Four Reasons why Cold-Calling is more Effective than Social Media

It’s easy to regard the telephone as a relic that serves no purpose but to clutter your desk and gather dust. Now that twitter, facebook and linkedin have conquered the internet, cold calling seems as primitive as clubbing your mate and dragging them into your cave.

The problem with cold-calling is that most people misunderstand its purpose. The purpose of calling up complete strangers is to ask them whether or not they’re interested in a product or service, NOT to sell them that product or service. You don’t make cold calls to build relationships or establish a community. You make cold calls because it’s one of the most efficient ways to generate a business lead from nothing.

Cold calling is more effective than social media because:

1. It’s faster
With social networking, you might be able to contact several people through your LinkedIn network, the blogosphere, or twitter, but the time it takes to narrow down qualified targets and message them one by one can take forever. After you send your messages to them, you might wait hours for an answer (if you get any at all). With cold calling, you can reach around 40 people an hour and get yes or no answers from all of them.

2. It’s impersonal
Many complain that cold calling is primitive because there’s no trust involved. But approaching a prospect that you haven’t established trust with is actually the easiest way to determine their interest. If a cold-calling prospect says “yes” to you it means they’re genuinely interested in what you’re selling. People who have friended or followed you through social media can feign interest and string you along before you figure out that their lukewarm “yes” was really a “no” in disguise. It’s much easier, and much more honest to sell something to someone who doesn’t give a shit about you. That way you know that they’re buying the product for the product itself–not because of your sparkling personality.

3. It’s simple
Social media (at least as far as marketing is concerned) is ridiculously complex. There are countless ebooks out there on how to leverage social media to get business, but as far as I can tell most of the folks selling these ebooks haven’t really figured it out themselves.

Although there are some “pro” tricks one can pick up along the way as a cold-caller, for the most part cold calling is simple:

  1. Put together a list of numbers.
  2. Write a script.
  3. Call the numbers and use your script to talk to prospects.
  4. Set appointments

You could have the persuasion skills of a Koosh ball and still be an excellent cold caller. All you have to do is have a good script, and a list of answers to the most common objections. As a cold caller, your job is to ask questions and determine exactly what the prospect wants and see if that’s in any way compatible with what you offer. If not, move on. There’s no way you could have sold that person anyway, regardless of whether you used twitter, facebook, or a megaphone outside their office.

4. It gives you access, if only for a fleeting moment, to that rare commodity called “other people’s attention.”
In the ADD world of twitter et al, how can you expect your voice to be heard through all the static, even if you do have 10,000 followers? When you get a person on the phone you have their attention. Because they don’t know you they’re much less likely to pretend they’re interested when they really aren’t, and because you don’t know them you have no compunction about asking tough questions to determine their interest.

Cold calling is not a tool for selling. It’s a research tool that you can use to find qualified prospects who have an interest in your product. It’s important not to sell on the phone, but take just enough time to determine interest so that you can set up a face-to-face meeting. It’s at this meeting when the real sale happens.

Social media is still a very poor way of getting new people interested in your business, but it does have its place. It’s a very good way to maintain existing relationships with people that you’ve already done business with. It’s certainly not, however, the end all be all of marketing.

So if you find that no one is responding to your tweets or emails, stop obsessing about whether you’re doing social media wrong. Pick up the damn phone already. If you can dial a number and read from a script, you’ve already done it right.

Photo by: Jamiesrabbits

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  • Social media is not yet what every one wish it were, but someday, like all things, we will begin to grasp it’s full potential.

    For now though, social media is an added tool to your cold calling efforts.

    As for #2 I see cold calling as a more personal contact, than impersonal, but I do understand the point you want to make. Which is you do not know them nor do they know you, so what really is at risk.

    #3 states that it is simple, which is true when compared to the difficulties of social media, but still important that you take it seriously. Cold calling is not just about picking up the phone, but understand what happens and why, when you do.

  • Great article Kenji. Even though I hate calling people on the phone it has got me clients. Like you say social media has its place but good old cold calling gets the job done.


  • Kenji


    I was probably a little too hard on social media in this piece, but I didn’t want to dilute my argument by not taking a stand. Social media is an excellent supplement for cold calling, especially if you send a follow up email or message through LinkedIn.

    As for your arguments about #3. There certainly is more to it than picking up the phone. I’ve read some pretty good books about making cold calls and all of them have good techniques that I’ve used personally. A lot of cold calling skill comes down to trial and error and practice. The books on cold calling probably wouldn’t have been so useful for me before I had made a couple thousand calls beforehand. There wouldn’t be a reference point.

    Yup, the odds are certainly in your favor when you call. It’s the only surefire way I know of to drum up business in one day.

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  • Toby

    I have been cold calling all my career, by phone, in person and in some cases even via social media, so I don’t disagree with the fundamentals of what you’re saying, but I do question your reference to how social media can be used:

    “follow up email or message through LinkedIn”

    This is not ‘social’ this is ‘direct’.

    A follow up Tweet, where you reference the call and share some specific insight gained, or piece of information collected would be ‘social’.

    Recommending the prospect to others, would be ‘social’.

    Spending time exploring the prospects LinkedIn profile and digging through their affiliations, shared connections and social activity is ‘social’.

    Social enhances the cold calling experience. It provides a way to strengthen and deepen that initial contact and it allows a conversation to continue beyond the call itself.

    It’s not about whether cold calling is more effective than social media, because they are fundamentally different things.

    Instead, it’s about how social media can help make the prospecting process, the cold call and the subsequent follow up much more effective than before.


  • Andrew Gilchrist


    I completely agree with your argument. The point of lead generation is to make sales people more efficient, not less.

    I have to say, thought, that I think your cold calling process seems a bit simplistic. I would hate for people to get the wrong idea, have poor results and therefore blame cold calling for their troubles. I think the idea that cold calling is “easy” is what gives it a bad name – so many people have poor successes with cold calling because of the people they hire or their list or their lack of proper preparation. It takes a lot of work to find good people, train them, refine a message, determine the appropriate targets and put together a list that is accurate, targeted and up to date. I don’t think most people realize the complexity of starting a cold-calling campaign for complex products or services.

    That said, I am glad you pointed out the fundamental point that the purpose of cold calling is not to sell, but to gauge interest.

    – Andrew

  • Incidentally, tradeshow & webinar lead and leads generated from content download forms are just as suspect as those generated from social media. Yet there is a prevailing notion among many sales managers that keeping sales reps bus with 100s of questionable leads is more productive than giving them 10 solid ones. Until this changes, people are going to look for ways to generate large quantities of leads with minimal effort (or the perception thereof).

    These negative myths surrounding cold-calling and lead generation frustrate me to no end.

  • Kenji


    You make a lot of excellent points, and I agree with them completely. I especially like the distinction you make between ‘social’ and ‘direct’, something that hadn’t occurred to me when I wrote the post. I think my frustration from the social media boom is the lack of directness, or an environment where being direct and to the point when approaching prospects is considered rude or uncalled for.


    I appreciate the comment about my cold calling process, I wouldn’t want others to get the wrong idea either. Thinking back to my cold calling career as a headhunter in Tokyo, i spent a lot of time combing through databases, lists and directories just to get a list of qualified prospects. That list building process was of considerable enough complexity that I don’t think I’d be able to have been so successful if someone said “just do it” and point me to a phone.

  • The real answer is they complement each other …if you have the time and resources. If you have to pick one OR the other, then this discussion will live on forever. My personal opinion is that nothing beats the personal touch of a cold call – but if you have the luxury, social media marketing can certainly hedge your bets on those cold calls

  • bob

    It’s a double rainbow! Across the sky!!! Oh…my…god!!! Oh…..oh……..”weep” It’s turning into a triple rainbow. What does it mean???

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  • This article was great indeed, its very informative especially to those newbie here in the industry. We really do need a prospect to do the cold calling in our business. And we must be aware of things that are included to that field. If you have time and want to know more about this please check my blog at

  • Mati

    Great post! You’re absolutely right — you could starve trying to get business with social media, but a good cold calling campaign puts food on the table! Of course, social media has its place and it can really boost the end sales results — but it’s no substitute for the “real thing”. Too many people are just afraid to pick up the phone (fear of rejection, etc.) — overcome that, and the rest is easy.

  • you’re all idiots and have no idea what good content can do. You are likely going about it wrong (i.e. soliciting quotes via Twitter)

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