Cold calling is soliciting potential customers who were not expecting to speak with you. The term 'cold' refers to the fact that you haven't laid any groundwork for your call. If you are calling prospects who have already expressed interest in your products, such as a prospect who fills out a postcard or website request for information, then it's referred to as 'warm calling.'
Different sales experts will refer to both phone calls and physical, drop-in visits as cold calling, but most salespeople think of cold calling in terms of the telephone. When in doubt, you can usually assume that a reference to cold calling relates to phone calls rather than visits.
Cold calling is one of the least liked tasks in sales. It's emotionally demanding because receiving a cold sales call can bring out the worst in people... so salespeople launching into a round of cold calls can expect verbal abuse, prospects who hang up on them, and even occasional threats. The best approach is to remind yourself that they are not rejecting you, they are simply reacting to the situation. Just let any hostility roll off and move on to the next name on the list.
Salespeople have mixed views as to the effectiveness of cold calling. Many believe that cold calling is the most efficient and effective way to reach new leads. Others feel that cold calling has been eclipsed by the many new sales channels available today, which include email, social media and text message marketing.