Cold calling isn't for everyone but it can be great for business.

Cold calling isn’t for everyone but it can be great for business.

With all the new and different ways to interact and engage with your customers — social media and e-marketing, for example — for a lot of people, using the good old-fashioned telephone seemed to go the way of the beta tape. But in our Small Business Management course, one of the marketing strategies we cover and help you to develop and include in your marketing plan is telemarketing. So how should you go about telemarketing?

There’s a Time for Cold Calling

While it’s true that the return on investment for cold calling is low, that doesn’t mean it’s so low that you should never do it. It just means that it’s probably not best to have your CEO or Managing Director do it, nor should you rely on it as your only marketing strategy for generating new business.

So when would you cold call? Cold calling is a great way to slowly build up a relationship with an organisation or company you would really like to have as a client of your own; providing you play your cards right.

Set Goals

First you should have goals. You need to ascertain what you hope to achieve by cold calling: are you trying to win new business? Are you trying to sell a particular product? Or are you merely trying to establish a touch point with someone you could later turn into new business?

Be Relevant

Second, you need to perfect your pitch — this is critical. The person on the end of the phone might seem like they’re listening, but really they’re just waiting for the opportunity to tell you they’re not interested. Make sure you lead with something that will pique their interest, keep them interested and which is, above all, relevant.

If you’re a new gym that specialises in corporate group training, offering the employees of local businesses a pass for a free training session is a great way to get them and keep them interested — people love things that are free — however it’s probably not relevant to them if their workforce comprises of people with disabilities, unless your gym also specialises in training sessions for the disabled.

Don’t Expect Sales … Yet

If your goal is to move product, don’t expect to achieve it over the phone no matter how great your pitch is. This exercise should be about getting your business, product or service in front of the right person, not making a sale — of course, you can try this, especially if you have a background in telesales, but we caution that it’s hard work, and also time consuming.

The key to successful cold calling is persistence—but also knowing when to back off. As I’ve said, cold calling is a slow process; you’re not likely to get straight through to the CFO on the first phone call (or the second or third or the fourth, even), but instead through to a series of gatekeepers — receptionists, PAs, etc — over a series of phone calls, so be nice.

Send a Letter

It’s also standard practice for many companies these days to instruct their receptionists to advise that it is against company policy to transfer telemarketing calls — IT companies are renowned for this. Usually you’ll be asked to send an email to a general email address with the promise that it will be passed on — don’t waste too much of your time on these emails, as they rarely get spared the delete button; instead try another old-fashioned technique: snail mail.

Even if you are successful in making it through the chain of command to the person you were hoping to speak to, don’t expect to make a sale or win a new client. In fact, it’s more likely you’ll be told they’re not interested. Accept this; don’t be pushy, but before you hang up, still ask if you can send them some more information (remember, the goal here should not be to sell, but to get your business, product or service in front of the right person); again snail mail is likely to be more successful here.

If they still say no, then be gracious; thank them for their time and leave it at that. That doesn’t mean you can’t call back in the distant future, but it does mean it shouldn’t be next week or next month.


Cold calling is a laborious task; and though it may seem simple, in fact, it’s not something everyone is suited to. But that doesn’t mean there is no place for it in your marketing strategy; in fact, using the phone in an age of the internet, email, and social media, is more likely to succeed where others would fail.