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Warm Calling: The Comprehensive Guide

12 min readSeptember 17, 2020

What is warm calling?

Warm calling is an outbound sales strategy that focuses on dialing, connecting with, and having sales conversations on the phone with sales leads who have been “warmed up” with some kind of prior activity. Warm leads can be defined as prospects that have previously engaged with your company in a meaningful way. They include individuals from events, your website, and/or social media. Contacts who are familiar with a particular sales rep or people who they have worked with previously are also considered a warm contact. A warm call is best understood in contrast to a cold call, where sales reps call prospects with zero prior interaction leading up to the call.

Since leads must have some familiarity with the company, warm calling usually involves some sort of marketing campaign, email sequence or website interaction before it occurs. This includes email campaigns, online ads, social media messaging, direct mail, and events. No campaign is needed if they are already familiar with the company in some way.

Referrals also count as warm calls. Ideally, a very satisfied customer has recommended your company to someone else, who is curious about what you can do for them. Even though they have not engaged directly with your sales team, referrals may be a good fit, have already expressed interest, and are expecting a conversation with you.

Warm calling is sometimes referred to as hot calling, and is the opposite of cold calling. In a cold call, the part being dialed has never had any previous contact with the sales rep or the company they are calling from. With a warm call, the lead will be well aware of the company and possibly even the sales rep who is calling as well. The lead will know what the company is, what they do, and ideally have a higher purchase intent than a cold call.

Why warm calling matters

Warm calling is important because the strategy provides sales leads that are more interested and informed about your company. It provides leads that are more qualified, have a higher buying intent, and are a more ideal customer. Warm leads also advance through the sales cycle quicker, since their expressed interest typically means they are actively seeking a product, and their familiarly results in less time during the education phase of a sale and more of a focus on the value and benefits of a product.

By definition, sales reps only make warm calls are made only to leads who have been determined to be a qualified buyer. Based on the actions that a contact makes on your website, such as the content they download, pages they visit, or information that they provide, or information gathered during past conversations with sales reps, you can pre-qualify leads before the dial to ensure reps only spend their time calling people who are a perfect fit for your product.

The result is a more effective and efficient dial that delivers a higher ROI since every contact is worthwhile. Since leads being warm called are both more familiar and more engaged with your company, warm calls tend to be devoid of common cold calling obstacles like bad contact information, gatekeepers, poor timing, and objections.

How it works

Warm calling fills your sales pipeline with qualified and interested leads who are ready to buy. Moreso, they are likely in the midst of a purchasing process and often buy sooner than cold leads. This means that reps have to spend less time and effort closing them. Essentially, warm calling works by first creating recognition or a relationship through other channels and contact methods before a phone call is placed in order to increase the effectiveness of that call.

Warm calling uses sales channels like events, groups, associations emails, text messages, social media, and more to generate conversations around your company and its products. Either sales reps or the company itself can join online and in-person groups, utilize email distribution lists, social media outreach, and other methods to distribute valuable information that provides real benefit to the recipient.

Often, warm calls are personalized since the sales rep making them either has information available about previous interactions, or as had actually had prior contact with the person they are calling. This goes far beyond the information typically available to reps when making cold calls. During a warm calls, sales reps can reference specific pieces of content that were downloaded, emails that were opened, or even discuss an event that was mutually attended.

How to create a warm calling strategy

To successfully create and run a warm calling program, you first must begin with a list of contacts who meet the minimum requirements to be deemed a “warm” lead. There are three ways you can get this. The first is to find leads in your database that are already warm. These may be leads from an event, a webinar, or who consistently engage with high-value pages on your website. If you have not yet attempted to contact these leads via the phone, you should immediately begin calling and reference where exactly they have connected with you before. Second, you can again leverage your CRM to generate a list of existing contacts that are qualified buyers and warm them with a campaign before placing a call. Lastly, you can generate completely new warm leads from outside sources.
Start with your warm leads

Before any call can be made, you first must identify companies and prospects that are ready to be warm called. A lead that is ready to be called must meet two requirements. First, they must be a good fit as a customer. They should meet or exceed your minimum buying requirements, and be a close fit to your ideal customer profile. Second, they should be engaged with either your company or a sales rep in some way. Meaning, they have performed actions on your site like visiting the pricing page, requested further information, or downloaded a significant amount of contact. They also could have met a sales rep, or actively have a relationship with one.

If both these requirements are met, reps will be able to provide as much value a possible on the call. The lead will be familiar with the rep and/or company, and they will be able to see the value in the products.

Choose leads to warm

Existing leads

You likely have leads who are already ready to be warm called. These are leads who sales reps already have a relationship with from past positions, group memberships, previous discussions, and so on. If there is already an open channel or relationship, you can easily warm call them right away. Otherwise, you may have to first build a relationship with existing contacts. You can find these contacts in several places:


Look at your company’s and individual sales reps’ existing network. They may know of someone actively looking to purchase a solution, or perhaps can leverage a referral in order to make an introduction. Maybe they lost touch with a contact, but there is still enough recognition to reach out to them.

Marketing Lists

Marketing teams maintain large databases of leads that include lists of people who have attended events, webinars, downloaded content, interacted with webpages, read emails, and more. Many times, these people qualify for a warm call. They may require some other forms of outreach before, but there should be enough familiarity to be successful.
Capture or create new warm leads.

If you need more leads, or do not have any qualified warm leads to call, you can generate new ones. Keep in mind this can be a long process that can take a few weeks and may even require a budget.

You can create new warm leads from your existing database by adding them to outreach campaigns. Create an email sequence that sends valuable content or other information every few days, and includes a personal introduction via social media message. You can even send them some swag through the mail.

Sales reps can also attend events, professional meet-ups, discussion groups, gatherings, or even leverage their own extracurricular activities to find new leads. Ideally, they can meet these leads in-person to generate as much recognition as possible from the start. Once they determine the lead is a qualified buyer and is a good fit, they can place a warm call to them and begin the sales process.

Warm leads

If you aren’t able to go out and capture warm leads from the start or leverage existing relationships, you will have to start with cold contacts and warm them up first. Warming leads takes some time, but the best way to do it most effectively and efficiently is to provide as much value as possible. Without a significant amount of value, your messages will be treated as just more spam. But if you can provide something of benefit, messages will stand out from the rest, and you will begin to be recognized as a valued source, which will increase the chance that your lead will be interested once you call them.

Set triggers

Use your CRM or CMS systems to set up triggers that can automate tasks and notifications based on the actions that leads take. In order to properly warm leads before your calls, you will likely be sending emails to several hundred if not thousands of contacts. It is unlikely you will be able to easily manage the massive number of opens, clicks, and responses you will receive. Automate triggers that add leads to lists to be called after they open a certain number of emails, click high-value links, respond to emails, or engage with certain webpages.

This will allow reps to easily capitalize on the attention they generate and ideally, contact leads right when they are interested for maximum effect.

Call warm leads

The next step is to actually place the warm call. There are two components of a warm call that makes them so powerful and essential to outbound sales success. The first is the fact that sales reps have far more information on and knowledge about the leads that they are calling. This allows them to easily personalize each and every call for maximum effect. Reps can tailor calls to specifically address their leads needs, interests, and problems they want to solve. They can gain this information either from notes that were generated from prior discussions, the subject matter of events or webinars they attended, or the topics of webpages they visited.

The second is the fact that the lead being dialed will recognize either the sales rep or the company they are calling from. This not only increases the chance that they will either answer the call, or call back, but it also means that they are far more likely to schedule a follow-up meeting or a demo resulting from the call. Reps can leverage this recognition to make a warm call far more personal than a cold call and develop a relationship with the lead. Trust is an essential component to a successful sale, as people buy from people they trust and like. The more personal you can make your sales process, the more successful it will be.

To actually call warm leads, it is best to use a similar method to that of cold calling. Warm leads can automatically be placed on a list, or manually added. Reps can dial down the list. It is important to ensure that reps take advantage of the massive amount of personal and company data that you will have on warm leads. To be successful, you should use a sales automation tool like a dialer that can automatically recall and display data from your CRM before each call is placed.

Keep in mind that call blocks for warm dials may not always be possible. Time is of the essence is sales, and the faster you can respond to a high-value action, the more likely you can create a positive outcome. Call lists can easily be used for leads captured during an event or at a webinar, sales reps need to be far more reactionary with leads that come from your website or email. Since site visitors or email recipients can reach a “warm” score at any time, sales reps need a method through which they can be notified and act as soon as possible. Sales automation tools can automatically detect when a lead takes actions that make them warm, notify the right rep, and enable that rep to quickly place a call in order to capitalize on their interest.

Follow up

It’s rare that sales reps are able to have a conversation with leads on the first dial. In fact, it can take as many as eight attempts to contact a lead. That’s why it is imperative that sales reps follow up on their warm calls. To capitalize on a warm lead, reps should always leave a voicemail after every call and follow up properly. Moreso, the follow up just contributes to warming the lead even further.

Best practices

During warm calls its best to avoid directly pitching or overly selling your prospect. If you have them on a warm call, they likely already understand your company, and are interested in purchasing, additionally selling will only turn them off. Instead, leverage the knowledge you already have of the lead and their needs in order to specifically focus on what you will be able to do for them. The more information you have, the more tailored the conversation can be. Focusing on the lead-specific benefits will help advance them further down the sales process and make you a better seller.

Reference the connection

When you first make a warm call, begin by introducing yourself and immediately mention the connection you have with the lead. If you have spoken before or met in-person, bring that up, if they have engaged with your company online, tell them where you are calling from and reference how they interacted with you. Listen carefully to how the lead responds. If they recognize you or your company, that’s great! You’re making a warm call. If they don’t seem to recall a connection, you’re now making a cold call and you should act accordingly. Luckily, even if your lead doesn’t remember the prior engagements, you still have all of the information from them, and you will be able to have a much stronger sales discussion.

Speak their language

Once you manage to land a live person on the other end of the phone, you want to ensure you are using language and terms that they are familiar with. That doesn’t mean to bury them with jargon or buzzwords, but you also want to avoid the appearance of not understanding their needs or business.

Build rapport quickly

In some ways a warm call is the same as any other sales call in that you need to execute on certain sales fundamentals to make the call successful. Even though the person on the other end of the phone may know of your business or even who you are, it is still important to get them to like you by doing some rapport building.

Always ask questions

The last piece of advice is also universal to sales: ask smart questions. Not only can questions help you qualify your prospect, they are also the shortest path to making yourself look more well informed than you actually are.

The downsides of warm calling

The largest downside of warm calling is that it does take some upfront effort and time to be successful. If your team does not already have a list of “warm leads” it requires a few weeks, and/or some investment to make them.

Sales teams must spend time and money getting reps to events, where they can meet prospects and create relationships that are later leveraged on cold calls. Or, sales reps must spend time creating email sequences, social media messages, or direct mailers, and then wait for campaigns to finish. Warm calling results in more successful sales calls and an influx of qualified leads who are more likely to buy, but the process takes significantly longer than the more simple method of cold calling. If you’re looking for instantaneous results to round out a quarter, you may want to look elsewhere, as a truly successful warm calling program may take weeks to properly execute.

Successful warm calling programs also require a well-organized CRM with automation capabilities. Sales teams need a way to both quickly organize and recall information gained from prior conversations so they can easily record and reference it before, during, and after calls. Furthermore, the CRM needs to sync with your website’s content management system to collect data surrounding which contacts download what content. Ideally, your team uses a lead scoring system, and once a contact has downloaded the right content, or interacted with the right pages, the CRM automatically adds them to a list to be warm called.