What is Cold Calling and How Does it Work?

Even today, the phrase ‘cold calling’ may generate connotations of pushy salespeople and unethical practices. But now in the world of modern B2B selling, that definition of cold calling has changed. Instead of focusing purely on transmitting information, the new intent of cold calling is to prioritise listening to prospects, building meaningful relationships, and creating long-term value.

This article will cover the challenges and benefits of cold calling, techniques for successful lead generation, and how salespeople can develop a more modern approach to cold calling to benefit business growth. But first, what does cold calling really mean?

What is cold calling? 

As one of the oldest forms of contact for salespeople, cold calling traditionally involves communication with a potential customer with whom the salesperson has had no prior interaction, and/or the prospect has not expressed any previous interest in the company. 

Alternatively, warm calling involves communication with a customer who has already expressed their interest in the company or its products and services. The call may be initiated due to the prospect asking a question or visiting a website.

The new definition: modern cold calling

Contrary to popular opinion, cold calling in its modern state is still valuable – if leveraged accurately.

Simply, we all need to reach out to new people to win new business. Modern cold calling allows you to reach out to these people, have a direct conversation, and get to know them authentically.

One call alone will not convert to a direct sale, but the real driver of modern cold calling is not soliciting business. You should be calling to connect with people and begin building quality relationships that will help you and your business grow. For example, cold calling can be hugely beneficial if you are aiming to generate new business leads or sales appointments for your company, or gather market intelligence such as contract review dates from your target audience to action in the future. 

The narrative has changed from ‘how can cold calling produce income for me’ to ‘how can I help the people I am calling’. Modern cold calling relies on intentionally building quality relationships and helping people over time, rather than pitching your business straight away. 

While traditional cold calling generally implies you are contacting the prospect because you want something from them, modern cold calling requires a genuine interest in the prospect and a willingness to walk away if you cannot meet their needs.

Not everyone will be open and receptive to cold callers, but if your intent is right you will have a much better chance of building a relationship and eventually developing new business. Investing time and energy into building relationships now will pay off in the future. 

What are the challenges of cold calling?

Amongst many challenges that salespeople take on in their customer-facing roles, cold calling is a time-consuming task that requires persistence. Here are some of the challenges of cold calling in more detail:


While beneficial, cold calling prospects requires a large investment of time. Cold calling teams need to not feel rushed and not be too concerned about making a large volume of calls. This allows them to focus on having quality conversations and fully exploring the prospect’s needs, goals, and challenges to build a relationship. 

Time also needs to be invested in reviewing monthly outputs, and for cold callers and their managers to discuss if any changes to strategy or extra training on the proposition are needed. 


A make or break for cold calling can often be data. Cold callers need to carefully consider the demographics for their dataset so they are contacting the audience who will be most receptive to their proposition. 

Accuracy of the dataset is just as important. Time spent gathering data (such as phone numbers from websites) is a distraction from time spent calling. Additionally, having accurate contact names and job roles will help speed up the process of getting through to the right decision-makers and having meaningful conversations. 


Pre-sales takes persistence, and investing time to find quality prospects is essential. Once engaged with a prospect, neglecting to commit to touchpoints and follow-ups can be detrimental to developing relationships and winning business. Careful time-keeping to enable long-term contact nurturing is crucial.

Handling rejection 

A good cold calling process will have a permission-based introduction, quickly allowing the contact to reject the call if busy. However cold callers will still come across Directors who are abrupt in their responses, or who receive many cold calls and may not be conversational or give detailed responses. 

Putting the prospect’s needs first will help to build genuine relationships with prospects. Salespeople need to avoid taking poor responses personally and be emotionally generous when dealing with differing behaviours.

What are the benefits of cold calling?

While challenging, modern cold calling has undeniable benefits that will help to build relationships and grow your business. 

Real-time response and accessibility

Despite its challenges, cold calling generates immediate conversations, an instant personal connection, and direct accessibility to set up a sales appointment. What more could you want?!

Raising awareness

Cold calling is a great way to raise awareness with your target profile or new targets. Speaking directly with prospects on the phone, businesses can quickly raise brand awareness to benefit branding activities or other marketing activities. 

Is cold calling still effective?

Cold calling by quantity of calls and not quality is no longer an effective practice. Prospects demand a more personalised and relationship-lead approach, so developing a modern approach to cold calling will help to grow your business. 

It can be a useful way to gain information and develop a genuine relationship with a potential client and help people discover the products or services you offer that they may not otherwise have come to you for.

The key is customer-centricity, and salespeople should ensure a new business relationship will be mutually beneficial. Both the company and customer should be able to offer something of value to the other.

So, what do you think about cold calling? Could modern cold calling have a place in your business development strategy? Still not sure? Talk to us to find out.

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