3 Reasons Why Cold Calling Could be Wasting Time

Do you cold call? Does your boss make you cold call?

cold calling

If so, I believe you could be wasting valuable time.

Let me ask you some straight forward questions about cold calling.

Do you get excited to cold call?
Are cold calls adding value to your prospects?
Does cold calling leave you frustrated and dejected?
Do you have days you would rather not show up to the office because you have to cold call?
Do you have many current customers who have thanked you for cold calling them?

Long time sales professionals and managers will state that cold calling is part of the deal. You put your time in, work through the rejection, and if you make enough calls, you will get some appointments.

The last statement is true. If you make enough calls, you will get some appointments and eventually some sales. YAY!!!

Here is my response.

How many calls does it take to get one appointment?

How many people did you piss off in the process?

How much time have you wasted?

How much do you hate your job?

I recently received an email from a young insurance producer. He is a hard-working guy who has had a brief sales background. He loves the insurance industry and wants to help clients, but is completely dejected after making cold call day after day.

His boss requires that he makes 150 cold calls per week. According to my bad math, that is 30 calls/day. How much time does that take? Well, it depends on how quickly he can recover from continual rejections, voice mails, and call screeners. My short answer is way too much!

I know what some of you are thinking. “If sales people can’t handle rejection, they shouldn’t be in sales.” Although that may be true, I think the inefficiency of cold calling goes much deeper than that.

Why do I hate cold calling so much? Let me give you three reasons.

1) It Annoys Prospects

How do you like getting cold calls from sales people? Does it make you happy? Do you gain respect for them? Do you call right back if they leave you a voice mail?

Of course not. Insurance sales professionals are in the service industry. How is cold calling serving our prospects and potential customers?

Let’s pretend I cold call one morning. Of those two prospects (suspects) that I actually reach, one hangs up on me. Later that week, I attend a local civic club meeting and run into the prospect that hung up on me. What do you say? “Hi, I’m that guy that interrupted up this week and you hung up on. How are you?” What a great way to start off a relationship.

2) It’s Inneficient

The stats on cold calling are awful. It makes Shaq’s free throw percentage look outstanding.

Even if you are one of the few people who can make call after call with no hesitation, you are still wasting most of the day on voice mails, screeners, and listening to the phone ring. If you do get an appointment, it usually isn’t with a decision maker. Even if it is, how do you know for sure.

For most people, 5% is a good number in the cold calling game. That’s in just setting an appointment. 5 out of 100. Really? I make 100 calls and get 5 cold appointment who may be a completely wrong fit to our organization and my personality.

3) It makes good sales people hate their jobs and eventually quit.

Let’s pretend for minute, that cold calling was slightly more effective than I have described. That more appointments are made and that money is being made.

No amount of money is worth doing something you loathe.

Some may say I’m soft. That I don’t understand the real world. Maybe.

You know what I do understand.

See, I believe that sales should not only be productive, but it should be fun. I often get asked why so many young agents quit or why young people aren’t interested in the business. Hmmm. Let me think about that for a minute.

Cold calling saps all creativity and energy from sales people. Instead of focusing on how to solve problems and advise clients, salespeople think about quotas and how they will get through each day.

Look, I understand that money has to be made and goals have to be achieved, but is cold calling the best way?

As you may assume by now, my answer is a resounding no.

What are some better ways? Here are nine.

Are these nine easy? No way. They may take time and you can’t do them all, but I challenge you to start thinking outside of the box.

Think, create, stand out, believe. Make yourself attractive. If you do the hard work up front, you can make selling much easier.

What do you think? Does cold calling still have a place?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Rick S.

    Great article. Other than real estate and product (not service) sales people,
    what other licensed professionals make dozens of cold calls each day? Would you
    have the same respect and confidence in your doctor, attorney, accountant,
    banker, etc. if you thought that they were out hustling business like that?

    Insurance sales (not a dirty word) is about relationships. Becoming the
    go-to person in your field will get your target market’s attention. Then it is
    up to you to show them, by your actions, why you are the best choice to be
    their insurance provider. Once you build trust, referrals will follow. Wouldn’t
    you rather call someone that is referred to you than a stranger off of a list?
    Of course you would!

    To sum it up: Build relationships – Become the expert – Build Trust –
    Ask for the business – Then ask for the referral

    Thanks for your wonderful article. A good way to start the week….

    • brentmkelly

      Rick, thanks for your comment. You bring up an incredible point. I would take one good referral over 100 cold calls any day. Relationships….expertise…..trust…..ask for business…..referrals. Love it.

      • wenefer

        I agree 100% !!!!! Cold Calling is very very challenging I really don’t know of anyone that really, really likes it, makes them feel good and have a ‘can’t wait to get out bed attitude” regarding cold calling. Let’s just keep it real, okay!!!

        Persistence,Perseverance, Pursuance, Phone-Personality are the four P’s you need on EVERY phone call, because without these professional skill-sets you just won’t make it successfully mentally or financially on the phone. I know i set appointments for agents!

        That’s the negative side, however on the other side it can be VERY REWARDING. One must choose wisely because life is here today and gone today. So choose your rewards to outweigh your challenges. Life is meant to be fun and enjoyed and not EVERYDAY a grime!

        My philosophy is…. The Good should Always outweigh the bad in Every situation!!!

        God Bless and Happy Prosperous & Safe Holidays to all you 🙂

        • brentmkelly

          Thanks wenefer. The same to you and your family.

  • Just pretend I’m that obnoxious guy at the office who you all like, but is too young to be so old-fashioned! And a bit crotchety. 🙂

    Benefits of cold calling:
    1. Teaches you to be extremely clear on your value proposition
    2. People don’t always know that you have what they need: If you’re in a niche, you are calling people who you know you can help. They just might be ready (has happened way more often than I would have thought)
    3. Those same people don’t always know you’re out there (they might not Tweet, FB, or Google+)
    4. It, personally, has helped me grow a pair.
    5. it strengthens the ability to be winsome at a moment’s notice: Some of the funnest conversations I’ve ever had have been with gatekeepers and decision makers on a cold call.
    6. If one ever wants to go into a different line of sales, typically, some amount of cold or warm calling is an extremely highly-coveted skill
    7. These days, no one should have to make a truly ‘cold’ call. There are tons of ways to warm things up, even if our call isn’t expected – so I think random YellowBook diving isn’t really what folks do anymore.
    8. Luckily, the person who hung up on us probably won’t recognize our name at the networking event should we run into them (at least it’s never happened to me).
    9. It’s like swinging a bat with a donut on it. When you talk to an actual referral (which, let’s face it, always have a little ‘cold’ associated with it – trust still needs to be won), it’s that much simpler if you have had your share of ‘no-thank-yous’.
    9. It’s the P90X of sales: It keeps you sharp. It helps stretch you. Call the whale. Call the dream client. Those people might not be reading our Twitter feeds, but they understand a hunter mentality and they can recognize person who cares enough to try to deliver value in any way they can.

    Some of those probably aren’t benefits. I do understand where you’re coming from. Nobody loves to cold call. And many people have worked themselves to a place where it isn’t necessary. But as far as efficiency, i don’t think it can be beat. I think the speaking, blogging, social media thing can be leveraged over time, but I would hardly call cold calling inefficient comparatively speaking.

    I don’t love it either, but I always feel like I packed my lunch pail and got some work done when I do it. And typically, I get some decent traction. And I’m kind of bad at it. Even if it isn’t effective at the moment, I know I grew doing it. I hate squats, but they work.

    • brentmkelly

      Brett, I love your comment (even though we disagree). Actually, I agree with most of your points. They are valid and true, plus they are really funny! I do think that cold calling can work, I just firmly believe there are better ways.

      I have cold called……a lot. Yes, I do hate it. Yes, it did help me grow a pair. But, I don’t completely buy the efficiency. I have spoken at events, written in publications, been on the radio, networked like crazy (on and off line), and used my customers as my best salespeople to leverage credibility and make amazing connections . Speaking, writing, and being a resource in your market is really hard, but I feel it’s more efficient that the cold call. I must add that speaking in front of groups definitely requires you to grow a pair as well:)

      I have a greater desire to get the dream client and the whale desiring to connect with me because they see my value. Not easy, but totally cool.

      I do completely agree that there are some amazing skills you can develop by cold calling. Just like any sales communication, it’s a craft that is hard to perfect. I have no doubt you are very good at it and I would never argue against anyone’s success.

      I completely value and respect your opinion. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and use P90X references:) You know me too well!

      Keep fighting the good fight and doing what you believe in. Cheers!

    • I hope to someday be an equal ratio of Crotchety/Winsome =)

      • brentmkelly

        Haha, Nice! Good luck!!!

    • Shanker

      Hi Brett,
      I hope you accept my appreciation though it is very late, as I happened to read this article and your beautiful reply only now. As a budding Insurance Advisor starting at an young age of 60 (as a third career), I see the validity of your arguments. Thanks for airing your counter views.
      To give 9+ reasons for ‘Cold Calling’ really shows your grit and intelligence. Wow !

  • I agree with Bretts points. Cold Calling sucked but it taught me alot. also, the math worked out: 100 calls. 30 reaches. 6 appointments. 4 sales. (goal 8 sales) I need to call 200 people next week. Not that it makes much sense with do not call lists and mobile phones, but back in the day it made sense. I think people are more aggressive when they get calls now, especially if tyhey are on the do not call list. in those days I usually just got told “no thanks”.

    • brentmkelly

      Aaron, those are really good numbers from cold calling so it would be hard to argue your success. I would still contend that there are better alternatives, but hey, you gotta do what works for you. Thanks for the comment.

  • Michael

    I find cold calling to be one of the more effective forms of marketing for my business. Mind you, I have super targeted lists, know the pain points of the industry and have a pretty good value proposition. As a result, I make about 10-15 calls a day, get a hold of the decision maker about 75% of the time, and get 2-3 appointments a day. Mind you, I’m calling large businesses and the resulting business is worth 10-100k over a 3 year period with the client so I suppose the pain of cold calling is easily replaced with winning business.

    Cold calling is fine, but you need to know how to do it properly.

    • brentmkelly

      Michael, those numbers are tremendous and with the background data you have, it appears yours calls are at least “lukewarm”.

      I applaud you for your targeted focus and value proposition. Prospects want value and outcome regardless if it’s on a phone call or after reading an article you wrote.

      I know there is still a segment that had a higher level of success with cold calls, but they are generally much more prepared and targeted than the average salesperson asked to hammer out calls all day.

      I wish you continued success and a truly appreciate your comment.

  • This guy is a moron

    this article will waste more of your time than cold calling someone who could make you money

  • Ron

    If you do not like getting on the phones maybe its time to find a new job.

    • brentmkelly

      Ron, are you focused on results or activity?

      It’s not so much about not wanting to get on the phones as it is finding more efficient ways to reach your target market.

      I’ll take a value based workshop in front of 20 prospects any day over making 20 individual cold calls.

      Setting up these types of events is not easy, but you create trust and credibility vs looking desperate and needy. That’s just one example.
      Consumers today don’t like and don’t want to be interrupted. There is too much information and touch noise already. They want value.

      Yes, you can make enough targeted calls to have success, but I simply feel that there are better ways today.

      Thanks for your feedback.

  • michael

    I worked a previous sales job where cold-calling was a
    requirement, but later went to the wayside after the use of a marketing automation
    tool. Instead of making 50-60 cold calls a day, I focused on only semi-warm
    leads where people expressed some interest. Not everyone picked up the phone on
    the first call, or was ready to write a check, but it was much easier to work
    with someone that was considering my product for a potential need. My sales went
    up 20% in a year. Work became much more enjoyable when I was a resource helping
    people solve their needs instead of talking to receptionists and answering machines
    all day.

    • brentmkelly

      Michael, one if my favorite quotes is from Jeffrey Gitomer. He says “People love to buy, but hate to be sold.” Great job!

  • Hi Brent,

    Great article. I completely agree. And I completely disagree. 🙂

    To be correct, I believe this title and article should include:

    “3 Reasons Why Cold Calling is a Waste of Time – if you aren’t following a laid-out, proven strategy to take your prospects through a thoughtful conversion process.”

    However, it could also be:

    “3 Reasons Why NETWORKING is a Waste of Time – if you aren’t following a laid-out, proven strategy to take your prospects through a thoughtful conversion process.” Or…

    “3 Reasons Why SOCIAL MEDIA/PUBLIC SPEAKING/ADVERTISING/(Fill in the blank) is a Waste of Time – if you aren’t following a laid-out, proven strategy to take your prospects through a thoughtful conversion process…”

    You see, cold calling can be very effective as a client attraction method, however most people aren’t good at it and don’t like it. And I don’t blame them.

    When I work with my business coaching clients to help them get a lot more clients of their own and greatly cut their work hours, I’d say only about 5% end up using cold calling as a main marketing strategy, because they are the ones who like it. And then we make it work really well for them.

    I’ve found that if you do cold calls, your calls should be short and sweet, and you need to offer something highly valuable to your prospect (perhaps even without trying to set an appointment). You can then easily move these people into your client attraction funnel and get loads of new, happy clients while skyrocketing your reputation and filling up both your short-term and long-term marketing funnel.

    And this goes the same for other client attraction methods without making phone calls.

    So: to cold call or not cold call?

    It all depends on the business goals, the salesperson, and having a well-oiled short-term and long-term client attraction strategy.

    Thanks for sharing!



    • brentmkelly

      Jason, thanks for the honest comment. Hard to disagree with you analysis. I would concur that without a laid-out plan, any activity could be a waste of time.

      Most people cold-call because they are forced to or don’t have any better ideas on how to grow their book of business.

      I would agree that with a planned out system, cold-calling can be more effective, but still certainly my #1 choice for many reasons.

      I will check out your site. All the best.

  • Bethsoda

    Thanks for this! I’ve tried real estate and am now in Insurance and I actually like it because I CAN help people. That said, I’m realizing that – like in real estate – many agents are going to insist on cold callig and unrealistic sales quotas. I’ve worked in retail management and as an office manager and I HATE sales calls. I mostly hate salespeople! I like to get the info – usually via email or mail, or a handout given in person and IF I like the idea (or I think my boss will) I will contact them myself. Being called out of the blue – especially at inconvenient times – and sometimes with people that don’t want to take no, or “I’ll think about it,” as an answer makes me LESS rather than more likely to go with them in the future – either the company, that person, or both!

    • Hi Bethsoda,

      Most people don’t like cold calls. My take is that as you start, you will need to make outbound contacts, but that shouldn’t be your only way and over time, you should be able to build enough influence to build your business in others ways. Best of luck.