Social Selling vs Cold Calling: Which is More Effective in 2023?

Social Selling vs Cold Calling: Which is More Effective in 2023?

Lead generation is a critical stage of the B2B traditional sales cycle. While traditional methods like cold calling, radio ads, and physical mailers can still be effective, the rise of social media and social selling has truly changed the sales process landscape. It has forced sales teams to try new strategies to prospect and build relationships, and there’s no going back.

Today, your average salesperson uses some combination of cold calling and social selling. If your team doesn’t, then you’re already in the competition’s rearview mirror. (Spoiler alert: that’s a bad thing.) Using social media platforms and social networks like LinkedIn for lead generation is not an aspirational strategy; it’s a must.

So let’s tackle social selling vs cold calling head-on. We’ll focus on definitions of both, how social sellers create the most effective sales strategies, and some sample strategies for each. Then we’ll take on the $64,000 question: which is best for you? Stay tuned for allllllll the answers.

What is Cold Calling?

Cold calling is a form of outreach in which the recipient of the call has never heard from the caller before. The purpose of the call is to introduce the “callee” to whatever product or service the sales rep is offering. Before cold calling can begin, salespeople (or their sales development teams) must spend time prospecting, gathering leads’ current contact information, and lead scoring. Only then does the salesperson begin their outreach efforts.

It’s worth pointing out a similar, but different, type of outreach: warm calling. While warm calling also requires a sales rep to pick up the phone and call the prospect, in this scenario, the prospect already knows about the company, so they’re not a “cold lead.” Perhaps they interacted with the brand online, emailed a question or participated in an online chat. Maybe they saw a piece of inbound marketing content. This may heighten the chances that potential customers will listen, but it still means lots of time making calls and follow-up phone calls.

Sadly, all that work has a low success rate, hovering around 2 percent. That isn’t to say cold calling is useless, though. In fact, research shows that 75 percent of buyers still willingly take cold calls and schedule appointments based on them. Moreover, according to the first source, “Companies that don’t believe in the effectiveness of cold calling experience 42 percent less growth than companies who do believe in cold calling.” Clearly, there’s something to this.

If you want to succeed at cold calling vs social selling, though, you need to commit. That means memorizing an awesome sales pitch and making it sound natural. It means setting aside time to make calls and follow up, targeting the right times for your customers, and understanding how to sweet-talk gatekeepers, among other things.

Let’s take a look at a few of the best strategies today.

3 of Our Favorite B2B Cold Calling Tips

So, want to nail those cold (or warm) calls? Here are a few of our favorite approaches.

Create a Flexible Script

It’s not enough to drum up phone numbers and track down callers. If you want to turn a potential client into a real, live customer, you need a good script.

Beware, though: decision-makers can smell a canned speech from a mile away. Build flexibility into your script, or use talk tracks, and you’ll get more bites.

Fail on Purpose

Terrified of cold calls? Spend a day failing on purpose. This seemingly outlandish idea is quite effective, and you’ll quickly realize that the only thing to fear is fear itself. We would recommend, however, that you call your lowest-value or lowest-priority leads on “Fail on Purpose” day.

Build a Sales Cadence

A sales cadence is a string of actions, taken by the sales rep, to connect with the prospect. That might start with a call, followed up by an email, followed by another call, and so on. Find what works best for you and set up a repeatable cycle in your CRM.

Pro Tip: You can use Close to set up email and phone sequences and send them automatically to the right leads. Learn more about Sequences in Close in our on-demand demo.


The best thing about a sales cadence? In addition to using sales call and email strategies, it can incorporate social media as well. This means you no longer have to decide between social selling vs cold calling; you can use both to best effect.

Naturally there are many more cold-calling tips out there. You can learn more about them here, slowly adding tips to your toolkit as you perfect your current strategies.

Hey there! Wondering which sales headset to choose? Our article on the top 8 options will steer you in the right direction.

What is Social Selling?

Social selling is, as the name implies, all about leveraging social media to make sales. It involves using your brand’s social media channels for outreach; cultivating connections with prospects; and nurturing them along over posts or direct messaging.

The goal is to improve your personal brand as a company as well as your success rate as a company. Social sellers use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms to get the job done. It works whether you’re a new business looking for traction or a goliath corporation wanting to leverage your resources most effectively.

True, it does require a significant amount of time spent online, and you need to take the right approach. We’re not talking hawking your wares like a newsie; it’s all about forging connections that will lead to referrals, trust, and thought leadership.

What is Social Selling?

According to LinkedIn, “92 percent of B2B buyers are willing to engage with a sales professional who is known as an industry thought leader.” Moreover, vast majority of people are more likely to buy a product if their friends recommend it on a social network.

In other words, it’s a solid recipe for success – assuming you are on social forging those relationships, that is. Here are a few things to know about the social sales strategy before you start.

3 Things to Know About Social Selling

Social selling requires more than “liking” other people’s content. If you want to fill your sales pipeline, you need actionable strategies that meet your target audience where they’re at and address their pain points. This is one of the biggest differences in social selling vs cold calling: you can “visit” prospects where they’re already hanging out.

If you’re looking to succeed with social selling, keep the following points in mind.

Automate, Automate, Automate

Social selling involves a lot of digital face time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t automate. A few of the best ways to automate are:

  • Scheduling your posts ahead of time so you never have to wonder what to post
  • Set up an automated DM response
  • Plan for social media in your sales cadences and set notifications when it’s time to reach out

Make Sure to Capture the Lead

It’s no good forging a relationship online if you don’t have a way to get in touch with that person later. No matter what, make sure you track them. For instance:

  • Record their social media handle and a quick note about them in your CRM
  • Convince them to download something for free and get their email
  • Straight-up ask for their deets. It’s often just as easy as that!

Don’t Go for the Sale

Wait, what? Don’t go for the sale, you say?

Yep. That doesn’t mean never go for the sale, it just means don’t make your social media interactions all about it. Instead, help them. Answer their questions. Acknowledge that competitors have good products too. (But not too good.) Make them feel like you’re there for them, not for the sale, and you’ll build a stronger relationship.

Is Social Selling More Effective Than Cold Calling?

We won’t bury the lead here: both social selling and cold calling are effective strategies that can lead to conversions and sales. However, in today’s social-saturated world, cold calling on its own is not as effective a strategy as social selling.

Stats Don’t Lie

The statistics are clear: it’s all about referrals, word of mouth and social proof. For instance, “Referral marketing creates between three and five times more conversions than any other marketing channel.” Moreover, “Friends’ social media posts influence the purchase decisions of 83% of US online shoppers” and “75% of Instagrammers will make a purchase or tell a friend when they get inspired by a post.”

That’s a whole lot of influence.

This isn’t to say cold calling is useless. Remember, a full three-quarters of buyers are still willing to take calls and make appointments from unknown callers. Note, however, that buyers’ purchasing habits – acquiring for companies – do not typically reflect that of the average consumer who is buying for themselves or a family.

Is Social Selling More Effective Than Cold Calling?

Still, even purchasers for major corporations trust word-of-mouth marketing, so social selling is a perfectly viable strategy for B2B businesses. And, adds LinkedIn, “Social selling has evolved from just referring to and using social media as we’ve traditionally come to know it.” Today, businesses have added the internet and sales tech stack to the social repertoire for a fully integrated approach that leverages every aspect of digital.

For that reason, social selling has a considerable advantage over cold calling.

Cold Calling Needs a Little Help

At the end of the day, cold calling simply can’t compete with the pervasiveness of social media. Moreover, it lacks one major benefit that social selling has: people aren’t already hanging out where a cold call comes in. Usually, they’re irritated and disinterested to see their phone ringing when they’re in the middle of finishing a tough report or trying to get spaghetti on the table.

On Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter, however, folks are there for their own purposes. Should your content happen to cross their feed and they look at it, they’re far less likely to feel that surge of resentment and far more likely to engage with you. That’s especially true if the post in question was sent by a friend, colleague, family member or acquaintance.

Therefore, we always recommend using cold calling as part of an integrated approach, along with social media and other forms of outreach. And that means you need a way to knit these strategies together.

Choosing Your Sales Method, and What Comes Next

The truth is, effective salespeople can focus on social selling or cold calling. Both are totally viable in today’s market, and simply because social selling has statistics on its side does not mean that cold calling is “dead.” It just means that if you have not yet integrated social media into your sales routine, you probably want to take another look.

Today’s highest-performing lead generation strategies include both sales methods. However, it’s a lot to keep track of if you don’t have a system that integrates tasks related to both and puts them in one place.

Enter Close, the customer resource management system you didn’t know you needed. (Or, if you met us on social media, you did know you needed.) Our cloud-based software aggregates your every sales activity and puts it in one user-friendly dashboard, which you can access from anywhere with an internet connection. And with oodles of integrations, you don’t even have to give up your old methods.

Want to automate tasks and become more productive in your profession? It’s time to make Close your trusted partner in sales training, sales technology and sales performance, so check out our on-demand demo today.