Cold Calling’s Multiple Personalities

Cold calling had been seen as a good thing up to the 1980s and then seen as a bad thing in the 21st century.

Most every sales trainer now claims cold calling is dead. Sales books, including “Never Cold Call Again” (affiliate link) claim it never need be done (however, in that book it’s worth noting that cold calling is required in the beginning, funny huh?)

Yet today business owners and sales managers continue to see cold calling as an essential function for new business development on a budget. And still nothing strikes more dread and fear in salespeople as cold calling.

Cold calling means different things to different people: Its multiple personalities mean it will never die. Click To Tweet

So here’s a look at a few of cold calling’s multiple personalities.


Cold Calling as Soul Destroyer

All salespeople will recognize this personality of cold calling. When doing the same thing over and over again, and not getting the desired results….well, it takes a part of you away.

And then some cold calling is worse than others, by far. The lowliest of the low are boiler rooms.

Here’s a painful personal story. As a very young man between jobs (aka out of work) I answered an ad for telesales.

It was a boiler room. The job was to call up companies at random from yellow pages and get the clerk who ordered printer cartridges on the line, and then work him or her over.

The boiler room script had us imply we were their regular source of printer cartridges, and to get a re-order over the phone.

Well, of course we weren’t that company’s normal source. But by calling large numbers of businesses we occasionally reached some tired, disheartened, lowly clerk who would actually place an order.

The boiler room did deliver printer cartridges as promised. But the sales were all based on a lie. On trickery. It was just plain sleazy.

I quit half-way through the first day. Didn’t get a commission. Didn’t even pick up the minimum hourly wage. It was soul destroying.

Obviously, if you’re cold calling without integrity, like in a boiler room, your soul withers up and dies.

Not all cold calling is like that. But cold calling can have a dragging, depressing effect on the salesperson’s psyche. The numbers are painful, and that can wear you out.

cold-calling-for opt-ins

Cold Calling for Opt-Ins

Sometimes in sales you want to get prospects’ permission to be able to reach out to them via email over a long time period, aka Permission Marketing.

Cold calling can help you get their permission. Obviously this is different from direct mail where junk mail ends up in prospects’ post box. Who cares if prospects really wanted that postcard or brochure?

Opt-In, Permission Marketing means prospects are allowing you to send them something of interest/value via email. If you’re buying a bunch of email addresses of unknown prospects and emailing them, well…you’re spamming. And that can eventually bounce you out of your Internet Service Provider (ISP). So, you’ll always want to have use Opt-In, Permission-based prospect lists.

The interesting thing about getting Opt-In Permission is that you need to reach prospects for the first time in order to get them to opt-in. And there lies the rub.

There are other ways than cold calling to gain Opt-Ins. For example, you can place banner ads, Pay Per Click (PPC) and pay other people to promote your request to add prospects to your Opt-In list. But those all cost money. And cold calling doesn’t cost anymore money than is already sunk into a sales person.

So cold calling in this case can be a legitimate although manual way to gain Op-Ins.

Of course you have to have an incentive for prospects to sign up with you, which typically is a freemium of valuable report, study, or tool.


Cold Calling for “Right-Place, Right-Time” Opportunities

This personality is the reason cold calling still exists. If you call enough prospects, and are at least mediocre in sales talent, at some point you’re going to run into someone who really needs what you’re selling.

And if you’re selling a high-ticket item, that one sale is going to outweigh all the pain and suffering you’ve gone through to get it.

Here’s another painful though successful example of this cold calling personality.

As the VP of Sales for a national contractor, I was cold calling a select list of A level prospects, ones we didn’t have any other direct access to (Yes, I did this to keep abreast of the market in addition to our local reps’ efforts).

I had been making 10 calls a day for a week when I surprisingly was connected through to one of the very largest of our A prospects, a contract worth more than $9 million at the time.

Immediately on hearing her answer the phone I got right to the point so as not to waste her time (my last question-first approach).

“Hi, I’m Chris Arlen with XYZ Services and we’d like to give you a proposal.”

Then I stopped talking and waited. Normally this is when the prospect would say thanks but no thanks and we’d end the call.

However, this call went differently. After a noticable 15-second pause, she asked me in a very challenging voice:

“Who told you?”

Somewhat surprise I answered:

“I not sure I know what you mean. I’m Chris Arlen with XYZ Services.”

She repeated her demand of:

“Who told you?”

Again I proclaimed my innocence and confusion, which must have convinced her I was telling the truth because she then relaxed and said:

“We’ve just left the meeting where we decided to put our contract out to bid. And we all swore to keep this quiet until we were ready to go public.”

In the brief talk that followed, we were able to laugh about the timing and confusion. We then agreed for me to fly out and tour her campus and manufacturing sites. And as a result, our firm was included on the bid list, which we would have missed otherwise if I hadn’t gotten lucky with that cold call.

This is why owners and sales managers still believe in cold calling. That cry of “it’s a numbers game” has echoed through sales meetings since the beginning of time.



Cold Calling is a functioning dysfunction.

All the above personalities are true for cold calling. And all at the same time. So when you decide to cold call, the “how your calling” and “what you’re trying to accomplish” impacts not only your results, but also how salespeople feel about it.

And that matters. Because who wants to slam their fingers in a drawer over and over again? It’s just something that won’t get done.

What other personalities do you have for cold calling?

Title image by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten 

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