You don’t have to be in the B2B sales world to be familiar with the term “cold calling.”

It’s a phrase that’s likely to elicit a negative response. We’ve all received one too many unsolicited calls.

While everyone knows about cold calling as a concept, it has several different definitions and interpretations as a sales practice. The alternative? The predictably-titled “warm calling”.

Today’s post breaks down the key differences between cold and warm calling – what they mean, which is better, and how to master each approach.

Cold Calling Definition

Cold calling is defined as an unsolicited call to a prospect. Because no prior contact has been established, the prospect is not anticipating the call.

For sales reps, businesses, and everyday people, cold calls are an annoying practice. It’s no wonder that 48% of sales professionals are afraid of making them, but cold calling is still prevalent in today’s B2B sales environment.

Many sales professionals believe cold calling is dead because of its overall ineffectiveness (and its tendency to be unenjoyable). Thankfully there is a “warmer” alternative to this perceived relic.

What is Warm Calling?

There is one key difference between cold and warm calling: warm calling involves contacting a prospect that has had prior contact with you or your business. Because they have shown some form of interest in your business, your call doesn’t come as a surprise.

By establishing contact with a prospect before you call, you’ll have already built a certain level of trust with them. Because of this, potential customers will be more likely to listen to your pitch and consider whether your products can fix their current issues.

Is Cold Calling Dead?

As opposed to cold calling, warm calling can be a more efficient way to generate leads and boost sales. But does that mean that cold calling is “dead” as so many in the sales world have been declaring for years?

The short answer is no – cold calls and cold texting have their place, and likely always will. The methods we broke down for effective warm calling are great. 

But for some companies, it presents the following issues:

Cold Calling is Less Immediate.

Because warm calling starts by initiating contact through methods other than an unsolicited call, that often means sales reps do too much of one thing: waiting. 

If your company is on the ground floor with very few prospects and a small online following, you might not have the luxury of utilizing these more time-consuming methods.

Cold Calling is More Complex.

Warm calling relies on several different methods of communicating with prospects, from social selling to direct mail. This requires coordination between multiple departments and sales reps.

For well-established companies, these issues are easy to overcome. But for startups and small businesses, sales cold calls may have to remain a primary part of their sales strategy.

6 Ways to Warm Up Your Cold Calls

Whether your company already uses warm calling, or if you’re still making cold calls, there are always improvements you can make. Here are some ways to ensure that your outreach is effective:

1. Clean Up Your Data

Cold calling is already a daunting task – but doing it with bad contact data guarantees failure.

Low-quality data is the biggest problem facing B2B sales reps today. In fact, inaccurate data undermines customer experience efforts for 69% of organizations. Rather than cramming in as many cold calls as possible, take a step back and make data maintenance a priority. Without it, a massive amount of the calls you make will be dead on arrival.

2. Prioritize Research

The prospect may not expect your call, but that’s no excuse for you to be unprepared. Gather every bit of information you can about the company – goals, recent performance, growth, potential needs, etc.

When faced with a long list of prospects to cold call, sales reps understandably avoid extensive, time-consuming research. But entering any call completely blind is a recipe for failure.

3. Listen to the Prospect

When cold calling a prospect, it’s important to remember they haven’t shown interest in your business. Pressuring them with a quick pitch of your products puts you on the fast track to rejection. 

Instead, look to learn the information that your data and research haven’t provided. Show you’re eager to learn about the issues they face and in return, they’ll want to learn about your business.

Ad for ZoomInfo's Chrome extention, ReachOut. It allows you to see in your web browser all the data ZoomInfo has on the company who's website you're visiting.

4. Social Selling

Social media has changed the way we do business, including how we reach potential buyers. It can be a valuable tool at every step of the selling process – from prospecting and targeting to engaging and connecting with buyers.

Using social channels is effective in initiating your audience — the next step after the initial touchpoint is releasing your best pitch or nurture message. Social selling takes a little more patience, but allows an easy communication flow between conversations, messaging, and touchpoints.

5. Referrals

Compared to B2C selling, B2B selling relies heavily on building and fostering customer relationships. And those customers can be a golden ticket to your next business partnership.

Rather than calling a prospect out of the blue with nothing but your sales pitch to back you up, consider seeking a referral. See if you have any mutual connections with the contact in question that can give you an introduction. It’s more than worth the effort!

6. Direct Mail

It may seem like an outdated method given current technology, but direct mail campaigns are still effective. Three percent of B2B sales and marketing leads come from direct mail, compared to 16% from telemarketing.

While it requires a bit more work, sending a prospect a piece of personalized direct mail before contacting them with a pitch significantly increases your chances of making a sale.

Key Takeaways on Improving Cold Calling

It’s clear that sales has changed dramatically with the digital advances of the past decade. 

The cliché of a sales rep rifling through a stack of anonymous prospects is no longer accurate. There are new ways to get in touch with a prospect before dialing their phone number. Take advantage of them!

However, every sales method has its time and place – and that includes cold calls. 

If you’re still using it as part of your sales strategy, don’t panic. Instead, examine ways to introduce warm calling techniques and perfect your cold calls with the right data, preparation, and communication.

This post was last updated on October 19th, 2020.

Learn about sales prospecting

About the author


ZoomInfo combines the leading business contact database with best-in-class technology to pinpoint, process, and deliver the marketing and sales intelligence you need— exactly when and how you need it, to always hit your number.

Subscribe to the ZoomInfo blog.

B2B marketing, growth, sales and more.

    Related Content