Cold calling

Cold calling is the process of approaching prospective customers or clients, typically via telephone, who were not expecting such an interaction. The word "cold" is used because the person receiving the call is not expecting a call or has not specifically asked to be contacted by a sales person.

However, cold or cold market more appropriately explains that the call is a sales person's first time introduction to prospective customer/client, whereas a warm market call is to an existing client or someone known to the sales person, even if it is a referral, possibly from a satisfied customer to a friend or contact, prior to the call.

Cold calling can be very frustrating and difficult for a sales person or tele-marketer because they are often rebuffed, hung-up on and suffer a higher rate of social rejection by persons receiving the cold calls.

Business to consumer cold calls are often frustrating for the person receiving the cold call, since they expected upon picking up the phone to hear from someone they know and care about, and instead deal with a minor nuisance in the form of a sales pitch. Business to business calls are a more accepted method of introduction, but can still become a nuisance.

Some sales people have come to the conclusion that cold calling is ineffective, inefficient, outdated and a waste of their time. They then seek to develop techniques to lower the rate of rejection. Many forms of marketing and advertising have been adopted to augment cold calling or replace this task entirely.

Cold calls can also be done in person rather than over the phone. This type of cold call is also referred to as door to door. A number of advocacy groups such as PIRGs and Greenpeace use this technique to spread information and sell memberships at the same time.

Legal issues

Within the United Kingdom, the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 make it unlawful to transmit an automated recorded message for direct marketing purposes via a telephone, without prior consent of the subscriber.

In Ireland, the "National Directory Database" is an index of numbers that cannot be called for the purposes of 'cold calls' and/or sales and advertising.

Many US states have enacted "Do Not Call Lists" in which a consumer adds their telephone number to a list and telemarketers are not permitted to telephone any number on that list without prior permission of the recipient. It is similar to the US Do Not Call List which is managed and enforced by the FTC.

Within the European Union, the Data Privacy Directive 2002/58/EC forces the governments of its member states to issue laws until June 2007 that prohibit general cold calling. However, the directive allows both an opt-in or an opt-out model, i.e. requiring a national register for phone numbers which either do (opt-in) or do not (opt-out) welcome cold calls.

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