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, whether you’re in the business world or an average citizen who has received one too many unsolicited calls.

Though just about everyone knows of cold calling as a concept, it has been given several different definitions and interpretations as a sales practice. So too has the alternative – the predictably-titled “warm calling”.

To provide clarity, today’s post breaks down the key differences between cold calling and warm calling – what they mean, which is better, and how to effectively perform each method. Keep reading!

What is the definition of cold calling?

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

Among sales reps, businesses and everyday people alike, cold calls are a contentious practice. Check out these statistics and you’ll understand why it gets such a bad rep:

  • Less than 2% of cold calls result in a meeting (source)
  • Less than 1% of cold calls result in a sale (source)
  • Sales cold calls are ineffective 90.9% of the time (source)

With that kind of results, it’s no wonder that 63% of salespeople say it is the least favorite part of their jobs (source).

Despite these statistics, cold calls are still prevalent in today’s B2B sales environment – 78% of decision-makers say they’ve taken an appointment or attended an event because of a cold call (source).

Still, because of its overall ineffectiveness (and its tendency to be unenjoyable), many sales professionals believe cold calling is dead. Keep reading, as later on in this post we’ll explain why it isn’t entirely a relic of the past and still has its place in the modern sales world.

Graphic illustration of people holding up cell phones, representing warm and cold calls.

What is warm calling?

The key difference between cold and warm calling is: warm calling is the act of 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 will not come as a surprise to them.

Warm calling is about beginning the conversation before you pick up the phone. In today’s digital landscape, there are an increasing number of effective methods to do that

By establishing prior contact with a prospect, however brief, you’ve built a certain level of trust with them. They are therefore more likely to listen to your pitch and consider whether your products can fix a problem they want to address.

Here are some ways to warm up your prospects before making your first call:

1. Social Selling

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

Failing to utilize social media as a sales tool puts you at a disadvantage, as 75% of B2B buyers use social media in their decision-making process (source).

For more information on social selling, check out the following blog posts:

2. Referrals

Rather than calling a prospect out of the blue with nothing but your sales pitch to back you up, consider seeking a referral. Look and see if you have any mutual connections with the prospect in question that can give you an introduction. It’s more than worth the effort – 84% of B2B decision-makers begin their buying process with referrals (source).

3. Direct mail

Though it may seem like an outdated method given the current technology, direct mail campaigns are still incredibly effective. Consider these statistics:

  • The response rate for direct mail is 5.1% compared to .6% for email and .6% for paid search (source).
  • 66% of people have bought something because of direct mail (source).

While it requires a lot 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.

Is cold calling dead?

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

The short answer is no – cold calls still have their place, and likely always will. The methods we broke down for effective warm calling are great, but for some companies, warm calling presents the following issues:

It’s less immediate:

Because warm calling starts by initiating contact through other methods 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.

It’s more complex:

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

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

3 Ways to Warm Up Your Sales 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 rules to follow to ensure that even your cold calls are effective.

1. Clean up your data:

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

Low-quality data is the biggest problem facing B2B sales reps today. In fact, inaccurate contact data wastes an average of 27.3% of sales reps’ time (source). 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.

For more information on how to clean up your data for the sake of improved cold calls, read our post: 21 Statistics to Improve Your Cold Calls.

2. Prioritize research:

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

When faced with a long list of prospects to cold call, sales reps understandably avoid doing 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. Therefore, 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.

Key Takeaways to Improve Your Cold Call Sales Pitch

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.

To learn more about ZoomInfo and how we can help you reach your sales productivity goals, contact us today!

About the author

Sam Holzman

Sam Holzman was the Content Marketing Manager at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact database and sales intelligence solution.

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