min read

The Great Cold Email vs Cold Call Debate

Having trouble deciding if it's better to cold email vs cold call? Here's a breakdown on the cold email vs cold call debate.

Table of Contents

Often people starting out in sales don’t know if they should be sending a cold email vs cold calling when it comes to booking meetings with their prospects. What non salespeople often prefer is cold email vs making a cold call. The top reason for this is because rejection stings less when sending a cold email. The next reason, it’s easier to do. But what’s easier is not always more effective. It’s important to take into consideration your situation to decide which cold outreach method works best for you.

To make sure we’re on the same page, we need to clarify the difference between a cold email vs cold call so we can answer if it’s better to cold call or email?

What is a Cold Email?

A cold email is an email sent to a prospect that has no prior relationship with your company of any kind and has never submitted their contact information to be contacted by you. If a prospect fills out a lead form and you receive their contact info, that is not a cold email. That would be considered a warm email because the prospect has provided their contact information for you to reach out. If your company has a product led growth strategy, when you reach out via email to talk to a user, that is not a cold email. You have their contact information because they gave it to you when they signed up.

What is a Cold Call?

A cold call is a call made to a prospect that has no prior relationship with your company and has never submitted their contact information to be contacted by you. Just like with a cold email, if they submit their phone number in a lead form and you call it, that is not cold. That could be described as a warm lead or a hot lead. And as mentioned above, if they’re using your product in any capacity for a free trial, that is not a cold call because they have likely provided their contact information.

Is It Better To Cold Call vs Email When It Comes To Your Sales Efforts?

When it comes to focusing your time you need to figure out what works best for your current situation. Below are some factors to consider when thinking about sending a cold email vs making a cold call.

Technical Founders: Cold Email vs Cold Call

For technical founders selling to other tech companies, cold emailing is almost always a more efficient way to spend your time. The reason for that is when it comes to cold email vs cold calls, email is much more scalable early on. As a founder you have limited time to build your product, work on marketing, handle customer issues, and everything else required for running a startup. With easy access to contact information in tools like Apollo, a founder can do cold email outreach with a few clicks. Cold emailing vs cold calls is a no brainer earlier on especially because it enables you to a/b test messaging. Early stage companies struggle to figure out their messaging and what resonates with prospects. Cold email enables founders to experiment with messaging to see what sticks.

The challenge when it comes to cold email vs cold calls for founders is that cold calling can be quite time consuming. For example, if you make 100 calls, you might have 4-6 conversations. If you send 100 emails and get a 40% open rate, you theoretically have tested messaging with about 40 people.

Another point worth considering is that with cold emails, a founder is able to hunt down prospects who would be considered early adopters/low hanging fruit at a more efficient rate than with cold emails.

Finally, is there a sales expert or sales manager who can provide feedback and coaching on cold calls. Cold emailing will be easier to judge and improve than cold calling, although a fraction sales manager could help with both.

Certain Industries Are Better For Email Marketing vs Cold Calling

Not every industry is equal. Some industries are going to be more effective than others when it comes to making cold calls. If you’re trying to sell in the real estate industry and your prospects are owners of properties, it might be impossible to find their emails. And it’s known in the real estate industry that people pick up the phone. If you’re targeting tech workers, they may be hesitant to pick up the phone from an unknown number but will check their email dozens of times a day. It’s important to have a good understanding of your industry and the prospects to decide which strategy you take. Even though you might prefer cold email vs cold calling, you could be wasting your time if your prospects rarely use email or don’t access their email often.

Which Titles Are Better For Cold Calling vs Email?

When it comes to deciding if you should send a cold email vs make a cold call, a title is worth considering. C-level prospects (CEO, CFO, COO, CTO, etc.) often have gatekeepers. These people guard against distractions and salespeople for their executives. They often manage the inbox of the C-level prospect you’re trying to contact. However, they usually work normal business hours (8am-6pm) so there’s an opportunity to reach out before and after that block of time. Calling before 8am or 6pm is likely going to be more effective than sending an email at any time, including before and after gatekeeper hours. The reason for that is that emails tend to pile up and if a C-level prospect doesn’t manage their own inbox, they’re not going to see the email. A cold call vs cold email will break through to the c-level prospect. A ringing phone will have a better chance of getting answered because there will not be a gatekeeper to block it. For all other titles, you’re going to want to test what works best. Junior people tend to be more responsive to cold email vs cold calls, whereas senior executives are less responsive.

Which is easier to master? Cold Calling vs Email

When it comes to deciding a preference for doing a specific activity, people often choose what they’re better at. It’s much easier to get better at cold email vs cold calls. Email is going to provide more data points (open, reply, interested, unsubscribe), there are plenty of guides on how to get better at cold email vs cold calls, and you’ll have a large amount of emails to run a/b tests to iterate your outreach. Cold calls when compared to cold emails can be nerve wracking for new people. The number of conversations you might have in a week could be under 20 which means it will take longer to iterate on your approach. Additionally, cold callers are often met with nasty replies which can negatively affect a cold caller’s performance. When it comes to cold email vs cold calls, cold email is much easier to master.

Cold Call vs Cold Email - Which is More Effective?

With a proliferation of sales tools such as SalesLoft and all the SalesLoft alternatives, it’s never been easier for salespeople to send cold emails. Salespeople or founders can use free email finders or a tool like Apollo.io and fire off hundreds of emails per day. This isn’t necessarily the proper approach but it happens. And the effect of that is prospects are inundated with cold emails vs cold calls. The path of least resistance is to send a cold email vs making a cold call. What this means is on a per email basis, cold emails become less effective the more people are sending them. With fewer people making cold calls, they become more effective. Taking the example to the extreme, if people were all making as many cold calls as they were sending emails, prospects would stop picking up their phone. But it’s become increasingly less common to receive a cold call, making them slightly more effective. The caveat is that the cold email vs cold call debate assumes that the people sending the cold emails aren’t spending time researching and writing high quality personalized emails. With high quality personalized emails, your reply rate is going to increase when compared to templated outreach.

Contact Data For Cold Email vs Cold Calling

Most providers will have email addresses or you can look at the Hunter.io alternatives.  There ‘s also ZoomInfo or you can check out the ZoomInfo competitors to get your data needs fulfilled based on your specific needs. For example, ZoomInfo pricing is based on tiers and is often too expensive for early stage startups but a no brainer for more established companies. The thing to consider when looking at buying contact data for cold emailing vs cold calling is to check to make sure the industry you’re targeting is available. With a shift to remote work, it’s imperative that you have cell numbers if you’re going to make cold calls.

Cold Email vs Cold Call Market Size Considerations

At an early stage startup, cold email is a necessity. As mentioned above, it’s a more efficient use of everyone’s time. As you scale up and territories become smaller. Cold calling is inevitable to squeeze out each meeting available from the market.

Cold Email and Cold Call Tools

As mentioned above, there are a lot of tools available to help email sending cold emails and making cold calls. The basic stack requires data as a foundation.

A power-dialer like Orum is a fantastic way to increase the number of calls. A major negative of cold calling is that it’s inefficient. Orum solves this problem. Other considerations when making cold calls is to make sure your workflow is efficient. You do not want to be manually dialing or copying and pasting numbers into a dialer. Your sales team should be able to at the very least, click a phone number in the CRM, otherwise the cold calling vs email debate is going to be an easy win for cold emailing.

The Cold Email vs Cold Call Debate Conclusion

When it comes to deciding between a cold email vs cold call, there are a few factors to consider. However, the most important thing when time allows is to do both. A mix of cold emails and cold calling is going to be more effective than picking either making a cold email vs cold call. The reason for this is because to maximize your chances of booking a meeting via cold outreach, an omnichannel strategy outperforms a single channel strategy. Some people will never pick up their phone and some people will never respond to a cold email. Additionally, making cold calls in combination with cold emails can be done strategically. Many tools allow salespeople to see who has opened their emails. After seeing who has opened the email and sometimes it’s opened multiple times, this can provide a salesperson with an indication of interest to reach out. A salesperson is still making a cold call but they’ve increased their chances of having a conversation because they know someone is actively viewing the email.

Andrew Wise


Andrew Wise has been building businesses on the Internet since 2009. He's been a Solo Founder whose companies have generated more than $10 million in revenue.