Cold Email vs Cold Call: Key Differences, Pros & Cons, Best Practices

Cold email vs Cold call: A Comparison

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“Cold email vs cold call – Which one is better for my business?” is a common question among most B2B sales heads & founders looking to get started with outbound prospecting.Check out our detailed comparison of the two, and understand how and when to use them in your outbound efforts.

If you’re a salesperson in the B2B space, the choice of outreach channels is critical. It not only helps you reach your ideal customers, but also establishes you as an expert in your industry. 

The cold email vs cold call debate is one of the most occurrences during this decision-making process. Both methods have evolved into key tools for customer acquisition. 

For instance, a Salesforce report indicates that 92% of all customer interactions happen over the phone, highlighting the continued relevance of cold calling. 

On the other hand, cold emails have a significant impact, with Campaign Monitor noting that email marketing yields an average ROI of 3,800%. With such positive ROI reported for both channels, the confusion is only fair. 

This article explores the difference between cold email vs cold calls, the pros and cons of each and how you can leverage them to achieve your business goals. 

Cold Email vs Cold Call: What Sets Them Apart?

cold email vs cold call

Both email prospecting and cold calling involve outreach to prospective customers who’ve never interacted with you before. 

However, there are some key differences when it comes to cold email vs cold call that you need to recognize. 

Cold calling is a rather popular prospecting technique, with sales reps reaching out to potential leads via phone. Unlike the past, where they had to dial numbers manually, modern cold calling uses auto-dialers to go beyond geographical boundaries, with over 70% of them successfully generating meetings through the phone. 

Conversely, cold emailing has become the go-to for B2B businesses, especially in the SaaS sector. The channel is equally effective, allowing you to reach a wider audience at scale. 

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are some key differences between cold calling vs. cold emailing: 

  • Your CTA: When using cold emails over cold calls, you get a chance to experiment with different CTAs (calls-to-action), run A/B tests and choose those which generate the best results. Alternately, cold calls don’t let you test much, and you need to use trial-and-error to find out what works. 
  • Funnel stage: When comparing cold email vs cold call, you also need to analyze the funnel stage where you’re using it. Cold calling works well in the later stages of the funnel, whereas cold emails are great for introducing yourself, getting more meetings and moving the conversation forward. 
  • Response time: Cold calls have faster response times compared to emails, owing to their real-time nature. Cold email responses on the other hand, take longer and require consistent follow-ups.
  • Level of personalization: When you choose cold email vs cold call, you get more scope for personalization. You can craft tailored emails that speak directly to your prospect. On the other hand, you’ll need to research well before a cold call to introduce some level of personalization in your outreach. 
  • Buyer personality: Cold calling is often considered intrusive, and is usually ideal when reaching out to prospects with a more extroverted attitude. Comparatively, cold emails don’t disrupt the buyer’s routine, and the conversation can be parked and picked up again later. 

At the end of the day, both channels are useful for reaching out to new prospects & nudging them further down, closer to a sale.

That being said, the results can vary for any business based on the resources and sales talent available.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Cold Emailing?

Benefits of using cold emails

To dive deeper into the comparison between cold email vs cold call, let’s look at the benefits being offered by the former. 

Here they are: 

The Pros: 

1. Easy to Scale

One of the major advantages of choosing cold email vs cold call is the scalability. Unlike cold calling, where each call takes time and effort, you can reach thousands of prospects with cold emails in a fraction of the time. 

This efficiency makes email prospecting vs cold calling a favorable choice, especially for businesses looking to expand their outreach quickly and efficiently.

2. Can include more information 

Cold emails provide the opportunity to convey detailed information that might not be feasible in a sales email vs phone call scenario. You can include comprehensive product descriptions, links to resources, attachments like PDFs or videos, and more. 

This capacity for detail makes cold emailing particularly effective for complex B2B offerings where nuanced explanations are essential.

3. Easily track KPIs 

The ability to track key metrics is a significant advantage of using cold email vs cold call. 

Email platforms offer insights into open rates, click-through rates, and engagement metrics, allowing businesses to analyze and refine their strategies. 

This data-driven approach is less prevalent when we compare cold calling vs. cold emailing, where tracking and quantifying engagement can be more challenging.

4. Cost-effective

From a cost perspective, cold emailing is often more budget-friendly compared to cold calling. Email campaigns don’t require extensive personnel or expensive phone setups, making them a more economical choice for reaching a broad audience, a consideration crucial in the cold email vs cold calling debate. 

The Cons: 

1. Lack of immediate attention

A potential drawback of choosing cold email vs cold calls, is the chance that these emails might be ignored or disappear into the crowded inbox. On the other hand, cold calls are real-time and require immediate attention from the prospect to engage in a conversation. 

When you send emails, they can be overlooked or even delayed. This is a critical consideration in the cold email vs cold call analysis, especially for time-sensitive offers.

2. Impersonal in nature 

Cold emailing can sometimes feel impersonal, particularly when sending the same message to a large list. Personalization techniques can help, but achieving the same level of personal connection as in a cold call can be challenging. 

This aspect is a significant point in the cold email vs cold calling comparison, where the human-to-human aspect of a phone call is often the difference between a lost opportunity & a successful sale. 

3. Requires more effort 

Creating effective cold email campaigns requires considerable effort. Crafting compelling content, designing visually appealing templates, conducting A/B tests, and managing lists demand both time and resources. Cold calling needs fewer elements and is quicker to put together as well. 

This workload is a notable factor when considering choosing cold email vs cold call. 

4. Deliverability challenges 

Cold emails face the hurdle of deliverability. Emails can end up in spam folders or get blocked by servers, reducing their effectiveness. 

Navigating these issues is a unique challenge of cold emailing, contrasting with the direct nature of cold calling. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Cold Calls? 

Coming to the next bit of our comparison between cold email vs cold call, it’s time to understand the pros and cons of cold calling. 

Here’s everything you need to know: 

The Pros: 

Benefits of cold calling

1. Immediate interaction

The immediacy of a cold call creates a dynamic environment for quick relationship building. This direct interaction, a key aspect in the cold email vs cold call debate, allows for instant rapport and problem-solving.

According to a study by Baylor University, experienced salespeople can expect to make one appointment or referral for every 209 calls, highlighting the potential for immediate results with cold calling. 

2. More personalized approach

Cold calling offers a unique advantage in personalizing communication in real-time. Unlike cold emailing, where personalization is pre-planned, cold calls allow salespeople to adapt their approach based on the prospect’s responses. 

This flexibility is crucial, especially when considering cold email vs cold call as your preferred channel for engaging with diverse customer segments.

3. Effective for complex products & services 

When dealing with complex products or services, the direct nature of a cold call often proves more effective than cold emailing. Compare it to cold emails, and you not only have to wait longer, but also run the risk of not being able to communicate your USP in more than 100 words. 

A report by RAIN Group found that complex sales cycles benefit significantly from phone conversations, as they provide the opportunity to clarify details and answer questions immediately.

4. Direct control over the conversation

When comparing cold email vs cold calling, the latter proves to be a better option since it gives salespeople greater control over the flow and direction of the conversation.

This is a critical element in any sales technique, essential for guiding the prospect towards a specific outcome, like booking a meeting or closing a sale.

The Cons: 


1. It’s considered intrusive 

One major challenge with cold calling is its potential intrusiveness, which arises because cold calls can interrupt a prospect’s day unexpectedly. 

When you compare cold email vs cold call, the latter can be opened at the recipient’s convenience, while phone calls demand immediate attention. When a salesperson makes an unsolicited call, it can disrupt the recipient’s workflow or personal time, potentially leading to a negative reception.

According to a post published in Tech.co, only 2% of all cold calls convert into appointments, indicating that the likelihood of calls being perceived as disruptive is quite high. 

2. Low response rates

In today’s fast-paced business environment, people are often too busy to answer calls from unknown numbers, or they may actively avoid calls perceived as sales pitches. This behavior leads to a scenario where a substantial number of cold calls simply never reach the intended recipient.

Spotio, a field sales management platform states that it takes an average of 18 calls to connect with a buyer, demonstrating the challenge of getting responses when comparing cold email vs cold call effectiveness. 

Moreover, the increased use of caller ID and call filtering technology contributes to this low connection rate. Many potential clients are now equipped with tools that help them screen out calls from unknown or unwanted sources. 

As a result, sales professionals relying on cold calling must not only contend with busy schedules and call avoidance but also with technological barriers.

3. Expensive to scale 

Scalability is one of the biggest challenges facing cold callers. When using this method, you’ve to sit down for every single phone call, and there are no steps to accelerate this process, unlike cold emails. 

That being said, you can actually try using predictive dialer tools to make your cold calls more productive and easier to manage. 

Dependent on timing 

The effectiveness of a cold call greatly depends on timing, which can be unpredictable. Unlike cold emailing, where recipients can view messages at their convenience, cold calls require catching the prospect at the right moment, adding an element of uncertainty to the whole process. 

What’s the Ideal Success Rate for Cold Email vs. Cold Call?

Now that we’ve got a fair idea of the pros and cons to look out for when comparing cold email vs cold calling, it’s important to know the ideal success rate for both channels as well. 

It must be noted that the numbers shared below are just cumulative benchmarks & the results can vary depending on the industry among other factors: 

Cold Email Success Metrics

Here are some common cold email metrics you should be aiming for: 

  • Open rate: You should be aiming for a 40-50% open rate for it to be considered effective
  • Clickthrough rate: You should look to achieve a minimum 10-15% as click-through rate for it to be considered a strong performance
  • Reply rate: Achieving a 5-10% reply rate on your cold emails will be considered a good benchmark.

So for example you send 1000 emails, expect at least 150-250 opens, with at least 50 clicks and 20 to 50 replies on the emails. 

Cold Call Success Metrics

Similar to the numbers for cold emails, here are the average numbers you should be looking to achieve with cold calling: 

  • Reach rate: Connecting with 5-20% of targeted prospects is considered ideal. 
  • Conversion rate: A 10% positive response rate should generally be the goal
  • Appointment rate: Securing a meeting in about 2% of calls is the standard you should be looking to hit. 

So if your SDRs are currently making 500 calls, you should expect at least 25-100 of them to answer, along with having 10-30 promising conversations on an average. In addition to this, the goal should be to book at least 5-10 meetings with cold calling. 

That being said, these metrics only act as a starting point, since actual results can vary based on factors like list quality and the effectiveness of your scripts.

When to Use Cold Email? 

  1. While targeting a wide audience 

Cold emailing is ideal when your goal is to reach out to a large number of prospects efficiently. Unlike cold calling, where each call consumes time, cold emails can be sent to thousands of recipients quickly. 

According to a study by McKinsey, email is up to 40 times more effective than social media in reaching customers, making it a powerful tool for mass outreach.

  1. When you want to convey more information 

Cold emailing allows you to include detailed information through attachments, links, and extensive text. This capability is especially valuable in B2B sales prospecting where providing in-depth information about products or services can significantly influence a prospect’s decision-making process. 

  1. Doesn’t require immediate response 

If your outreach strategy does not require an immediate response, cold emailing is a suitable choice since it provides recipients the flexibility to respond at their convenience, which can lead to more thoughtful and well-considered interactions. 

This aspect is particularly important when considering cold email vs cold call for products or services that require careful consideration.

  1. When you want to track email engagement 

One of the advantages of cold emailing is the ability to track various metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. 

This data can be crucial in refining your approach and improving your overall strategy, with  businesses that monitor their email analytics more likely to have a successful outreach campaign. 

When to Use Cold Calling? 

  1. When you need an urgent response

Cold calling should be the go-to approach when an immediate response is critical. In situations where quick decision-making is essential, the real-time interaction of a phone call can be far more effective than sending out an email, since they run the risk of either: 

  • Not getting delivered to the prospect 
  • And, being overlooked by them in a sea of thousand other emails.
  1. When you’re selling complex products or services

Comparing cold email vs cold calling, the latter is a boon for complex, or high-ticket products and services. Unlike emails, which often lack human touch (despite personalization), the direct and interactive nature of a cold call allows more detailed explanations and immediate objection handling. 

  1. When you need immediate feedback 

In scenarios where instant feedback is crucial, such as gauging interest or handling objections, cold calling is more effective. 

This immediate interaction facilitates a deeper understanding of the prospect’s needs and concerns, enabling more personalized and effective selling, a key consideration in cold calling vs. cold emailing.

Cold email vs Cold Call: Can they both work together? 

While there’s a lot of talk about choosing the better alternative when comparing cold email vs cold calling, the truth is, they can be even more effective when used together. The way people buy in B2B isn’t just a straight line. They look at different sources and think things over. 

By using both emails and calls, you can reach out to potential buyers at different times and in different ways. This approach improves your chances of getting a response.

While we’re hyper-focused on cold email, SMS & social media outreach at Cleverviral, we can also help you find the right resources to set up your cold calling systems through our extended network. 

If you want to learn more about growing your business with cold outreach & have questions about its long-term benefits, reach out to us on [email protected]

We’d be happy to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cold emails better than cold calls?

Whether cold emails are better than cold calls depends on the specific context and goals of a sales strategy. Cold emails offer scalability and the ability to provide detailed information, making them ideal for reaching a broad audience efficiently.

Cold calls, however, excel in creating immediate, personalized engagement, particularly beneficial for complex sales.

The choice between the two should align with your target audience’s preferences, your product’s complexity, and the desired speed of response.

Should I cold call or cold email first?

If you have a product that could work well with a one-on-one phone conversation, use cold calling first. In case you’re selling a product or service that can do well even when you use email, opt for the latter.

Ideally, we recommend using both the channels together to see which one works better.

Who uses cold emails for client acquisition?

Salespeople, recruiters, managers and HR professionals alongside founders of companies can leverage cold email to acquire more clients.

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About the Author

Manan

Manan is a B2B copywriter & content strategist at Cleverviral. A content marketer and writer for 5+ years, he has written for our clients like Forms On Fire, Wigzo and Lenovo for their email and other content-related operations.Get in touch with him at: [email protected]

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