What’s the Difference Between Cold Email vs. Cold Call? The Great Sales Dilemma
Author: Vladislav Podolyako
Reading time: 11 m
Fundamentally, cold emails and calls initiate a conversation with a prospective customer. But the differences lie in the finer details of how these two tactics work.
While cold emails offer the ease of scalability and personalization, cold calls help you build good rapport with prospects from the get-go. In that sense, cold emails and calls both have their share of benefits. So which one of these tactics is better? The short answer: It depends.
In this article, we’ll explore the differences between a cold call vs. cold email, the benefits of each, and how to use them strategically to maximize sales opportunities.
Cold calling vs. cold emailing: What sets them apart
Cold calling is a sales technique for prospecting new leads via phone conversations. It involves a salesperson calling leads who have either shown some interest in your business or are completely unaware of your brand.
While traditional cold calls happened in a more physical setting — like door-to-door visits — modern cold calling runs through auto-dialers and occurs in a borderless setting. In-person visits are a thing of the past, and sales reps focus primarily on cold-calling warm leads. (Sounds contradictory, right? We’ll explain this shortly.)
On the flip side, cold emailing refers to sending unsolicited emails to prospects who don’t know about your business. Salespeople send somewhat personalized cold emails to a set of targeted, well-segmented leads.
A cold email campaign aims to introduce your brand to potential customers and explore opportunities to convert them into paying clients.
Will Cannon, the founder of UpLead, considers cold email an amazing client-acquisition tool to keep your pipeline permanently full.
Now that we’ve covered the definitions, let’s explore the main differences between cold calling vs. cold emailing:
Your CTA: There’s more room with cold emailing to experiment with your calls to action. You can run A/B tests and choose the ones getting the best responses. Conversely, cold calls don’t offer much room for testing, and you have to go with the flow.
Funnel stage: Cold calling works best for leads in the later stages of your sales funnel. You can have more direct conversations with them to sign the deal. Cold emailing works well to introduce your brand, get more sales meetings, and move the conversation forward.
Response time: Cold calls receive faster responses than emails since all communication happens in real time. Cold email responses usually follow a longer timeline because you must consistently follow up after your first email.
Personalization: Cold emails offer greater scope for personalization. A salesperson can create a tailor-made email speaking directly to an individual prospect. However, you can easily personalize your cold calls with pre-call prep. Gather insight on the lead you’re calling and steer the conversation using familiar topics.
Buyer personality: Cold calling has a bad reputation for being intrusive. This is why only buyers with outgoing attitudes prefer calling over emails. In contrast, cold emails don’t disrupt a lead’s routine as they can easily table it for later.
In both scenarios, you’re reaching out to net-new leads to nudge them down your sales funnel and closer to a purchase. But the results can differ for every team based on their resources and talent.
Here’s a survey putting cold emails over cold calls as a customer acquisition tactic:
You’ve been cold-calling prospects from a newly purchased leads list. Most folks don’t answer; those who answer aren’t interested in your pitch. So you end up wasting hours and getting zero results. Ouch!
Let’s turn the tables now.
You’ve segmented a newly purchased leads list and created multiple variations of your pitch with decent personalization. You’ve tested these emails with a smaller batch of leads already, and the response rate was promising. When you finally run your cold email campaign, you hit solid open rates, and more responses start coming in with each follow-up.
That sums up the power of cold emailing. It also explains why almost 52% of companies consider emailing the single best channel to book meetings. Let’s look at 5 scenarios where it’s better to use cold emails over cold calls:
You want to generate sales opportunities at scale
The choice between cold call and cold email becomes clear as day if you want to scale your outreach. Cold emails are easily scalable when you build the right systems. You can create automated workflows and email templates to communicate seamlessly with leads in different sales funnel stages.
Here’s how our team at Belkins established an airtight cold email strategy to approach prospects at scale for AMI Global, an Internet of Things solution provider:
We studied their ideal market to identify the right titles and designations to target, like engineering/technical and sales/business development.
We created compelling cold email templates to position AMI Global as a full-service solution and explained the hardware, software, firmware, and cloud platform.
We built a tailored targeting approach to connect with more than 60 top employees from a single company and took the conversation forward by talking to the main decision-makers.
The results were worth all the effort when we contacted 6,700 leads with a whopping 81% email open rate. Here’s a complete analysis of the ROI we produced for AMI global with a scalable cold email framework:
You want to measure and improve your sales-outreach performance
A spray-and-pray method won’t work in cold emailing. You need to constantly track progress to identify opportunities and gaps in your systems. Select relevant metrics beforehand to ensure you’re accurately measuring your performance.
Here are a few crucial cold email KPIs to monitor:
Each of these metrics will indicate your overall success with cold emailing. Besides tracking performance, you can maximize your open and response rates by running A/B tests for your emails.
Belkins’ appointment-setting project for a U.S.-based technology company proves how A/B testing can be a game changer for developing cold email strategy. We redefined their ICP and built a cold email outreach channel from scratch when we started working on this account.
Extensive testing helped us choose the most effective email templates and the right cadence for connecting with these prospects. Thanks to our rigorous A/B tests, we secured 50-plus appointments every month and hit an open rate of 70%.
You want to maximize your outbound ROI while working with a lean team
Emails promise a much higher return on investment than phone calls. This is primarily because you can work with a smaller team and fewer resources to build a robust setup.
So most startups and lean sales teams choose cold emails over cold calls because of the lower upfront investment. You have to focus on honing your messaging to convey the necessary information before you begin dialing up numbers in bulk. This is possible even with a 1-person team.
Pro tip: Don’t have the expertise to strategize and run end-to-end cold email outreach? Let the experts at Belkins do the talking on your behalf and convert cold leads into promising prospects.
You want to book more meetings with prospects without sounding intrusive
Cold calls are generally considered unwelcome. Amod Malviya, the co-founder of Udaan, deems cold calling intrusive.
There lies another huge advantage of cold emails — better odds at booking meetings. Since cold emails give recipients more control to steer the conversation, they increase your chances of securing meetings with them.
Besides, an email has a longer life cycle than a single call. Once it lands in your prospect’s inbox, you can send follow-ups to reiterate your offer and capture their attention. What’s more, prospects might check their inboxes many times a day and eventually find their way to your message.
Our work with ValueLabs, a global technology company, presents an excellent example of how cold emails can improve your chances of getting appointments. The company operated in an aggressively competitive market and struggled with its pre-sales process.
Among other tactics, we refined their cold email templates to resonate better with their ICPs. After a few rounds of modifications, we designed solid emails to deliver the right messages at the right times.
The results aligned with our objectives, securing ValueLabs over 115 appointments in 14 months and strengthening their brand identity in a saturated market.
You wish to meet your prospects where they are and increase response rates
There’s a reason why email continues to play such a pivotal role in sales and marketing despite the raging popularity of social media: Email is free of constantly updating algorithms and fluctuating reach.
Kieran Flanagan, the CMO of Zapier, tweeted about the unwavering popularity of email in a social media-dominated world:
Email’s popularity means your cold emails will reach your leads exactly where they are. On top of driving prospects closer to deals, cold emails also enhance brand awareness. Even if potential clients don’t need your product/service right now, they’ll likely remember your brand when there’s a need.
Almost everywhere you look, people claim cold calls are an outdated, spray-and-pray sales technique. While some companies want to believe cold calling is dead, others prove the ROI possible from cold calling done right.
After all, B2B sales are still very much about building a strong rapport and developing that into a trustworthy relationship. So cold calls are a powerful means for kick-starting a meaningful conversation and turning it into a sale.
Let’s look at scenarios when cold calling trumps emailing to secure more sales.
Your market specifics imply collecting critical sales intel about your prospects
A huge advantage of cold calling is learning intricate insight about every lead. Calls give you a more personal space to interact with prospects openly and understand them on a deeper level — their pain points, preferences, personality, and more.
Put simply, an audible conversation tells you more about your customers than one-sided research can. This intel is crucial in the remaining steps of the sales process. Use this information to personalize your tactics, such as product demos, objection handling, and other aspects.
You want to bring more net-new leads inside your sales funnel
According to RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, 82% of buyers say they accept meetings with salespeople over cold calls. Accepting them is a completely subjective choice. So while some people criticize unexpected calls, others prefer talking over the phone over reading emails.
Besides, cold calls don’t have to be dull. Good sales reps know how to add life to their calls and hook their prospects’ attention from the first second.
Companies should focus more on training and upskilling their reps to improve cold-calling performance instead of rejecting the tactic altogether. You never know; you might just have an all-star cold-caller on your team waiting to shine.
Sahil Mansuri, the CEO of Bravado, emphasizes the difference top-performing sellers can make via cold calls:
“What separates top-performing sellers is their commitment to research, which turns cold calls into warm conversations. Top-performing sellers measure twice and cut once. They research the industry, learn about competitors, understand trends, and act as thought leaders in their space vs. pounding phones and spamming emails.”
You want a quicker way to identify and qualify leads
A massive disadvantage of cold emails is that it follows a longer timeline and requires multiple follow-ups. This is where cold calling can speed up your process and offer a quicker method for prospecting and qualifying leads.
You can directly determine a prospect’s lead status after a couple calls. If they engage well and express interest in your brand, they’re in a warm category. But if they respond vaguely or fail to show up for meetings, they’re not ideal for the next steps.
You want sales reps to consistently iterate and improve their pitch
Cold calling is a continual process. Every day, you have to dial tens of prospects. While this can seem monotonous, it’s a hidden opportunity to practice your sales pitch.
Reps can gradually build self-confidence and identify their weaknesses through cold calling. It’s a solid way to perfect your pitch so you can flawlessly deliver your message.
You want to build a stronger rapport with prospects from the get-go
Lastly, cold calling is a great way to build relationships with your leads early on. This establishes a level of trust and confidence with potential clients. When they trust your reps, they’ll share more information about their needs and simplify your sales process.
Besides, there’s always a scope for creating healthier business relationships. Communicating over the phone builds a transparent channel between prospects and your sales team and delivers instant feedback from leads whenever something goes wrong. It’ll eventually boost conversion rates as well.
Combine cold calling and cold emailing to skyrocket your sales efforts
Now that we’ve seen the good and bad sides of both, let’s address the biggest question: Should you do a mix of cold calling and cold emailing?
Savvy buyers don’t follow a linear customer journey. They research on multiple platforms and learn more about potential solutions using different channels. With a combination of cold calling and cold emailing, sales reps can approach buyers at different stages of their journeys and deliver organic pitches.
More importantly, combining cold calls and cold emails balance each other well to engage your leads and improve response rates. For instance, you can send cold emails to initiate a conversation with a prospect and send them down your sales funnel by booking meetings.
The bottom line: Maximize conversions by nurturing genuine connections with potential customers using both cold emails and cold calls.
Does your team lack the chops to create result-driven cold email campaigns? You can rely on Belkins’ expertise to lead your cold outreach efforts and produce exceptional results. Book a call with our team today to find out how to move the needle for your business.
Vlad’s a recognized expert in the areas of culture transformation and leadership development, B2B sales, marketing, spent more than 10 years building technology products, has a background in communication networks and electronic device engineering.
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