We could build suspense and not give you the answer until the end of this article but you know what we are going to say, don’t you? Cold calling may not be completely dead yet, but it has become an increasingly unproductive and unsuccessful marketing approach.

Whether you run a B2C or B2B business, the challenge is basically the same, which is that potential customers aren’t answering their phone the way they used to. Answering machines, gate keepers, Caller ID, all stand between telemarketing agents and clients. And when they do get through, the volume of unsolicited sales calls that is generated nowadays is such that your staff is more like to be received with exasperation than anything else.

However, in this era of web connectivity, there is hardly any reason why calling prospects should be cold. Professional internet networks, subscription to newsletters, memberships of web-based trade groups, and contributions to blogs and ezines provide a wealth of information about potential customers who have thus registered interest in specific topics, products or services. These prospects will be more willing to listen to you if your business can fulfill the need you have identified through your research. Even though your phone call may be unsolicited, it will be relevant and more likely to be welcome.

The digital world has also provided marketers with many more ways to “prime” prospects. A phone call gives you an instant result, but if you are calling at the wrong time, chances are that it won’t be positive. Emails, on the other hand, give prospects the opportunity to respond when it suits them, and can lay the foundations for a follow-up phone call. Likewise, the InMail message service of LinkedIn has proved 30 times more likely to elicit a response than other methods. After the initial contact is established, a phone call won’t be unexpected.

This so-called “warm” calling strategy works as well with new customers as with existing ones, and being better informed will give you a competitive advantage and increase your chance of making a connection. While cold calling gets very low results nowadays, warm calling can achieve conversion rates of 30 to 50% when it comes to cross-selling or upselling to active customers.

However, like with any marketing technique, warm calling shouldn’t be used in isolation and will be more efficient as a component of a wider, integrated inbound strategy.