Blog/Cold emailing vs cold calling: confession of a lead generation startup

Is cold calling dead? Is cold emailing the new alternative? Is one better than the other? What to choose? It’s time to reveal what lead generation professionals think about it.


Both cold calling and cold emailing are widely used for starting conversations with potential clients. Though each of these tactics has supporters and haters.

There are many negative opinions about cold calling. It is disturbing, people hate to be annoyed with cold calls. Some people think it’s a relic from the other era. Meanwhile, many businesses continue using it and don’t complaint about the results.

When it comes to cold emailing, people tolerate it more since it’s less intrusive. These days it became a good alternative for those who think cold calling is dead. On the other hand, many people treat cold emails as spam and are sceptical about the results.

Let’s give an honest look at both tactics.

Cold calling vs Cold emailing: pros and cons

Cold calling: pros

A huge advantage of cold calling is that it’s the fastest way to reach someone and get a response immediately. This factor is important if you need feedback on your solution asap.

When you get a negative response via phone, you can figure out ‘why’ it’s so right away. This gives you a valuable insight which you can use to, a) turn this ‘no’ into ‘yes’, or b) learn how to improve your solution and sales process.

With email it’s rather difficult to get any further explanation after ‘no’. This makes cold calling preferable when the conversation/feedback itself is the goal.

Besides, it’s easier to make a conversation personal if you hear each other.

pros and cons both strategies

Cold calling: cons

Conducting phone calls is time-consuming and hard to handle. It requires certain skills and energy to be persuading, sound positive and motivated via phone. Hearing mostly refuses while cold calling (no matter how well one hustles) can influence callers’ moral and affect the outcome.

There might be also some technical obstacles with finding phone numbers for cold calling. Unlike emails, phone numbers are rarely publicly available. You probably heard about ready-made phone numbers and email databases available for sale? Keep in mind that the story behind such databases is usually shady. You never know where they come from and how have been gathered. Their usage might cause legal/reputation issues.

People whom you call often get annoyed. And no wonder! Getting a call is always disturbing, even (or particularly) if it’s from your mom. People can promise you everything via phone just to get rid off you. Here is how you might end up with lots of ‘maybes’ which turn into ‘nos’ after the next call. Also very disappointing…

Not to mention that cold calling is more expensive comparing to cold emailing.

With cold calling it’s hard to scale up. The only way to do that is by hiring more salespeople, which can be pretty expensive and ineffective on a bigger scale.

Cold emailing: pros

In contrast, with cold emailing it’s very easy to scale up due to its time efficiency and possible optimization.

It’s also way cheaper comparing to cold calling. With one click you can send out messages to 10-100 people.

Written form usually allows to make your offer more visually appealing than oral one. You can put convincing numbers, add links, pictures, memes, gifs. This kind of lil tricks in combination with customized approach makes conversations via email personal and “alive”.

Receiving emails, even from strangers, is a normal practice. You don’t get people annoyed with that unless you send them something truly irrelevant. You can also remind about yourself with follow ups in non-pushy way. Read here how to follow up and not be a stalker.

Cold emailing: cons

With cold emails you might need to wait for the answer and/or follow up to get it.

It’s indeed easy to scale up, but it will require some automation tools (lead generation solution, email agent, etc.). Besides, to make emails personal, creative and original you’ll need good copywriters.

With cold emailing there are might be some technical obstacles you should be ready for, like spam reports, being blacklisted etc.

The good thing is that it’s possible to optimize cold emailing and handle its cons (check how write a good email subject lines). In RightHello we use the searching app (that helps to find companies that fit the target) and expertise of our inventive marketers for that. This way we reach (or help our clients to reach) pretty awesome ROI from cold emailing. The latest record – 40 to 1 from one campaign. Find more articles about cold mailing.

What to choose?

There are many factors to consider here:

Target audience
Think what channel is more suitable for your customers. If they’re hanging on the Internet mostly, it’s better not to bother them with calls.

Stage of business development and goals
When you just start your business and you need to validate your solution asap, it’s okay to call 100 people in order to arrange 5-10 customer interviews (assuming you have an experienced sales person to do that). This way you get those interviews fast and making 100 calls one-time won’t be a big trouble. But it doesn’t mean you have to stick to cold calling later on when the goals are different.

Business model, price range, costs per lead
Following the idea expressed by Peter Thiel in his “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” – more complicated, niche, high cost solutions need more complex sales approach and more careful attention from salespeople (high touch). Whereas cheaper products can be sold with minimum (or none) involvement of salespeople (low touch).

In other words, cold calling is not the best choice for $1000 – $10, 000 product that doesn’t need active involvement of salespeople to be sold. Lower touch tactic like cold emailing can be as effective but much cheaper way to sell (see the picture below).

But! Forget about price range for a moment. If you’re able to justify value of your solution easily (and it’s not based on promises of eloquent salespeople or CEO’s charm), you can probably sell it with min salespeople “touch”. So don’t base your decision on the price range of the solution purely.

best cold emails vs cold calls

Why to choose at all?

In practice it rarely happens that communication goes strictly within one channel: phone or email. Cold email can make the following conversation warmer, and a cold call can help your further email not to get lost in a junk or be ignored by the receiver.

So how it’s better to organize the process then? What should go first?
There is no some rule of thumb for that, unfortunately. It’s better to experiment with the sequence of calls and emails to see what works better for certain audience. We experimented a lot with these tactics at RightHello and here are our main observations.

From the organizational point of view it’s easier and cheaper to build well structured cold emailing process and have calls sometimes, rather than the opposite way.

  • You can use calls for testing the waters. F.e. if you have doubts who is the decision-maker in the company, or curious if they work with the technologies related to your solution – make an inquiry call. This way you’ll most probably be referred to the right person
  • Email will work better from the start if you want to contact top management of the company, who are hard to reach by the phone
  • There are plenty of other ways how to approach the target with a mixture of channels. Just use your creativity and try to make it organic. For instance, you can start with a cold email, simultaneously add a person on LinkedIn. No reaction? Follow up or LinkedIn message! Still no reaction? Call.

If you want to discuss possible combinations or share your experience – send me an email to dariya.oliynyk@righthello.com (another chance to practice your cold emailing skills). I’d also be happy to hear your opinion on this article as well as suggestions on topics you’d like me to cover.

Thanks for reading! We also recommend you to check our case studies.