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What Meaning Are You Attaching to Cold Calling?

Why don’t you pick up the phone and make cold calls? Is it because you lack the confidence? Is it because you don’t have a planned dialogue? Maybe you procrastinate for some other reason, like the fact that there are more pleasant but less effective activities that you can take. Or maybe you attach way too much meaning to cold calling.

Rejected and Dejected

Some people attach way to much meaning to cold calling. They believe that all of the “no” responses they receive mean that they have been personally rejected. They believe that they aren’t good enough at cold calling to succeed. Neither of these is likely to be true.

First, you are going to get a lot of “no” answers when you make cold calls. It doesn’t mean that you have been personally rejected. Your dream clients are busy, and they can’t tell value creators from time wasters very easily, so they reject every salesperson. The most effective salespeople I know fail on as many as 80% of the connections they make. It’s fortunate that the connections they do make generate millions of dollars in revenue. It’s even more fortunate that they don’t take “no” personally. In fact, they don’t attach any meaning to it at all.

If you are concerned about getting “no” answers, try asking for referrals. If you do great work you’ll get some referrals, but your clients will run out of referrals before you run out of need. Eventually they will tell you “no,” when asked. But that doesn’t mean you were rejected, does it? You’ll get the same “no” asking for appointments on using LinkedIn, email, or whatever other source you believe is better than the phone. What do you believe the answer is when your dream client deletes your email without responding at all?

You might invest cold calling with a negative meaning because you believe you aren’t yet good at making calls. You might be right, too. Maybe you could improve your phone skills and your value creation. Fair enough. But my guess is you are better than you think, and with a little practice you can be effective enough to make cold calling worthwhile. You aren’t going to get better at activity if you don’t invest the time and energy in improving.

More Negative Meaning

Salespeople are getting really, really soft. Some salespeople have even suggested to me that they don’t like cold calling because it is demeaning. It’s beneath them. Others have told me that they don’t want to be perceived as a salesperson. They say things like “I want to be consultative,” or “I want to be a their trusted advisor.” They have attached a negative meaning to cold calling because they have (incorrectly) attached a negative meaning to who salespeople are and what salespeople do.

I’ve written posts in the past to disabuse these “too soft” salespeople of all of the incorrect beliefs and opinions they have about sales and salespeople. They met instead embrace sales. Your dream client knows that you are in sales whether you call them, email them, or are introduced through a referral. They don’t think any less of you, and more still, they have salespeople they now call trusted advisor who opened the relationship through a cold call.

But the final word here is that you’ll never take action and make your calls if you have attached negative meanings to cold calling—or any other form of prospecting. Your prospecting activity must be based on a positive meaning. Try this:

If you are a value creator, go and create value. You aren’t helping anyone by sitting around like an order-taker and waiting for the phone to ring. Your dream clients are waiting for you to start creating value. They are waiting for you to initiate the conversation. They are waiting for you to help them get better business results. What does it mean that you aren’t taking action on their behalf?


What meaning do you attach to cold calling?

Are you really being personally rejected?

What kind of success do you really need to have to make your prospecting efforts worthwhile?

Have you attached negative connotations to cold calling or sales more generally?

Are you really a value creator? If you are, why aren’t you sharing your gifts?

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  • Bob Sanders

    Before cold-calling, every sales person should understand WHY he or she is doing it. If your “purpose” is to get appointments, to make sales so that you can make money, it may be difficult to maintain your focus and energy through the inevitable rejection.  On the other hand, if you are truly committed to leveraging your expertise and your company’s solutions to help solve other people’s problems, the strength of your purpose will help propel your efforts.  Keep this in mind, EVERYONE who ever bought from you did so because they BELIEVED is was in their personal best interest to do so.  Had you never called, they never would have had the opportunity to realize this impact and they would have been worse off as as result.  Fulfill your purpose today, go make some calls and find those people whose personal and professional lives you can enrich, simply because you were willing to reach out to them.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I love it, Bob! Perfectly said! 

  • Cara Celli

    I love the video! & it is true that salespeople place way too much emphasis on worrying about what a prospect or client will say when you call them. So they just put it off, and unfortunately, make it become a phobia. It shouldn’t be. You’re just talking to a person. Someone who’s probably very much like yourself, who doesn’t have precious time to waste. That’s where preparation and planning your calls comes into play. But I think all of us who do this on a daily basis would agree that you should just pick up that phone and call the first person. After that, like you said, it gets much easier, and you get into a groove. And you might even find that your prospects/clients are delighted to hear from you. Thanks for the reminder, CC

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Cara! I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here!


  • Mike Rudd

    In my industry I find that people don’t like to cold call simply b/c they think it is an ineffective routine that is a time waster and will never lead to sales.  Also not by coincidence I don’t think they are the same ones always searching for new prospects and trying to figure out why their funnel isn’t full.
    If you are passionate about what you represent and you are cold calling people that it might make sense for then cold calling is fun b/c you are presenting people with an opportunity to talk to them about helping their business!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Not by coincidence indeed, Mike! Not that cold calling is the only method you should use to prospect or the only method that allows you help people. But, it is still extraordinarily effective. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here! 


  • Amy

    This may come down to a case of semantics, but I don’t consider the process you describe as cold calling. Cold calling is so irritating to many because it often happens after minimal interaction on a given website. Sometimes I’ll download a whitepaper or attend a free webinar and will be inundated with emails and sales calls, asking if I’m interested in the product or service. The company is jumping ahead in the relationship by calling/emailing their sales pitch without first giving me a reason to want to talk to them.

    So the process you describe in the video—nurturing leads with valuable content before ever calling them—doesn’t seem like cold calling to me. If I attend a webinar or download a whitepaper and I get several personalized, nurturing emails, I’m more likely to take a call.

    Great article, nice points. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amy. I believe you are right that cold calls can be irritating, but I would frame the reason a little differently. If you downloaded a white paper, it would indicate some interest. The question for the salesperson then becomes “how do I best create value for this person at this stage of their buying cycle?” Your interest in reading a white paper may not suggest you are ready for a pitch, but it might indicate you are ready to learn or explore some ideas.

      I still believe that you have to call and ask for appointments from people who aren’t expecting your call, even after you have nurtured the relationship. Is it a “warmer” call? Absolutely! And that’s the idea; be known as a value creator before you call.


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  • Amber King

    Thank you for discussing this topic. Cold calling has been tagged as a nuisance but it still remains effective.  Agree with you that the reason people fear cold calling is because of the negative attachment.

    Give value to the call. Perfect. Make sure that each time you call, you are generating a valuable call.