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What is cold calling in B2B sales?

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Cold calling is one of the most often discussed topics in sales. While I’ve read hundreds of papers on the issue, I’m not aware of anybody ever explicitly defining what constitutes a cold call. When I checked the internet for a definition, I discovered the following: “A telephone call or visit made to an unknown contact, mostly to sell something.”

What exactly qualifies as a cold call?

In order to understand cold calling, don’t you think it would be important to know exactly what would be considered a cold call? Even among experts, I still believe their is much debate. For instance, would a customer who has not purchased anything for several years be considered a cold call if he or she was contacted? Would a prospect who has been confirmed to be a purchaser of your types of products or services within your industry qualify as a cold call?

Again, these are all great questions and the “cold call” in the subject of cold calling is rarely defined. I decided to put together a short list below to describe what I believe would qualify and would not qualify as a cold call. Here is my expanded definition.

What qualifies as a cold call:

1) Calling on anyone in which you have no idea if they need your products or services.

2) Calling on anyone who is a former customer that has not purchased from your company in over a year (this only applies if you have not met the customer before and you are unknown to them).

3) Calling on anyone who has been confirmed to be a user of your types of products or services but you as a salesperson are unknown to them; These prospects will remain in this “bucket” of classification until you become known to them.

4) Calling on anyone who has been referred to you but the referring party was not used in any capacity to make the initial contact.

Here is what I believe would not qualify as a cold call:

1) Calling on anyone in your customer database that is presently a purchasing customer of your company’s products or services but you as a salesperson are still unknown to them.

2) Calling on anyone in which you are a known salesperson (even if they are not presently purchasing your products or services).

3) Calling on anyone who initially contacted you first for an inquiry on your products or services or subsequently contacted you after you made a cold call on them.

4) Calling on anyone who was referred to you but the referring party makes the initial introduction or first contact on your behalf