The Truth About Why Salespeople Don’t Like Cold Calling

There are two groups of people who cold call: telemarketing firms and professional salespeople. For telemarketing firms, cold calling is what they do. For professional salespeople, cold calling is one tool in an arsenal of many tools (or at least it had better be).

There are many reasons that salespeople don’t like cold calling, but in professional salespeople, it is rarely a fear of rejection. Instead, it is usually one of three reasons:

Lack of Preparedness

No one wants to do a job that they don’t have the proper tools, technology and training they need to succeed. The tools, the technology, and the training prepare you to succeed and build confidence. The opposite is also true; a lack of the proper tools, technology and training destroys confidence.

For cold calling this boils down to a couple of key factors. Do you have a written script? Do you have a written script for objections? Is the script something that you can be proud to use? Does your script make you sound like a professional whose clear goal is to create value for the customer? Or does it make you sound like a credit card company?

Lack of Ability to Differentiate

Professional salespeople need to differentiate themselves in a crowded field. This is difficult to do, and it is more difficult over the telephone–especially when the salesperson rattles off the same lines the prospect just heard from a competitor. Salespeople don’t like to make cold calls when they cannot differentiate themselves. There are a lot of gimmicks and tricks to differentiate that have been tried over the years, like fake polls and surveys, but all result in a lack of trust once the call turns into a sales call.

To differentiate yourself on the phone is difficult, but it has to be done and it has to be authentic. One great way to do so is to create value for the prospect.

Inability to Create Value for the Prospect

Professional salespeople succeed when they create value for their prospects and customers. When cold calling doesn’t provide you with the ability to create value for the prospect, it doesn’t feel like a worthwhile use of your time. There are sales organizations who have figured out how to deliver value before claiming value over the telephone. They still ask for appointments. But the calls are valuable for the prospect because they provide the prospect with something more than request for an appointment.

The reason telemarketing is so offensive to the people receiving the call is because it is so one-sided; it isn’t about creating value for them.

Conclusion: Poor Results and Call Reluctance

All of the above factors lead to poor results, and poor results lead to less activity. Nobody likes to do something that isn’t working. They like it even less when the person on the other end of their activity doesn’t like being the recipient of the activity. Correcting and improving the three factors above can make cold calling a more valuable tool in a salesperson’s arsenal.


Here are some questions you can use to start thinking about how you can improve your cold calling activity.

1. Do I have a great script for making calls? Is it professional?

2. Do I have written scripts for all of the potential objections I might receive on the call?

3. Does my script immediately make me different in the mind of my prospective customer? Does it make me sound like the last ten salespeople who called?

4. What could I say on a cold call that would differentiate me from my competitors? Who do I have to be to stand out from the crowd? How does the prospect know I am remarkable over the telephone?

5. How could I make a cold call a valuable use of my prospect’s time? What does the prospect need that I could use the cold call as an opportunity to deliver?

NOTE: I know I am certain to hear from the anti-cold calling crowd that there is no longer any reason to cold call. This is simply not true. Cold calling can and should be a tool in every professional salesperson’s toolkit, in addition to a host of other tools. When it comes to prospecting, the most important activity in sales, there aren’t any tools that should be discounted. Unless you have and endless supply prospects beating a path to your door, and you don’t, then cold calling is still a valuable and necessary tool.

I would note that salespeople like asking for referrals about as much as they like cold calling, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t effective or shouldn’t be used.

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4279.



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  • Tony Johnston


    Thanks for the great post! You’ve given us clear analytical thinking here and some constructive ways to warm-up what might otherwise be pretty cold introductory sales calls indeed.


    Tony Johnston
    Compass North Inc.

  • Keith Bossey

    Anthony, another excellent post. I consider myself a sales professional and I too am amazed by the number of people who have abandoned the cold call. Whenever I’ve been in a position to manage a sales force, we’ve built our pipeline through the cold call. Why? Because it is effective, especially in a B2B setting. No matter how much emphasis is placed on inbound marketing, there still are many prospects that cannot be reached in that fashion. Making an intelligent call to the right person is the easiest way to jumpstart a relationship. The key(s) to success though, are contained in your 5 points above. Neglect that preparation, and you actually diminish your chances and it is that “unprepared” call that sits in the mind of many executives when they think about promoting cold calling as a tactic.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Hi Keith, Thanks for your thoughts. Many companies build a great sales organization with cold calling as a primary prospecting method. I don’t disagree with those that suggest inbound is important, but I never believe that one should leave the battlefield with any weapon unfired . . . including cold calling.

  • Vashistha Diwan


    Really liked the post. It gives a new dimension to think about cold calling. I believe creating value is very essential. Until and unless you answer the question “What is in for me?”, the prospect isn’t interested. I also feel besides the script, the cold calling people should also go a extra mile to bond with the prospect by analyzing tone, voice etc and if required they can also talk stuff other than business in order to connect to prospect.

    Vashistha Diwan

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for the comment, Vashistha!

  • Mike Pridavka


    Excellent post, I’d just add one thing. How prepared is the salesperson? Did they do their homework on who they are calling? The one thing that will shut down even the best of the best is if you have the wrong person or you don’t know what they do. It’s very important that a salesperson gets the right contact information for the right person and that they understand what the company does. I like to think of it as turning cold calling into warm calling if I can find something to relate to the person about. For a seasoned salesperson it’s second nature to want the background information before they make the call. I do believe that providing tools that give sales people what they need and make them more efficient is the fastest way to grow revenue.

    Best regards,
    Mike Pridavka

  • Bernie Stavis


    Thank you for sharing your cold calling thoughts and a lot of very valuable points covered…thanks again. I am not one of those cold calling is totally dead subscribers; however, I do think the cold calling game has obviously changed. B2B professionals are still being bombarded with cold calls and are now doing so in an economic environment in which they are being asked to do what they did 2-3 years ago with half the resources! Thus, your points about bringing value and differentiating yourself are no longer an option but are now rather a requirement on each and every call. The sales game has certainly changed and we need to take advantage of available tools like LinkedIn or Facebook and reference quotes from articles from contacts we are trying to gain mindshare with. As part of the script and messaging we also need to make sure we are using benefit statements related to that person’s role/title and reference business issues that were solved by your product/service/solution within their industry…in the event that you are fortunate to get someone live on the phone!

    For what it’s worth, I have heard a few positive comments about a couple of companies that have helped organizations sell in a tough economy in 2009 and are an important part of organizational sales strategies for 2010:

    Coach Media for sales training in a tough economic environment. https:\\

    HubSpot for inbound marketing, which has helped SMBs with having quality prospects find them and creating a competitive advantage, especially by leveraging the playing field against their larger competitors as well as increasing revenue.

    Cold calling isn’t dead but having a reason to call with a story to tell is a must have in today’s environment. We also need to leverage new technologies and social media sources as ways to differentiate and standout!

    Thanks again for the post!


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for the comment, Bernie. Hubspot does look like a group that is doing good work. Your link to Coach Media is broken though.

  • Kenneth

    Awesome post about cold calling!!

  • Sales Training Program

    For small business owners or sales managers that need additional help getting their team prepared to sound different in 2010 when making cold calls, try our free online sales training workshop:

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  • Surya

    thats a nice shot on cold calling. the blog rocks. keep going!

  • Harry Harris


    It’s my first visit to your blog and I enjoyed your post and the readers comments – bravo!

    I am not of the “anti-cold calling crowd” and whole heartedly agree with your comment below:

    Quote: “When it comes to prospecting, the most important activity in sales, there aren’t any tools that should be discounted. Unless you have and endless supply prospects beating a path to your door, and you don’t, then cold calling is still a valuable and necessary tool.” End

    Adding to that I think we all agree that as sales professionals we just want to make more sales in less time with less stress, get raving fans that give us tons of pre qualified hot referrals…that’s my experience anyway.

    My experience has also taught me that there are effective ways and means to “position” yourself in a market so that prospects and clients are more disposed to searching you out when using the internet etc. – facebook, linkedin and other web 2.0 sites as noted above by fellow readers, thereby changing the dynamic of the buying process, making the sales cycle shorter among other things as the prospect has pre qualified themselves and have an evident need now and they have identified you as a potential solution provider – I love getting these type of calls.

    Anyway there is a video by McKinsey Quarterly that I think is tremendously interesting and shows a study about the changing habits of our prospects and clients and I hope your readers enjoy it.

    In effect I believe there is a New Sales Revolution where sales people can leverage tools that the sales people who have gone before us never had and never dreamed possible, but tools the modern sales person can utilize to make more sales with less time and less stress…I found your website as an example using such a tool!

    An example of this is having an online presence as a sales person – a hub from which to brand yourself as an expert and offer tremendous value to prospects and clients above and beyond your competition (don’t start me on how we can work WITH our competition to make even more sales…but that’s another comment…)

    I am suprised at how many sales people do not have an online presence for their business, but can spend hours on twitter and bebo chatting and discussing personal things – which makes no money!

    One method [as an example and to hopefully add value to your blog post] that I have found useful is gleaning automated information from Google Alerts on specific companies and contacting them based on that relevant and up to date information – often times finding out where they ‘hang out’ online and contacting them via these methods

    It honestly saves me hours of cold calling – so in the context of best use of time and ROI it beats just smiling and dialing – I can often have leads in my inbox before I leave the house!

    Also having a meaningful and automated communication system with prospects and clients alike is essential and a space often missed by those who solely cold call or don’t think beyond the norm.

    Having a newsletter – very much like you have here Anthony – is a way to stay in touch that does not involve calling and asking if ‘anything has changed’ which simply annoys people….but having an email list keeps you in front of clients and prospects in a value adding way, and when they have a need you have positioned yourself and your business as a provider of solutions and information consistently over time [all for free] so that you are in pole position to be called upon to discuss their present issues and needs – when they are now in ‘heat’ and not out of season.

    Cold calling can be and often is a momentary event – soon forgotten in the mind of the prospect…

    So ‘cold cold calling’ (not a typo) is what I am against as I am sure most would agree… finding a successful and meaningful alternative to cold calling for most sales people is the difficult bit – but there are alternatives….

    I have read many books on sales (and will add the ones that you have recommended here to my list) and I am a fan of Frank Rumbauskas, Dave Lakhani and Michael Port (who I respect tremendously) as well as Tony Parinello because I have incorporated some of their thoughts in my business and they have worked very well…but like all things we have to see if an Author has taken a position and is now locked into defending that position, even if there are viable alternatives…..

    As I see it be yourself and play to your strenghts, remove or outsource your weaknesses, honestly try to help people achieve their goals before you try toi reach yours and this whole selling thing gets a whole lot easier….

    Take good care and I look forward to reading more on your blog and wish you the very best with what you are achieving in helping sales people everywhere!


  • Paul Ravetti

    We (sales people) cannot rely on marketing so sales professionals can receive inbound leads. Cold calling is the neccessary evil to expand (or rejuvinate) your sales pipeline. Especially when you have a product far ahead of the the market curve (differentiating self), the sales person is the “company evangelist” to educate prospective customers on their solution-based product.

    Successful sales reps describe a problem to a prospect that the prospect didn’t realize they had. Using this approach on the initial cold call is very receptive from the prospects perspective (creating value). The rep is able to present the problem and supply a solution.

    Cold calling is one of the many tools we sales people need to keep sharp, use daily, and rely on.

    I say, “Keep cold calling & educate the world!”

  • David Tyner

    Anthony, after I read this article I couldn’t wait to start dialing. I read so many articles saying cold calling is dead. People tend to want to kill anything that seems too hard for them. But I have found in every meaningful sales, there is a strategic cold call or two acting as a bridge between sales stages. Thank you!

  • David Tyner

    Anthony, after I read this article I couldn’t wait to start dialing. I read so many articles saying cold calling is dead. People tend to want to kill anything that seems too hard for them. But I have found in every meaningful sale, there is a strategic cold call or two acting as a bridge between sales stages. Thank you!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for your comments, David! Glad I inspired you to pick up and dial.

  • Barry Papo

    Yes, knowing how to properly do “cold calling” is an art form. Your information is right on!
    This expertise can be taught in a step by step method. that produces huge success! I actually had the training to listen to “live dials” by one of the top experts with these skill sets. The following is a free site for that skill set training: Hope it helps your readers.
    Again, thank you for you article.

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  • Syed Shah

    Hi Anthony

    Very good post.

    One comment I would add is that Cold Calling for the Professional Sales Person is a very time consuming affair – IF it is done properly.

    And so each Sales Person should not simply pick up the phone and roll off a script. They should treat the activity with respect, which (to me personally) means:

    (i) Respect the time they are about to invest in this activity

    (ii) Set, understand and prepare for the results that will come from this investment of their time – BELIEVE in what you are about to do

    (iii) Take a serious ATTITUDE – this is a Business activity, not something that you should feel you have to do or something that everyone says must be done i.e. don’t do it for the sake of cold calling.

    Do not expect to be successful each time and have the correct attitude to take knock backs and to take success.

    (iv) And then PREPARE, in the way you suggested or as appropriate

    I’ve always followed this mantra: BELIEF, ATTITUDE, PREPARE – as the basis for my cold calling success.

    Good luck wishes to everyone cold calling today and the days to come…….

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Great comments, Syed. I particularly like your admonition to take it seriously. It is, in fact, a business activity, and that requires it be done with full engagement and thoughtfulness. Anything we do mindlessly tends to get poorer results than we might get otherwise.

      • Dan S

        Also, it requires management who understand this process is a long play, not a short play. It is about finding targets, turning targets to prospects and prospects to opportunities.

  • Dan

    Cold-calling is fun. You end up meeting a lot of nice people in your industry and they will tell you a lot about their profession and their market.
    Some salesmen are the happiest people in the world. I think this not only has to do with their making and achieving goals, but also the fact that the really good salesmen connect with their clients – they get the human experience in their jobs.

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  • Ben

    This article appears to be 4 years old now. We’ve advanced quite far in other ways to market business. That said, nobody likes cold calls. Nobody likes giving them, nobody likes taking them. It’s a broken system that needs to die, hence why there is a ‘do not call’ list in effect now.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Well look at that. This article is four years old and as true today as it was then.

    • Dan S

      Knowing full well I, sincerely, absolutely LOVE making cold calls – I can counter this ‘nobody likes cold calls’ line of thought. I have had no one (not an exaggeration) tell me to ‘Pi$$ off’ from making cold calls and some of the biggest deals we’ve landed have come from this process.

      Syed summed it up above – more often it doesn’t work because of the caller rather than the callee.

      Cold calling is a very necessary part of a sales persons tool kit and a skill well worth mastering as it can be very effective.

      In my experience, those that shoot it down are the ones that are afraid to or can’t do it effectively – so dismiss it as an ineffective strategy. Not intended to offend you (and it may) but it has certainly been my experience, and a mindset easily changed it you’re prepared to be uncomfortable for a while.

      As for ‘needing to die’ – disagree here entirely. In this day of technology and marketing saturation – I have had more people say ‘wow, you’re the first sales person to actually ring me to come see me’. The personal touch, if done properly, can be very effective with your targets. Much more than fancy marketing, passive sales and non-personal interaction.

  • Dan S

    The single biggest, and often forgotten, advantage of cold calling/prospecting is you get to deal with the people you want to work with. Marketing to drive business to you is indiscriminate. And, given the message, you are then compelled to work with the people once the act on the marketing.

    Direct prospecting (whether cold calling or otherwise) allows you to identify and target the opportunities you WANT to work with. By an extension of this, your service levels naturally improve as you’ve chosen this path, rather than had it dropped on you.

    Like Syed said below, done properly it is a quite a process. Under your preparedness, Anthony, you could expand on this well beyond just the script. It starts with a clear view of your targets, researching them, finding out who you know that knows them etc. The script and call are at the end of a considered process.