Is Cold Calling Dead? 3 Data Points Show It's Alive and Thriving

Will Schmidt

April 23, 2024

11 min

Table of Contents

Is cold calling dead? Do salespeople think the phone isn’t an effective form of communications? What about prospects, do they even like being called anymore?

Some in the sales community will be quick to tell you that the phone and cold calling are, in fact, dead. However, we remain skeptical of that answer, and we know we’re not alone in our conviction.

There are countless sales organizations across the U.S. who use the phones every day to get in touch with prospects and close major deals. Plus, PhoneBurner’s power dialer software alone fuels well over 100 million calls per year.

So, we decided to fully explore the data, trends, and insights associated with those hundreds of millions of calls to find a true answer to the question. The results, which are officially published in our annual Sales Calls Statistics Report, show us one very clear takeaway:  

Both the phone and cold calling are not dead. Far from it. In fact, the phone has become the preferred communication channel for outbound teams and sales professionals.

But there are so many other corroborating data points that go deeper than this one headline item. For example, when a live conversation happens on PhoneBurner, we saw prospects spending more time talking with sales reps on the phone than ever before.

If you’re interested in fully exploring these insights, I encourage you to read the entirety of our Sales Calls Statistics Report. You’re going to love it.

For this blog post though, our goal is to go deeper than just knowing the phone is the preferred communication channel for outbound teams and sales professionals. We have to understand how to use the phone effectively to:

  • Elicit as many live conversations as possible
  • Improve the quality of conversations
  • Nurture prospects deeper into the sales cycle

Below, we’ll walk you through some specific data points from the full Sales Calls Statistics Report, and show you some tips, tricks, and strategies that can help you apply these insights to your sales strategy. Let’s get after it!


How a Changing Sales Landscape Makes the Phone a Top Priority

Before we dive into the data, it’s crucial that we first understand how the entirety of the B2B sales landscape has changed as a result of cultural and global factors.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

There’s no doubt about it—the COVID-19 pandemic changed B2B sales, likely forever. One day everything was business as usual. The next day, sales organizations had to quickly pivot and adopt digital-first approaches to their work.

Today, the remote work environment has become standard. In fact, there are many companies who may never return to an in-person office ever again. What’s most interesting though is that 75% of both buyers and sellers prefer this new approach.

B2B decision-makers are more willing to spend on products or services purchase through remote sales:

  • 70% said they would purchase in excess of $50,000
  • 27% said they would purchase in excess of $500,000
  • 15% would spend more than $1 million

Remote selling has become just as effective, if not more effective, than in-person selling. And since prospects want this kind of selling and are willing to pay serious cash, they’re likely to stay on the phone with your reps longer because they’re comfortable and want to build a real relationship around the sale.

We saw corroborating data on this in our Sales Calls Statistics Report. The average length of a live conversation on PhoneBurner has increased by 16 seconds from 2019 to 2021.

Cold calling and outbound communications were always cornerstones of a successful sales strategy, but the pandemic reinforced their importance and efficacy.

STIR/SHAKEN and “Scam Likely” Flags

On June 30, 2021, STIR/SHAKEN regulations were implemented to combat scammers and restore lost trust in phone communications. Alongside those regulations, the major carriers debuted reputational analytics algorithms in partnership with Hiya, TNS, and First Orion.

These algorithms are what monitor phone activity on a specific network and flag calls as “Spam” or “Scam Likely.” Prior to these regulations and algorithms, people would often answer their phone if it rang, even if they didn’t recognize the number.

Now, with more calls being flagged, people know when to pick up and when not to pick up. When they do pick up, they’re making a conscious choice to engage in a conversation with your reps—they’re more bought in from the start.

The issue though is when legitimate business calls are incorrectly flagged “Spam” or “Scam Likely.” As a sales leader, it’s crucial that you do everything in your power to mitigate the risk of being flagged in the first place (more on that below).


Analyzing the Data: Why the Phone Wins Big

Now that we’ve got some much-needed context around the changes in the outbound landscape, we can look into the hard data. We opened our Sales Calls Statistics Report with a look into three core buckets:

  • Live conversations
  • Talk time
  • Voicemails left

Each one is powerful on its own, but when examined as a group, these sales calls statistics explicitly show why the phone has become the preferred communication channel.

Live Conversations

When a prospect answers a call from a PhoneBurner user—aka, a sales rep—we quantify that as a live conversation. The number of total live conversations on PhoneBurner increased 41.23% year-over-year from 2020 to 2021.

We also saw calls made per PhoneBurner user increase by 9.34% from 2019 to 2020, and by 22.02% from 2020 to 2021. If cold calling were dead, and the phone wasn’t effective, these growth trends wouldn’t exist.

Apply It to Your Strategy

The difficulty with scoring a live conversation is that someone has to pick up. And, at the end of the day, it’s impossible to force someone to pick up the phone. This is further compounded by the “Spam” and “Scam Likely” flags we see.

It’s crucial that you do everything in your power to mitigate the chances of being improperly flagged in order to improve your live answer rates. The good news is that there are many tactics you can use to help like:

  • Register Your Numbers on Free Caller Registry
  • Be Rigorous with Your Lead Providers
  • Use Dialing Best Practices
  • Call at the Best Time of Day
  • Remediate False Spam Flags
  • Monitor Your Numbers
  • Build Reputation, Don’t Buy & Get Rid of Numbers
  • Use Branded Caller ID (BCID) solutions

Still, it’s important to note that there is no magic tactic on this list that will guarantee you are never flagged as “Spam” or “Scam Likely.” That’s why it’s so important to always stay vigilant in this area.

Talk Time

Total talk time refers to the aggregate number of minutes PhoneBurner users spend on live conversations talking with their prospects. From 2019 to 2020, total talk time went from 21,819,427 minutes to 23,383,105 minutes.

What most interesting is what happened the following year. From 2020 to 2021, total talk time skyrocketed to 34,915,216 total minutes—49.32% higher than 2020.

Further, in 2019, PhoneBurner users spent an average of 106 seconds on a call with a prospect. In 2020, it was 115 seconds, and the average PhoneBurner call in 2021 lasted for 122 seconds. That’s a 15.09% increase from 2019 to 2021.

Both of these are massive leaps, and proof that the phone is the preferred communication channel for sales pros and outbound teams. These data points also show that prospects are picking up the phone and actively talking with reps.  

Apply It to Your Strategy

You’ve done everything in your power to get your prospects to pick up the phone, which is great. But just because a prospect picks up doesn’t mean they’ll keep talking.

Your reps have to immediately grab a prospect’s attention when they answer and keep them on the phone. The longer they talk, the more opportunities arise to book meetings, set demos, or close the deal.

Plus, the longer they stay on the phone the more bought in the prospect becomes. This is where the art of sales comes into play.

You can train your sales team to masterfully manage their prospect conversations and steer them toward a desired outcome. If you follow cold call best practices from sales professionals like Greg Woodward and Ryan Reisert, the opening of a call is the most important.

This is where your reps need to grab someone’s attention, hold it, and build rapport to keep moving forward with the conversation. That makes your cold calling script more important than ever.

With a well-written script, your reps will:

  • Clearly enunciate with confidence
  • Stay prepared for potential curveballs
  • Remain focused on solutions
  • Save time
  • Reduce mental fatigue

This opens the door for authentic conversations to blossom, which is one of the best ways to sell. It keeps the prospect engaged, helps book more meetings, and, ultimately, helps close more deals.

If you’re looking for even more information about scripts, be sure to download our eBook Outbound Sales: 10 Strategies to Close More Deals for free.

Voicemails Left

Given that we saw so many more calls made on PhoneBurner in 2021, it’s not surprising that the number of voicemails left also increased from 17,162,213 to 24,463,839. What’s interesting is that we saw the rate of voicemails left per call drop from 23% in 2020 to 18% in 2021.

That’s a good thing because a higher number of PhoneBurner users were on the phone more often and actively talking with prospects. They didn’t need to leave as many voicemails on a per-call basis.

In other words, PhoneBurner users left fewer voicemails because they were having more conversations and spending more time on the phone with prospects.

Apply It to Your Strategy

The key takeaway here is relatively straightforward—don’t ignore sales voicemails. Even if you don’t need to leave them because you’re getting prospects on the phone, make sure they’re baked into your sales strategy.

There are some who think sales voicemails are a waste of time. Admittedly, without the right tech partner they can be very time-consuming.

However, if you invest the time and get a call back from a prospect that you left a voicemail with, there’s serious intent behind that call. This prospect listened to your message, liked what you said, and reached out asking for more—they want to hear what you have to say.

The key, aside from partnering with the right power dialer software, is to learn to leave a professional voicemails. Here are some quick tips that can help:

  • Create a solid voicemail script
  • Use email in tandem with your voicemails
  • Leverage social proof
  • Keep it short
  • Be enthusiastic
  • Pay attention to your tone
  • Go slow and enunciate
  • Avoid desperation

For, check out our full blog that extensively details 20 tactics that will help you perfect your sales voicemails.


Are the Phone and Cold Calling Dead? No.

The more we explore our PhoneBurner platform data, the clearer it becomes. The phone is alive and thriving. And it’s become the preferred communication channel for sales professionals and outbound teams.

What’s more, the phone is a powerful tool for anyone who wants to have more engaging, higher-quality conversations with their prospects. And this vital lesson is only the first of many learned through a deep analysis in our annual Sales Calls Statistics Report.

I encourage you to explore the full report for free—no downloads required. You’ll get more on the success of the phone as well as:

  • What the best times are to cold call (months, days of month, day of week, time of day)
  • The seasonality of call trends
  • How teams can optimize processes and tactics to meet their goals

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Calls and Outbound

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