“Cold Calling is Dead” is a Misleading Claim … at Best

Without getting political, the power of fake news is evident. Information influences and in the marketing world, stats and headlines rule.

Google SERP of "Cold Calling is Dead"
Click above: A “Cold Calling is Dead” SERP.

Which is why there has been so much content around, “cold calling is dead.”

There’s enough widely sourced (but misleading) statistics about the ineffectiveness. And just as marketers love to claim, “SEO is dead” the headline tactic must work to be so widely used.

But further examination reveals that much of the cold calling is dead content is not that at all. Rather, the content discusses how cold calling has changed and how to do it well. Some of the content is promotional and looks to sell other sales tools. 

Suffice it to say, the rumors of Cold Calling’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Be wary of these cold calling is dead related stats and figures when researching sales software and strategy.  

Widely Sourced Misleading or Incorrect Stats

“Only 1% of cold calls ultimately convert into appointments, according to a study by the Keller Research Center at Baylor University.” 

This stat references a 2011 study where several Realtors cold called prospective homeowners. Agents were asked to call a generic, random list of numbers from a region not previously marketed to.  

Real estate agents made 6,264 cold calls over two weeks. Only 28 percent of calls (1,774) were completed i.e. it was a working number and the person answered.

Of those 1,774 calls, agents set a total of 19 appointments with prospective clients and 11 referrals were received. The one percent figure comes from 19/1774 = .01.   

The Problem: Real estate is a different world than SaaS sales or other industries and isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Also, this study failed to use any advanced prospecting tools such as data validation, social media, analytics, etc.

“Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment” 

This statistic is cited over and over again in Slideshares, infographics, and blog posts by respected brands. It’s attributed to Leap Job and the original source is no longer online. The Wayback Machine reveals the original source.

Curiously, there is no mention of two percent conversion rates anywhere in the post. The author calls for a more strategic approach to cold calling which has been adopted as technology advanced.

The Problem: In the words of Politifact, this a pants on fire lie. The figure might be true, but sourcing it without verifying the original source is misleading.

“Only 5-10% of people pick up the phone.”

The Problem: Attributed to the unregistered website.

“According to Telenet and Ovation Sales Group, it took 3.68 cold call attempts on average to connect with a prospect. In 2013, that number became 8 attempts.

The Problem: The original source is either impossible or extremely hard to find. Site searches for “cold call attempts” and other terms provide empty results.

“67 percent (or 70) of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.”

The Problem: As we’ve covered before, this stat is misleading and has been debunked by the original source (Sirius Decisions).  

Cold Calling is Dead & The Silicon Valley Sales Bible

Aaron Ross, former Director of Sales at Salesforce and author of, “Predictable Revenue,” was one of the first sales leaders to announce the death of cold calling. His book was tremendously successful and made many in tech rethink their strategies. But if you examine a popular quote from Ross, the message is really that cold calling as we knew it is dead.  

“Making the field salespeople do cold calls means having your highest-cost (per hour) sales resource perform the lowest-value (per hour) activity,” — Aaron Ross.

If sales reps are calling non-working numbers and outdated contacts as the studies above suggest, the result is a huge waste of resources. AI-powered prospecting and other methods help sales teams make cold calls when the data shows it’s a qualified opportunity. If not, they can use other tools at their disposal to determine interest.  

Real Data for Modern Cold Calling

Ironically, one of the best sources for cold calling figures posts data as a way of social selling. Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell, posted a screenshot of sales rep figures for dials, conversations, meetings set, etc. The caption was, “If cold calling is dead, who got these results last Thursday?”

If cold calling is dead, who got these results?

The post went viral and brought on some backlash from commenters. Beall has continued to post cold call figures nearly daily, the conversion rates usually range from 0 to 20 percent. His data shows the ups and downs of cold calling but also shows how dials are quantifiable. Sales reps may spend hours networking via LinkedIn or researching prospects but the ROI is hard to calculate.

The overall conclusion can be grasped without stats or case studies on either side. Use all sales tools and tactics available to create a diverse strategy. And be wary of stats thrown into marketing content without proper attribution.

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2 Comments

  1. Great post that debunks a lot of “fake-news” type stats. Whenever I see these debates, I’m drawn to the bottom line which is Cold Call if you have the scale, size, team, and money to do so. I believe at a seed stage warm calls are the way to go but as you mature and scale, and your burn goes up, where you need to maintain a high level of growth, hiring the army of cold callers can help get you that extra leverage.

    Cold calling is sub-optimal but still can be effective if you have the time and revenue to focus rather than closing deals and meeting with people which typically I believe lends itself for success. Right amount of calls at the right time.

    1. Thanks, Miles. Spot on. I think Aaron Ross had it right for the most part. There’s a better, more efficient way to call and yeah it’s still “cold” many times.

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