Cold emails vs cold calls. Two of the biggest outreach strategies in sales.
But which of these sales outreach strategies is better? What does the science say, and which should you be using?
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- What is Cold Outreach?
- The Advantages of Cold Emailing
- The Advantages of Cold Calling
- Cold Emails vs Cold Calls: What the Statistics Say
- 4 Factors That Affect Whether You Should Be Using Cold Emails vs Cold Calls
- Which Is Better: Cold Emails vs. Cold Calls?
What is Cold Outreach?
They call it “cold” outreach because there’s no preexisting relationship you share with the people you’re messaging.
When you contact these leads, you’ll be contacting them for the first time.
This makes it an uphill battle:
- You’ll be forced to introduce yourself (and your brand) for the first time.
- You won’t have any rapport on which to build the relationship.
- And compared to a warm lead, your chances of closing the deal will probably be much lower.
So is it even worth it?
For starters, cold outreach allows you to reach way more people than you could ever contact with warm relationships and inbound sales alone.
Cold outreach strategies are also faster and more scalable than most other strategies because they can be largely automated and streamlined.
So which is better: cold email or cold calls?
There’s not a simple, concise answer.
The Advantages of Cold Emailing
Cold email does have some strong advantages over cold calling:
1. It’s more cost efficient.
One of the strongest appeals of any email-based sales or marketing strategy is the cost efficiency of the channel. You can send thousands of emails for cheap (or free). You can also automate the sending so you don’t have to spend much time on the project.
To be fair, you can automate some aspects of cold calling as well – and reduce costs in other ways. But it’s tough to beat email’s inexpensiveness.
If you do things right, cold email could give you an ROI upwards of 10,000 percent.
2. It’s easier to scale.
In line with this, cold emailing can also scale much faster and easier. If you want to make more cold calls every day, you’ll need to hire new people and purchase more equipment.
If you want to send more cold emails, all you’ll need to do is tweak some numbers in your email outreach software.
3. It automatically documents everything.
One reason I prefer email as my primary communication medium is its complete documentation. Everything in your conversation is logged, and semi-permanently.
It’s possible to record your phone calls, sure, and even generate automatic transcripts for them. But cold email makes it really easy.
This way, your salespeople and sales analysts will have a much easier time tracing the path of conversation – and drawing insights you can use to boost performance in the future.
4. It offers more objective tracking & analytics.
Cold email enables you to track your performance more consistently and more objectively (and on a larger scale as well).
With the right email platform, you’ll be able to track metrics like delivery rate, open rate, conversion rate, average email response time, and more.
There are plenty of metrics to track with cold calling, too, but when it comes down to analytics, cold emailing simply offers more.
5. It’s less invasive and annoying for recipients.
For many people, email is seen as less invasive. Calling someone might interrupt their workday and annoy them.
Email, by contrast, can be opened and reviewed at the recipient’s discretion (as long as your email makes it to the recipient’s inbox — see my article on email warmup for help with that). There’s no interruption or violation of privacy to interfere with your forthcoming relationship.
It can often start the conversation on firmer ground.
The Advantages of Cold Calling
Of course, cold calls also have some advantages over cold emailing:
1. You get to leverage the human element of conversation.
As much as I love email, it’s much harder to have a personal conversation with someone over email.
With cold calling, you’re talking with someone and can build a human rapport. You can get to know your lead on a deeper level, and ideally, build a stronger relationship before moving to close the sale.
2. You can more quickly and effectively qualify leads.
Is this lead truly interested in your product, or are they just trying to be polite? It’s hard to read tone in an email – or in the lack of an email response.
Your most skilled salespeople will have an easier time on the phone, when they can pick up on subtle cues that can guide their conversations further.
3. Phone calls are harder to ignore.
In some ways, phone calls are harder to ignore than emails.
Many of us spend at least a portion of every day mass deleting messages from our email inboxes that we never even considered reading.
But when someone calls you on the phone, even if you suspect spam, it’s much harder to ignore.
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- 35-50% of sales go to the first-responding vendor.
- Following up within an hour increases your chances of success by 7x.
- The average professional spends 50% of their workday on email.
You see that phone number you don’t recognize, and your curiosity gets the better of you, so you answer it to find out who’s calling.
Cold Emails vs Cold Calls: What the Statistics Say
Okay, so what does the data say?
It’s tough to compare cold calling and cold emailing apples to apples, but we do have some statistics that can help us understand the relationship better.
- The average cold email response rate is just 1 percent.
- Conversely, 60 percent of cold calls go to voicemail.
- 2% of cold calls result in an appointment.
- The average salesperson makes 8 dials per hour and prospects for 6.25 hours to set 1 appointment.
- Email marketing has 2x higher ROI than cold calling, networking, or trade shows.
- By some estimates, cold calling can cost 60 percent more than cold emailing.
Of course, it’s tough to declare a victory for either side with statistics alone; the numbers can change dramatically based on the circumstances.
For example, high-quality, personalized strategies will always beat poor-quality, mass-marketed strategies, regardless of whether your chosen medium is calling or emailing.
4 Factors That Affect Whether You Should Be Using Cold Emails vs Cold Calls
The balance of cold emails and cold calls can be affected by several variables, such as:
1. The goal/call-to-action (CTA).
Your results will largely depend on what your goal is, or what your “ask” is. What’s the call-to-action (CTA) you’re going for? What do you want your leads to do next?
The lower the stakes, generally, the more valuable cold emailing becomes. The lower the dollar value and the lower the commitment, the more likely you’ll be to get a commitment through an email.
The higher the dollar value and the bigger the commitment, the more favorable cold calling becomes.
2. The target audience.
It also depends who you’re trying to reach.
B2B sales environments tend to lean toward cold calling while B2C sales environments lean toward cold emailing – but these are far from exclusive categorizations.
Also, some people prefer email over calling, or vice versa. At the risk of overgeneralizing, older populations tend to prefer talking on the phone to email, and younger populations tend to prefer email.
Your target demographics may have a strong preference for one medium over the other. And the only way to find out what works better for your target audience might be to test both methods and see what works.
You’ll have to consider the timing of your messaging carefully, regardless of whether you’re cold emailing or cold calling. If you send a message or make a call to someone at 1 am Sunday morning, you’re not going to get good results.
It’s hard to definitively declare the “best” time for either calls or emails, because this depends heavily on your product, your target audience, and other factors.
However, cold calls tend to increase in effectiveness later in the day (within the standard 9-5 workday), while cold emails tend to increase in effectiveness on a shorter time scale; sending emails 10 minutes before or after the hour will increase your effectiveness.
4. Familiarity with your brand.
Yes, it’s cold calling. So technically these are all “cold,” unfamiliar relationships. But your leads and prospects may have some familiarity with your brand.
If a person is familiar with your brand, they’ll likely be more receptive to both cold calling and cold emailing.
Higher familiarity can also lead to a higher likelihood of carrying on a conversation over the phone; if leads have never heard of you before, cold emailing may be better.
Which Is Better: Cold Emails vs. Cold Calls?
So which is better between cold emails vs. cold calls?
For most businesses, cold calls and cold emails both offer distinct advantages.
So instead of choosing just one strategy – cold calling vs cold emailing – you might find the most success implementing a multi-channel approach. One that leverages cold emailing and cold calling, as well as other outreach strategies (such as social selling, SMS outreach, etc) could be your ticket to success.
For example, you could start by cold calling a lead, then following up with an email if they don’t answer or send you to voicemail.
Conversely, you could start with an email, then call people if they open the email without responding or taking action.
No matter what, cold emailing should be part of your sales strategy.
That’s because email is a fantastic channel for sales and marketing.
But the email component of your sales strategy is only as good as your ability to analyze your efforts. If you have no way to measure your email response time, email volume, and other metrics, you’ll have a hard time making improvements.
That’s why it’s so important to have a tool like EmailAnalytics when you conduct cold outreach.
With EmailAnalytics, you’ll get crucial insights into your entire team’s email habits, including number of emails sent and received, busiest times and days of the week, and average email response time.
It’s everything you need to improve your sales team. In fact, EmailAnalytics customers respond 42.5% faster than professionals that don’t use EmailAnalytics, and that results in a 16% increase in sales.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.