What’s Better, Cold Calling or Cold Emailing?
While both cold calling and cold emailing have their merits, they both naturally have their downsides as well. Because they counterbalance one another, most sales representatives use both when engaging in lead generation and customer outreach.
If you’re just starting out, however, and only have the bandwidth for one approach, you’re likely wondering whether to spend your time on phone calls or email campaigns.
Rather than spending your cold outreach time trying to find the answer to this and other existential questions–like the meaning of life, whether we’re living in a contracting universe or an expanding one, and which is superior: cold calling or cold emailing–we’re here to help you discover which cold outreach sales strategy gives you more bang for your buck.
Whether you generate leads on LinkedIn, through email, or by using another strategy, both cold calling and cold emailing can help you level up your business—but which is more ideal?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which is best cold calling or cold emailing, knowledge is power. The more you know, the better your sales prospecting process will become, and the greater chance of a sale you’ll have with each potential customer. To that end, we will discuss:
- Both types of cold lead generation efforts
- The pros, cons, and effectiveness of each
- The effects of timing in cold calls and emails
- How to make an overall decision on which strategy to use (or how to merge the two)
Once we’re finished, you’ll have an excellent framework for deciding on cold B2B sales calls vs cold email outreach. Let’s get started!
Cold Email vs Cold Call
In both scenarios, you are reaching out to brand-new possible leads with the intent of turning them into prospects—and hopefully, in the end, clients and customers.
You may have gotten your leads (names and phone numbers or email addresses, depending) from a B2B data provider or from your own lead generation efforts. Ideally, those leads have already gone through a quality check to ensure your contacts are decision-makers who have problems that your product and/or service can solve. (Defining your Ideal Customer Profile will help you target more qualified prospects.)
Note that not all lists go through a quality check. Failing to do so will usually reduce the effectiveness of your cold call/email campaign—more on that under “Success Rates” below!
For now, we will turn our attention to the pros and cons of both cold emailing and calling. When deciding between cold calling vs cold emailing, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting—and what you aren’t—with each. Let’s start with email.
Pros & Cons of Cold Emailing
Emailing is an easy technology to use because it’s so simple to automate and requires very little of your time to actually conduct.
That’s not to say it doesn’t require time and effort to set up. But once you do, you can contact someone pretty much indefinitely until they tell you to stop or you make the sale. That makes it a great use of your resources, and it brings other benefits as well.
Pros of Cold Emailing
While cold calling is a fairly time-honored practice, cold emailing is quite new. That hasn’t stopped it from quickly taking up a huge share of the cold outreach “market,” if you will. Whether you’re conducting B2B sales or B2C, email marketing brings tons of perks to the table.
It’s Easier to Scale
Scale is one of the biggest factors when deciding between cold calling vs cold emailing. Once you create a series of cold email templates and automate them, it’s easy to assign leads to specific stages of the automation.
As new prospects come in, you can slot them into various buckets of your email campaigns, depending on their needs, decision-making level, industry, where you found them, and so on. A CRM with built-in email automation, which allows you to structure all that data for more targeted outreach, will come in handy. (And yes, Close does all of this and more.)
It’s Simpler to Distribute
Email is also easier to put out into the world than calling. Not only does it take less time, but there are also no gatekeepers to give you a “no” before you reach the C-level. You are quite simply not required to go through assistants and lower-level decision-makers in order to create touchpoints with high-level ones.
Also, you can send emails regardless of what time of day it is, whereas you might not reach many people during the workday if you called.
You Can Track Performance Easily
Email systems make it very easy to track such statistics as:
- Open rates
- Response rates
- Conversion rates
This allows you to do A/B testing effectively. It also enables you to reassign or write off leads without much trouble, saving you time and resources.
Cons of Cold Emailing
Of course, email has its downsides as well. One of the main ones is that emails from complete unknowns tend to be a big turnoff to prospects. They don’t know you, and most of the time, they don’t really want to.
Most cold emails, says Harvard Business Review, fail. But then, cold outreach in general has a low success rate, and that does not mean that it’s unsuccessful. It just means you have to plan accordingly: even when you have a great lead source, only a small percentage of these leads will turn into prospects through cold emailing alone. Still, it’s good to be aware of the downsides:
It’s Easier to Ignore
When it comes to cold calling vs cold emailing, email is hands-down the easier one to ignore. People are used to batch-sending large portions of their email to spam, and they feel no qualms about it.
When you call, you at least will eventually get someone on the other end of the line. Basic human kindness will often dictate they at least hear you out for a minute before hanging up. That gives you a window you just don’t’ have with email.
You Rarely Get Immediate Feedback
It is a rare person that emails back to let you know whether your email was compelling or not. You can expect the vast majority of emails to disappear into the ether, never to be heard from again.
However, by writing more sales emails that convert, you can make up for this. And as always, you want to continually test and optimize your cold emails.
Contacts’ Inboxes are Already Stuffed
Your leads already have to fight to manage their email influx. Whether they’re proudly at impact zero or maintain a consistent 5,679 emails in their inbox, they’re not pleased to get another piece of unsolicited mail.
Unlike a phone call, you won’t have a chance to explain to them why this piece is different. That’s a definite downside.
Pros & Cons of Cold Calling
Believe it or not, cold calling is an old tradition indeed. The first cold call, as we now understand them, was recorded in 1873!
Whether you’re selling Victorian-era top hats or the latest in cloud computing technology, the process is much the same. You dial a number, hope a prospect picks up and, if so, discuss your product or service with them. If they don’t, you call again.
And again. And again, until they tell you they’re just not interested or that they don’t have a budget for your product... but even if that happens, set a reminder to call them back in a few months to confirm that they’re still not interested.
Pros of Cold Calling
There are a number of perks to cold calling. It is a distinctly different medium than email, after all, and its pros reflect that.
It Can Be More Personal Than Email
First and foremost, cold calling is one person talking to another. That’s already way more personal than words on a page, especially if you use the right scripts. It allows you to form a much more personal connection with the lead right off the bat, should they prove receptive to your message, potentially saving you a number of steps in warming them up.
It’s Easier to Control Outcomes
When you use phone calls, you can respond to the prospect in real-time. That makes it a more viable outreach strategy for your sales team, because although it is more time consuming and still unsolicited, you’re making much better use of the prospect’s time.
Cons of Cold Calling
On the other hand, cold calling has its dark side. We've all been at the other end of cold calls, and we know what it’s like to be targeted at the wrong time or with the wrong offer (Oh that reminds me—I’ve been trying to reach you about your extended car warranty...).
So what does this mean for you? Well, mostly that cold calling requires a bit more effort and deliberate respectfulness than cold email does. It also means that those reps who step up their game, engage with prospects on a more authentic level, and bring more value to the conversation, will see outsized success.
It Can Be Invasive
Something about one's inbox feels less personal than the phone. As we discussed above, that can be a good thing for you, since you're less likely to be "deleted" without getting a fair hearing. On the other hand, when people feel violated, they definitely feel this more strongly with the phone. (And sometimes salespeople will have one of these calls where you have to take a few and get yourself back into a positive state.)
That makes it critical that, when you make a call, you "get in and get out," like a mission. Always have your script perfected and on hand when making a call, and don't waste a single second.
It Requires Perfect Timing
Pro tip: Don’t call your prospects and attempt a sales pitch as they’re sitting down to Sunday evening dinner.
But even if you follow best practices for timing your cold calls, you’ll still never know what your prospect is doing the moment you decide to call. Maybe they’re in a meeting or at a doctor’s appointment. Chances are good that you’ll get a lot of voicemails when you’re cold calling—and that’s one more reason why you should always keep a voicemail script handy, too. (Or you use Close, which enables you to record the perfect voicemail message once, and then drop it with the click of a button while you're already on to the next call.)
It’s Hard to Scale
Scalability is not the cold caller’s friend. You still have to sit there, on the phone, for every single phone call, and you can't shortcut this step. However, you can make your cold call efforts more productive with tools such as predictive dialers, discussed below.
Ideal Success Rates for Cold Emails and Cold Calls
Brass tacks: what should your cold outreach success rates look like? In a nutshell, cold emailing benchmarks should look like:
- 30% opens
- 30% responses
- 50% conversion
As for cold call benchmarks, shoot for:
- 15% rate of reaching decision-makers
- 50% conversion
Factors that increase numbers include:
- List quality checks
- Whether you’re using good scripts (see above)
Note that the benchmarks provided here are not averages, but goals. Anything under these numbers simply means your efforts need work, not that you are failing and should give up. Needing work is okay!
What's more, take a step back and keep the overall math in mind. In the end, it's all about: What's the ROI on your efforts? If you spend on average $5k to win a $50k deal that generates $10k in profit, you're doing well, no matter what your open- or reach rates look like.
How to Boost Cold Email and Cold Call Success Rates
Not hitting those benchmarks yet? That’s okay. A combination of quality inbound marketing approaches (bringing leads to you) and the following tactics can significantly improve that.
Cold Outreach Tips
Here are a few handy tips to start with when planning your cold calling or emailing strategy.
Make It About Them
Sales reps often make the mistake of talking about how great their company is, but that doesn’t make it about the client. Talk first about their problem, always.
Rely on Data
The 30/50 rule should, well, rule your approach to email. With sales emails, don’t forget to use data and metrics about open rates, conversion rates, subject lines, and more. Speaking of which …
Rethink Email Subject Lines
Wherever possible, personalize your subject lines. Also make sure the offer is clear, relevant, time-sensitive, and catchy—with humor, emotion, or even emojis to sell it.
Optimize Your Sales Pitch
Whether you’re doing email outreach, making phone calls, leaving a voicemail, or even contacting people on LinkedIn, make sure each sales pitch:
- Introduces you
- Acknowledges their problem
- Introduces your product or service
- Provides contact info
- Gives a next step
Rethink Voicemail Messages
Don’t be cagey when leaving messages. Include all of the above bullet points in your VMs as well. Here are some scripts that will help.
Warm Up Prior to Cold Calls
Before each sales call, warm up. Repeat your sales pitch a few times to yourself or in front of a mirror, or do some sales voice exercises to hit the right tone.
Read Up Before Reaching Out
Never go into a cold email campaign or cold call actually cold. Instead, research the individual person ahead of time and get a feel for their role and needs. It doesn’t hurt to have an idea of their general likes and dislikes, too. Social media is a great place to do this.
Make a Bid for More Time
The goal in your first outreach is more of their time and attention. That’s it. Make your purpose clear, but never try to close the deal. Instead …
Sell the Next Meeting
An underlying goal during all calls (but especially the first) is simply to talk again. That’s it. Timing is another great way to increase your B2B sales success.
Selecting Your Timing Strategy
Beyond the easy tasks like making sure you’re contacting the right person with valid contact info, the hard part becomes deciding when is best to reach that person.
The goal is to reach your prospect when they have a moment to consider your product/service, and when they’re not actively working on other priorities. The following advice will help.
Best Cold Email Timing and Frequencies
Cold outreach is a numbers game. Here’s how to play:
- Send emails between 9 AM and 12 PM Eastern Time
- … but avoid 10 AM, which appears to be bulk trash time
- Wherever possible, choose Monday
- Check “Combining Cold Calling and Emailing” below for follow-up email timetables
Best Cold Call Timing and Frequencies
Like cold email, cold calling is also about numbers. Keep the following in mind:
- Call between 9 AM and 4 PM—that’s their time zone, not yours.
- If you can aim for 10 AM and 2 PM, do
- Avoid weekends, evenings, and holidays
- Keep track of the best days and hours for your individual industry
- Keep calling until you’re rejected. When that happens, set an alert to reach back out to this contact in 6 months to try again.
That being said: These numbers should inform, not dictate your timing. Always experiment and optimize. Depending on who you're trying to reach, the best times could differ tremendously.
Combining Cold Calling and Emailing: The Perfect Mix
Most business strategies are amenable to a combination of cold calling and emailing in each outreach campaign. Sales reps worry about overloading their potential clients with contact, and rightly so, but with the right approach, you can avoid that.
Consider these tips:
- Don’t stop until you get a hard ‘no, thank you.’ If someone’s not interested right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t be interested or have a need for your product in a few months. Don’t ever give up on a prospect—instead, put them on a 6-month hold and check in later.
- Create a follow-up schedule. You’ve got a million things going on and plenty of prospects and leads to manage at various stages of the sales cycle. The only way to stay on top of it all is to create a follow-up schedule to help you remember to contact each person regularly.
- Use automation software. Automated email sequences are handy, as are predictive dialers such as those that are natively built into Close. By relying on technology to schedule and auto-send those electronic touch points like email and SMS, you can focus on your real-time phone conversations.
How to Make the Right Choice for Your Lead & Situation
There’s no magic way to choose between cold calling and cold emailing. It may come down to your industry, how much personal attention your target audience typically requires, or how easy your product/service is to explain to leads. Your staffing levels and general sales process also play a part.
Whether you’re a company of one or 100, though, a sales CRM like Close can help you hit higher targets, more consistently, each and every month. Our automation system sets you up with perfectly timed email campaigns and alerts reps when it’s time to call leads for a more personal touchpoint.
Ready to make cold calling and cold emailing easier than ever before? Try Close free for 14 days or watch our on-demand demo to see the product in action. We can’t wait to help you do what you do even better!