How to Make Cold Calls When You Are Anxious

Business woman on the telephone
Getty / Cultura RM / Daniel Allen

How do you make cold calls when you are socially anxious? Cold calling anxiety is the fear experienced by salespeople before and during calls to clients with whom they have never spoken. Research shows that 40 percent of salespeople will experience intense anxiety about making cold calls at some point in their careers.

How to Make Cold Calls

For those with social anxiety disorder (SAD), many aspects of being a salesperson can have the potential to trigger anxiety—and cold calling may be one of the most difficult. The combination of negative self-evaluations with potential negative reactions from clients can cause anxiety. Below are some tips to help you cope with this aspect of sales.

Have an Outline

Although you may be tempted to read directly from a script, it is better to have a general outline to which you can refer. Reading from a script detaches you from the content of what you are saying and allows your mind to wander.

The person on the other end can also usually tell if you are reading from a script, and you may come across as less genuine.

Do Your Research 

Before you pick up the phone, make sure that you know the name of the person and company that you are calling, and how to pronounce both. Study the needs of the potential customer and how you can meet them. Be clear in your own mind what your goal is before you call. This will allow you to guide the conversation more easily.

Be Positive

If you are anxious about phone calls in general, try acting as though you aren't afraid. Sit straight as you talk, put a smile on your face, and speak as confidently as you can.

As long as you have put in the time to properly prepare, there isn't any reason why you can't "fake it 'til you make it". Eventually, your confidence will grow with experience.


Practice what you are going to say, record yourself speaking, listen to the recording, and then make changes based on what you hear. If you don't think you are objective enough, ask someone whom you trust to give you feedback.

Doing this exercise will help you to identify aspects of your communication style that may need tweaking, such as how fast you speak or the volume of your voice.

Take Notes

As much as possible, take notes during your conversation. This will help you to avoid slipping into negative thought patterns and to focus on what the other person is saying. It will also give you a written record of what was said that you can refer to in future conversations.

Research on Cold Calls

In a study conducted by the Keller Center at Baylor University, 50 real estate agents from across the United States made 6,264 cold calls. Of those calls, 72 percent were not answered or were wrong numbers. Of the 28 percent of the calls that were answered, on average only 1 out of 59 people agreed to set up an appointment with an agent. Finally, the best time to make phone calls was between 10 am and 2 pm.

What do these findings mean for you?

  • Two out of three calls are likely to go unanswered, so think of those "dead" calls as chances to catch your breath in between talking to potential clients or customers.
  • If you get a lot of "no's" in a row, remember that this is normal and to be expected. You will need to make a large volume of calls to find an interested customer—that is the nature of cold calling and not a reflection on your sales ability. For some inspiration, watch the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" with Will Smith and see how much effort he puts into his cold calling.
  • If you have a choice of timing, call sometime between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. While it isn't clear why this is the best time to make phone calls, it's likely that you are not catching people during their morning catch-up or afternoon crunch.

Alternatives to Cold Calls

If cold calls just don't seem to be working for you, see if there is a better approach that you can suggest to your supervisor. Many organizations are moving away from cold calls because they are less effective than following up with existing customers and interested leads.

A Word From Verywell

Finally, if your social anxiety is severe to the point that it is hampering your performance at work, and you haven't already been assessed for social anxiety disorder, it may be time to seek professional advice. SAD is a treatable condition, and fears of tasks such as making phone calls can be overcome through treatment such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Baylor University. Has Cold Calling Gone Cold? 
  • Verbeke W, Bagozzi RP. Sales call anxiety: Exploring what it means when fear rules a sales encounter. Journal of Marketing. 2000:64;88-101.
  • Women for Hire. Cold Calling 101.

By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."