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The Guide to Cold Calling Statistics

Written by:

Sean McAlindin, a business and arts writer, has a decade-long experience in music and culture journalism and recently ventured into business writing.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

The Guide to Cold Calling Statistics

The Guide to Cold Calling Statistics

You’ve probably heard all sorts of claims about cold calling. Some say that it’s dead, while others believe it’s still the best way to win sales. Honestly, the gossip goes from tall tales to tiny topics, and it’s all over the place. But what do the cold, hard facts say? 

In an effort to add truth to all the talk, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to take you through all the statistics you need to know about the traditional sales approach of cold calling. Unlike some of our competitors, all of our statistics come from published, sourceable business studies. And rather than bombard you with a barrage of random facts, we’re going to break it down for you. 

For those who want to be in the know about the current state of this ancient art, here’s the true story on cold-calling statistics. 

Key Takeaways

  • Over 150 years old, cold calling is still one of the most common ways to attract potential customers.

  • Cold calling isn’t easy, and a lot of salespeople don’t like to do it, but it can be done successfully with the right approach and mindset.

  • Crafty salespeople who know the best methods for cold calling have more success than their peers.

  • Cold calling is not for the faint of heart. The conversion rates are low and steady benefit requires persistence, skill, and humility.

What is Cold Calling?

Cold calling is a form of sales that takes place between a salesperson and a customer they’ve never met. It generally refers to phone-based conversations, but technically covers in-person, door-to-door interactions, too.

As one of the oldest and most common forms of active salesmanship, cold calling allows salespeople to interact with prospects who may or may not know their brand. The key factor is that this is the first time these two people have interacted with each other, and the call is neither scheduled nor expected. 

Although the sales representative is ultimately trying to convince the prospective buyer on the other side of the call to purchase the solution they’re selling, the goal of a cold call could be as modest as setting a follow-up appointment, booking a demo, or simply making your customer aware of your brand. 

Cold calls give sales reps the chance to build a trusted relationship with potential clients. If that bond is formed, a real possibility of future business comes to life. That is the promise and hope of cold calling, as elusive as it may seem. 

A Brief History of Cold Calling

The Philadelphia Contributorship was an insurance company co-founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1752. Using door-to-door pitches and community selling, these founding insurers were the first to provide fire insurance to American businesses before there even was a United States of America. 

Over a century later in 1873, National Cash Register founder John Patterson drafted a patterned sales script and sent his sales representatives knocking on doors throughout assigned territory. The modern telephone was invented three years later, in 1876, by Alexander Graham Bell, and the rest is history.

The concept of the lead list existed as early as 1903 when New York-based Multi-Mailing Co. stalked researched phone books in 13 states and found 600,000 viable prospects. There were over 3 million telephones connected in the U.S.

 At that time, the newly developed system gave callers access to richer members of the community. Because they were able to afford this new technology, these people were considered quality prospects, regardless of their need or interest in buying the product or service.  

After a steady rise, telemarketing really took off in the mid-20th century as companies brought private switchboards in-house. The first inside sales team in the United States dialed its first prospects in 1957 as employees of the Life Circulation Company, which would later become DialAmerica after the acquisition of Time Magazine’s phone subscription unit.

By the 80s, telemarketing had surpassed postal mailing as the most popular way to reach out to new customers. For decades, many salespeople earned their keep, day in and day out, by dialing up hundreds of leads.

From the cold-calling heyday of the 20th century, flash forward to 2003 when the introduction of a national Do Not Call registry erected barriers for consumers with landlines. While business lines were still fair game, there were now nearly 250 million private citizens on the list, limiting salespeople’s options for cold calls. 

Technological progress came to the forefront once again in the telecommunications industry with advancements to mobile phones that changed everything, once again. Although some versions of cell phones had been around since 1973, it wasn’t until 2007 that the first iPhone came out. The advent of enhanced mobile technology revolutionized communication with texting, handheld email, and social media taking off in every direction. 

Caller ID became mainstream which has made it much more difficult for a cold caller to break through to potential customers. Nowadays, it’s much easier for people to refuse a call or block any numbers they don’t know. In addition, over the years the FCC has continued to introduce stricter regulations around robocalling and calling without a customer’s consent. 

As a result, many people see cold calling as a dying art. But before we write it off for good, let’s take a look at the numbers. 

The Positive Side of Cold Calling

A common article titled “Cold Calling is Dead” gets a lot of clicks. Many sellers don’t want to cold call, so they want this to be true. Sorry, it’s not. The phone is essential for prospecting, especially when you are selling to C-level buyers. Both buyers and sellers agree: cold calling works and it’s still one of the most effective ways to generate initial sales conversations. 

Furthermore, cold calling is not as impossible as you might think. As much as some people might hate to admit it, most of us will take a cold call from time to time, if the circumstances are right. 

Check out this statistic. 

  • Nearly 70% of buyers accepted a call from a new salesperson in the past 12 months.

This is according to the Rain Group, whose 2023 Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research report set out to find what works and what doesn’t in sales prospecting, according to both buyers and sellers. The study included 488 buyers representing $4.2 billion in purchases across 25 industries, and 489 sellers who conduct outbound prospecting, so it’s legit. 

Here’s another stat they came up with. 

  • 82% of buyers say they’ve accepted sales meetings after a connection that began with a cold call.

Once again, you can see that actual deals can come from the ancient art of cold calling. But even if it works some of the time, everyone still hates all cold callers, right? Well, these stats would argue otherwise. 

  • More than half of company owners say they would rather hear from sales reps via phone compared to email, faxes, drop-in visits, and other media.
  • 57% of C-level buyers prefer to be contacted by phone.

So if the people at the top don’t seem to mind it, how bad can it really be? And what about the sellers themselves? How do they feel about making cold calls?

The 2022 Hiya State of the Call survey included nearly 2,000 business decision-makers responsible for communications platforms for their organization. The group included executives in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, France, and Spain, along with 12,000 consumers. 

Here’s what they found:

  • Used 28% of the time, sales calls are still the No. 1 method of communicating with customers.

This is followed by texting at 19%, emailing at 16%, apps at 11%, chatbots at 10%, voice calls at 8%, and postal mail at 7%. So, at the end of the day – apparently, cold calling isn’t as dead as some would say. 

Another business study by Sales Insight Lab analyzed nearly 24,000 conversations with the mission to compare top sales call performers to their colleagues.

 They discovered that:

  • Over 40% of salespeople still consider the phone call the most effective tool at their disposal.

However, it has been found that a lesser percentage of salespeople are truly sold on cold calling. 

  • 27% of sellers say making phone calls to new contacts is extremely effective.

So, there are salespeople that can do this extremely well in conducting cold calling, but they are only about one in four. Not a great percentage, I’ll admit. The bottom line is although cold calling can be effective, it’s not that straightforward. 

Let’s take a look at the flip side of these stats and see just how difficult this job can actually be. 

The Downsides of Cold Calling

Cold calling requires considerable persistence and a thick skin. It has always been a tough task for even the best salespeople, and, in modern times, it has become increasingly difficult. Fewer people have landline phone service, and cell phones are typically blocked from unsolicited callers. Even door-to-door sales are less effective in the era of two-income families, (although the growing trend of working from home could change this). 

Beyond that, calling someone you don’t know with the hopes of convincing them to do something can be downright uncomfortable. There’s a reason why so many salespeople simply don’t like it. 

  • 63% of sales representatives say that cold calls are the worst part of their job, according to sales agent stats.

The worst part of their job? Ouch. But wait, that’s not all. Both sides are in agreement on this one. 

  • Nearly 60% of prospects say they currently find cold calls useless.

Useless, huh? No wonder the person they are calling won’t answer. In fact, a study by Pew Research Center found that:

  • 8 in 10 Americans won’t pick up an unknown number.

And, sadly, thanks to the superabundance of spam callers and identity thieves, phone owners almost always fear the worst. 

  • 92% of consumers believe unidentified calls might be fraud.

There’s that trust level coming back to haunt us. Even if sales reps do get through to a potential customer, cold callers definitely aren’t being given the benefit of the doubt. So how do some cold callers have so much success? Are they doing something differently? What’s their secret?

What Cold Calling Really Takes

We’ve established that sales success with cold calling is possible, but it’s certainly not easy-breezy and the numbers are against us. Nevertheless, knowing that it’s possible, let’s dive a little deeper into the statistics to explore what it takes to get through to someone on a cold call. 

Throughout two weeks in 2011, the Keller Research Center at Baylor University conducted a study of 50 participating sales agents who made over 6000 phone-based cold calls, collectively. The study they conducted has shed new light on what cold calling success looks like.

I’ll be honest. The cold calling success rate is low. 

  • Less than 2% of cold calls result in a follow-up appointment or referral.

Of the over 6000 calls placed in the Baylor study:

  • 28% were answered, 55% were not answered, and 17% were non-working numbers.

Those numbers aren’t great. However, some sales reps are still having success. This stat shows just how much effort and dedication is required to succeed as a cold caller.

  • It takes an average of 18 or more dials to reach a tech prospect with cold calling.
  • 80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls, but 44% of sales reps give up after their first call.

So what does successful cold calling take? Well, we know patience, interest in your customer, and a calm demeanor certainly seem to help. So, now let’s take a look at these statistics from business research groups Sales Insights Lab and Gong Labs. Perhaps they can help point us in the right direction toward landing potential customers.

  • Top performers’ discovery calls are 76% longer. 
  • The average successful cold call lasts just under six minutes (compared to just over three minutes for unsuccessful calls) and includes an uninterrupted sales pitch of 37 seconds.
  • Top performers ask nearly 40% more questions in their discovery sessions.
  • Top performers talk about product features 63% less.
  • Top performers speak 6% slower than the average salesperson.
  • Win rates are highest when pricing is discussed on the first call.

How does this compare to the way you tend to handle your cold calls? What side of the stats do you fall under? How can you up your cold call game now that you’ve got the lowdown on what works and what doesn’t?

The Best Times to Call

Now what about the best times to call? Well, somebody studied that, too. 

A study by CallHippo gathered data from over 1200 clients operating their businesses across more than 15 countries. The research contains data observed over 30 weeks with nearly 16,000 call attempts. 

Here’s what they found:

  • The best days to make prospecting calls are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Wednesday is the absolute best day. Do not call your prospects on Monday or Friday afternoon. 

  • 46% more conversions are made on Wednesdays compared to Mondays.

How about the best time of day to call? 

  • Between 11 and 12 p.m., between and 4 and 5 p.m. are the best time frames to reach out to prospects.

Keep in mind, whether they download something from your website, or call or email with a question, 

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the more you can learn about your customer before you make that first cold call, the better your chance of getting a second appointment and eventually securing a sale. 

  • 78% of sales representatives who use social media report that researching prospects on social networks helps them perform better on the job.

Unfortunately, solid leads aren’t always easy to come by. 

  • ​​At least 50% of your prospects aren’t a good fit for what you’re selling.

When in doubt, another age-old sales technique comes to mind: getting referrals. 

  • Customers won through referrals are about 24% more profitable than other customers

After all, it makes sense. People trust their friends and family. 

  • 84% of respondents said recommendations by friends and family are the most trustworthy way to learn about a product or service.

If you’re asking for referrals regularly, then you’re already ahead of the game. 

  • 40% of salespeople rarely ask customers for referrals and only 18% ask every time.

The bottom line is the more information you have about your prospects, the better you’re going to do. So do your research, vet your leads, and take advantage of any referrals you can find. 

After all, that’s what makes cold calling so hard, isn’t it? It’s the lack of trust and connection between the caller and the customer. If you can find a way to build stronger relationships, your prospects will be more likely to “warm up” and genuinely connect with you on a cold call. 

So take these statistics to heart as you work to improve your cold-calling abilities and master this classic, yet often misunderstood, sales and marketing technique. 


As you can see, cold calling is not for the faint of heart. It’s a challenging job for any sales professional, but with the right strategy and mindset, it can be lucrative. Now that you’ve read these statistics, at least you know what you’re getting into.



Cold Calling Statistics FAQs

What is the success rate of cold calling?

The success rate of cold calling can vary widely depending on various factors, such as the quality of the calling list, the skill of the salesperson, and the industry being targeted. According to a study by Baylor University’s Keller Center for Research, the average success rate for cold calls is only about 1-3%.

What percentage of sales are made through cold calling?

The percentage of sales made through cold calling also varies by industry and other factors. However, it might help to know a survey by HubSpot found that for B2B (business-to-business) sales, 78% of decision-makers have taken an appointment or attended an event that came from an email or cold call.

How many calls does it take to make a successful sale?

The number of calls it takes to make a successful sale can vary significantly. Some sales experts suggest that it takes an average of 8 cold call attempts to reach a prospect, while others suggest that it can take up to 20 attempts. However, even with multiple attempts, only a small percentage of cold calls typically result in a sale.

What is the average duration of a successful cold call?

The average duration of a successful cold call can also vary depending on the industry and the type of sale being made. In general, most successful cold calls are short and to the point. However, studies by Sales Insight Lab indicate that the longer the conversation goes, the better chance of a sale or follow-up appointment being made.