Skip to Content
Custom Growth Solutions LLC Change Location
This site uses cookies. By navigating the site, you consent to our use of cookies. Accept

Why cold calling doesn't work


Just about everyone hates cold calling. David Sandler himself was quoted as saying, "Nobody ever had to wait in line to make a cold call." Then why are people still making cold calls?

I can't tell you how many times my team and I have heard people say, "Cold calling doesn't work." And they're right! If they believe cold calling will not work for them, it won't. Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." And that concept plays into cold calls.

Have you ever told yourself any of the following?

  • Cold calls won't work for me.
  • Cold calls won't work for my industry.
  • I don't need to make cold calls any more.
  • I don't have time to make cold calls.
  • People will think I'm desperate if I make cold calls.

Or maybe you're actually making cold calls but they're not working as well as they could. Maybe you're making assumptions about when and how you should make them.

Years ago I talked with someone who made cold calls but didn't realize they were making an assumption that was limiting their success. In Sandler, we call those negative assumptions head trash. Let's take a look at the story about his head trash, then I'll share some tips and resources for cold calling and prospecting.

Five o'clock head trash

Several years back I was talking to someone who worked for one of the large life insurance companies in my area. He was a pretty successful guy.

We were wrapping up our call, and it was a few minutes after five. Jokingly I said, "I'd better let you go. I'm sure you have to get back to cold calling."

He replied, "Oh, it's after five. I'm not cold calling any more."

My jaw dropped, but I kept my composure. Of course, it was easy for me to see his head trash but hard for him to spot it. Digging in deeper, I asked, "Why is that?"

He replied, "Nobody ever answers their phone after five."

I responded with, "I'm a business owner and I answer my phone until 7:30 some nights."

Taking out the trash

That life insurance salesman's belief that nobody answered their phone after five played into something we call the belief wheel.

Put succinctly, your beliefs drive your judgments. Those judgments then lead you to either take action or not, which we call non-action. That action or lack of action leads to specific results, which then reinforce your beliefs.

If you think nobody answers their phone after five, then your judgment is that calling someone after five won't work. As a result, you don't call anyone after five, never talk to anyone after five, and that reinforces your belief.

Guess what? Nobody will answer your phone calls after five if you're not calling them! Talk about a huge piece of head trash! That salesman was successful, but he could have been even more successful.

If you don't do something different, you'll never get over your head trash about cold calling. You'll be limiting your own success.

Tips for cold calling

Let's take a look at five cold calling tips that can help you improve if you apply them.

Tip #1: Cold calling is not about selling, it's about making appointments.
In fact, I can go even further than that. It's really about seeing if you need to make an appointment with someone or not!

Don't try to sell anything to the person answering the phone. Don't even try to sell them an appointment. Just find out if they have a pain you can solve. And if so, schedule an appointment.

Tip #2: Tell the person you're cold calling them.
How irritating is it when someone calls you and tries to pretend it isn't a cold call? When I get those calls, it makes me cringe. Don't do that!

Instead, use something we like to call a pattern interrupt. Start your call by literally telling the other person, "This is a cold call." It's disarming honesty and it bypasses those automatic shields people raise when they think they're talking to a salesperson.

Tip #3: Every "no" is a learning opportunity.
Every cold call should end with a "yes," a "no," or a clear next step. While a "yes" or a next step are great, when you get a "no," take a minute afterward and review the call to learn from it. Did you take too long to get to the "no?" Did they have an objection that you've heard a lot before? It may be time to come up with a strategy to use that objection to your advantage.

Whatever the case, use those "no" calls to improve your performance for the future. After all, if you want to learn from your mistakes, you first have to take the time to make mistakes.

Tip #4: There's no better way for practicing talking to prospects.
What other prospecting activity puts you in front of so many people in such a short amount of time? You'll get practice talking to a lot of people about what you do, all while thinking on your toes and learning from your experiences.

So not only is it a valuable activity in and of itself, but nothing is better at preparing you for other prospecting activities.

Tip #5: You don't have to like cold calling, you just have to do it.
I've already mentioned it, but just about everyone hates cold calling. And there's no magic pill that will change you from someone who hates cold calls to someone who loves them.

But you don't have to love them, do you? You just have to do them.


Prospecting can help you increase your sales, and sales is the life-blood of every organization. Cold calling can be a great prospecting method if you have the appropriate behaviors. We have written several articles over the years related to prospecting and cold calling.

Concerned you may have head trash that's limiting your prospecting abilities? Next up is a video that explains how head trash may be limiting you and the importance of removing head trash.

If you are worried about the pitfalls and traps that catch a lot of salespeople off guard when prospecting, we have a white paper that can help you learn to navigate the terrain. How to Overcome Prospecting Mistakes and Increase your Sales Pipeline will help you learn how to maintain determination and drive when faced with challenges prospecting.

You can download your free copy here:

Finally, you may want us to help you or your team get better at cold calling specifically or at prospecting in general. We help our clients improve through a number of methods including a classroom environment, one-on-one coaching, and custom group training.

If any of those sound like they're worth a conversation, you can call us at (405) 844-1700 or email me at

Mike Crandall

Mike Crandall

Crandall is the Principal of Sandler in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He works with business owners and motivated individuals to create and implement Professional Development Strategies to foster the growth of individuals, teams, and organizations.