate in some form of cold calling. Many entrepreneurs are fans of cold calling, as these calls have potential to provide income beyond backing from an investor or bank.

Cold calling makes it possible to reach high numbers of potential customers in a short period of time with relatively few resources. It’s a low-cost way to gain new customers and also serves to get the word out about a business.

Although unpopular on the receiving side, in business, it is seen as a skill that can be difficult to master and can prove to be a valuable resource for companies.

The future of cold calling

With advances in technology, there have been some large changes to cold calling.


The first that many are likely familiar with is the robo-calling. These allow at least the initial stages of cold calling in some industries to use pre-recorded messages that are played automatically when the call is answered.

This automation has caused a drastic increase in cold calling in many cases, resulting in a direct response by governments to crack down on cold calling numbers and give individuals ways to prevent cold calling, such as variations of the ‘Do Not Call Registry’.

So while cold calling has become more limited when it comes to calling customers directly, there are still B2B cold calls occurring regularly, as businesses try to connect and make sales to other businesses.

B2B cold calling generally results in higher success rates, as relevant potentially interested businesses can be more easily determined and targeted. Softer techniques can also be used - such as offering to look into more details or research different options based on the needs of that particular business.

Online cold calling

Online options have also had an impact on cold calling. Emails, social media posts and sharing, as well as text messaging have all picked up on the possibilities for cold calling. These approaches have shown an improved success rate, as they are based more on building relationships and fostering interaction.

Today, email and social media are often seen as integral aspects of a successful sales process for businesses.

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