Does cold calling still work?

When it comes to getting your products in store, a little face time goes a long way.

It seems that even in this very digital day and age, most of us still prefer the old human touch.

That’s why, if you are thinking about introducing your new line of products to a retailer, you would be wise not to discard some of the more traditional approaches.

The glory days of Cold Calling are not over yet.

At the end of 2011, the Keller Center for Research at the University of Baylor in Texas, conducted the first scientific study of its kind to quantify the effectiveness of cold calling.

The 160 agents selected for the study were given a standardised cold-calling script and were asked to spend an hour each day for seven days over a two-week period, to make cold calls. The results showed that 72 percent of calls went to voice mail or were a wrong number. However, of the 28 percent calls answered, 1 out of 58 resulted in an appointment or referral.

While this number may not seem particularly significant at a first glance, researchers concluded that results were encouraging with an overall strong ROI. And if we consider that in this day and age many unsolicited sales calls go unanswered and that there’s very steep competition from the web and social networks, we should agree with the Texan researchers that cold calling is indeed, a tool worth our time.

In fact, cold calling gives you access for a brief period of time to something that’s become a rare commodity these days – it gives you access to “other people’s attention”, and today that’s priceless.

My own experience tells me that many retailers don’t actually mind if you cold-call them or pay them a visit at their stores. An email with a catalogue without a follow-up will probably end up in the junk box and bin respectively.  An in-person conversation, on the other hand, will help retailers connect the dots between the product and the designer or brand and understand the story behind it.

However, you must do your research first.

Make sure that you are calling stores that you know will benefit from stocking your product. Using the internet you can easily search social media and their website to see if you are truly a good fit.

California-based entrepreneur Julie Austin explains that cold calling is “one of the best ways to sell to retail stores”.  Julie, who runs multiple businesses including an international business based on her clever invention, swiggies, thinks her biggest mistake was spending tens of thousands of dollars on trade shows before she even learnt how to sell her product.

“If you actually pick up the phone and connect with a live person you will quickly understand what their needs are and if they’re even looking for a product like yours. Sometimes, even if they like the product, the timing is wrong or they already have too many products in your category. That’s when you do your homework and find out if there’s a better time to call them back or if they are simply the wrong place for your product to begin with”.

So, don’t shy away from stepping into your target retailer’s premises out of the blue one day or giving them a call and introducing yourself personally.  Understand that you might only get a couple of minutes of their time right there and then, but you’d have made a valuable visual impression that might make a difference in the future.

Trade Fairs – the retailers you seek right at your fingertips

While there is a vast array of technological solutions available to you today to help you establish connections with retailers, the immediacy of trade shows has kept them a very relevant and useful tool.
Again, research seems to support this.

The Role of and Value of Face-to-Face Interaction study conducted by the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) in 2012 indicated that 48 percent of trade show attendees in their survey, considered face-to-face interactions at exhibits during exhibitions, conventions, and annual meetings to be more valuable than in the past and 43 percent anticipated it to be more valuable over the next two years.

Two thirds of the attendees placed high importance on face-to-face interactions at all pre-purchase stages for investigating, evaluating and narrowing down choices before buying. Similarly, as much as 71percent of attendees believed that face-to-face interactions were key to maintain relationships with vendors post-purchase.

Renowned New York-based fashion designer Julie Brown, of Julie Brown Designs, has been attending trade shows regularly and finds “that buyers in mass come to them to see what’s hot, what’s trending and to conduct business face to face with the manufacturer. Buyers like to touch and feel the clothes”.

In a way, the Trade Fair booth can be a great place to meet the retailer you are hoping to talk to.

If you can get their full attention, and know how to be speak succinctly about your business and how you can benefit them, you’ll have a chance to start establishing a relationship with them. Plus trade shows are also a fantastic way to network with other manufacturers and share resources.

If your funds are limited and you can’t afford to travel around every trade show, narrow it down to the one that will attract most of your ideal buyers in one place. Give them samples, catalogues and ask for their feedback. Make sure that you follow up on every single person as soon as you arrive back home!

It’s all about developing relationships and there’s nothing like a putting a face to a brand name to leave a mark.
If you’ve attended Trade Shows, and want to get an insight inside the mind of a retailer, you’ll want to get the ebook “Pick Me – The ultimate guide to getting your products on Australian retail shelves” which is written from a retailer perspective. How to get in and stay in, and what a retailer would really want you to know.

To be an effective wholesaler, you need to have a great sales catalogue. For a swipe file full of FREE wholesale catalogues, go to the Line Sheet Swipe File.
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  1. Thanks Jenny- this is really interesting info! I personally don’t think I’ll ever stray from the phone.
    I’m just old school like that but it also gets far better results than a potentially lost email:)

    • Hi Kristine

      I agree! And the great news is that so many people hate cold calling, so the phones aren’t ringing. This makes it a lot easier for you.

      I do like to send a ‘warm up’ email first before I call, because the combination of them both I’ve found to be even more effective.

      Thanks for commenting.


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