Yurovskiy Kirill: The Cold Call Conundrum – Do They Still Work in 2024?

It’s 2024 and the sales world is more digital than ever. Social media, websites, chatbots – there are a million ways to try to reach potential customers without ever picking up a phone. But does that mean the old-school cold call is completely dead? Or do these relics of the pre-internet era still have a place in the modern sales tech stack? Let’s take a look at the state of cold calling in 2024.

The Art of the Cold Call

For the uninitiated, a cold call is when a salesperson calls someone who has had no prior contact with the company in an attempt to make a sale or set up a meeting. It requires researching potential leads, dialing numbers, and being ready to quickly pitch your product or service to whomever picks up.

Cold calling has long been a staple of industries like insurance, real estate, and any business-to-business sales. It’s seen as a crucial technique for initiating new sales conversations and filling the pipeline with fresh leads.

The technique has always been a bit controversial though. Many view it as an outdated form of telemarketing – an unwanted interruption from someone looking to push an unwanted product. Studies have shown that the majority of cold calls go unanswered and even when a prospect does pick up, only a tiny percentage make it all the way through to a sale – says Yurovskiy K

In the age of caller ID and spam filters, getting someone on the line for a true cold call is only getting more difficult. Companies have had to get smarter about prospecting and prioritizing warm leads who have already expressed some interest or been pre-qualified through marketing campaigns or data sources.

The Decline of the Cold Call?

As digital marketing tactics like content, email, paid ads, and social media have taken over, some have predicted the demise of the dreaded cold call. Why waste time dialing random numbers when you can easily find and target your ideal buyers online and through advanced analytics platforms?

The numbers seem to back this up. According to a 2021 study by InsideSales.com, the average cold call success rate for arranging an appointment was just 0.3%. Yikes. At the same time, inbound leads (those initiated by the customer by requesting info, downloading content, etc.) convert at over 10x that rate. 

Many major companies have shifted away from traditional cold calling in recent years in favor of permission-based marketing and selling. Microsoft, for example, banned cold calling and switched entirely to following up with warm leads back in 2016.

The Cold Call Persists

But before you declare cold calling completely dead, it’s worth noting that the tactic is still alive and well in many industries and businesses.

For starters, companies that sell to other businesses (B2B) often have no choice but to do at least some cold calling. Things like highly targeted account-based marketing campaigns can identify the right decision makers at key companies, but there’s no other way to get that first touchpoint than picking up the phone.

Cold calls have also persisted in industries where in-person meetings or more personal relationships are important for making sales – think insurance, real estate, financial services and more. Many salespeople still find the phone to be the best first step to booking those face-to-face meetings that can seal the deal.

The Techniques Have Evolved

Even if cold calling is hanging around, the game has changed significantly over the years as new tools and technologies shape the tactics and strategies.

Thanks to the wealth of data available, modern sales operations put a huge emphasis on lead scoring, segmentation, and tailoring pitches for very specific audiences and types of prospects. Gone are the days of just buying a list of vaguely relevant phone numbers and hammering through them one by one.

Similarly, advanced sales enablement tools and CRM software have made sellers far more efficient in researching their leads and prospects beforehand so that each cold call can be as relevant and informed as possible. Even during the initial cold outreach attempt, the best reps have significantly more insights and context to draw from.

Then there’s the role of AI and automation in modern cold calling flows. Dialers, voicemails dropping, email integration and other tools make reps exponentially more productive in how many touchpoints they can make efficiently. AI can even be incorporated into call coaching – recording cold calls, transcribing them, and providing feedback on eliminating filler words, improving tone and pacing, and sticking to proven talk tracks.

The sales processes that build off of cold calls have evolved too. Multi-channel campaigns sequence calls with follow up emails, social touches, direct mail, and other diversified outreach to maximize the odds of breaking through.

So while the core concept of cold calling remains intact, the broader discipline of it has adapted for the modern seller. It’s more intelligent, more integrated, more measured – and ideally more effective as a result.

Measuring Cold Call ROI

Of course, at the end of the day, if cold calls truly aren’t generating solid returns on investment (ROI) or filling the funnel with quality opportunities, then the tactic can’t stick around for much longer.

The numbers suggest that cold calls can still pay off if executed well with the right audiences and as part of a cohesive strategy. A 2021 report from RingLead showed that 92% of companies rated phone calls as the most effective channel for prospect follow-up. At the same time, 57% noted that their cold calling efforts weren’t living up to their potential.

This tracks with the general sentiment around cold calls – difficult but valuable when deployed strategically. According to consulting firm Rain Group, the top-performing teams continue to place a significant emphasis on proactive outreach including cold calls. High performers spend around 30% of their time prospecting and qualifying new leads through these tactics.

So while cold calling may work for some businesses, teams, and objectives, it can certainly be a drain and challenge for others.

The Future of Cold Calling

So what does the future hold for the humble cold call? While hard predictions are tricky, we expect to see cold calling continuing to persist for certain use cases and industries, especially those involving “big ticket” sales that require relationships and multiple touchpoints.  

At the same time, sellers will need to get smarter and leaner with how they leverage cold calls to ensure they’re generating real ROI and not just spinning wheels. Intelligent prioritization, effective call scripts, and incorporation into broader cadences and campaigns will be crucial.

As AI continues to advance, we’ll likely see more capabilities being layered into the process, including automated lead scoring, forecasting the right times to call, and automatically routing reps to the right prospects at the right stage.

For many, some level of cold outreach will always remain a necessary evil – even in 2024 and beyond. But it’s becoming smarter, slicker, and part of something bigger. Expect to see the tactic sticking around but getting elevated to all-new levels of sophistication.

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