In 12 years I have been dealing with vendors, partners, etc., I never bought ONCE from any kind of cold contact. If I need something, I call someone I know, or use google and figure out who knows whoever I am considering to fix my "headache".
Figure out what my pain could be, figure out who you know who knows me, and get introduced. I am not the only one who operates that way.
The new "cold call" is educating your prospective clients via blogs, events, etc., sharing your knowledge with the community, and earning your recognition as the "Excedrin" for the specific "headaches".
Is there stuff still being sold via cold-call? Yes. But as the old generation is retiring, so is tolerance for those techniques.
Plus, if you expect to command a premium for your product, why would you use a commodity technique?
No, it is not dead. Perhaps it has changed, in that we can be more targeted (by using online info, LinkedIn, social media, etc) but in my experience, there is nothing to replace hitting the phones for B2B selling. Especially for an early start-up, it is vital that your are talking to all types of customers (early-adopters, conservatives, etc) and gathering as much feedback / touching as many people as possible. You can't be an expert on your target market unless you are talking with them daily - both the 'believers' and the 'non-believers'. In fact, talking to non-believers is almost more helpful, since it will highlight deficiencies in your messaging, sales process, or product itself.
I've also found that it helps in finding the innovators out there who are ready to engage you as is - not all of them read the blogs you think they do, or attend the conferences you'd assume they attend.
I think the nature of cold-calling has changed; the most effective way I've used it is to invite people to an event. It's non-threatening, gives you an excuse to call, and begins the relationship, so that after the webinar, you can call back and have a more targeted conversation.
None of this is to say that social media and more passive ways of engaging customers is not also important, especially for generating leads.
B2C is obviously a different story (and outside of my experience).
No, it is still a useful step in getting business.
Sorry guys, but IMHO cold calling is dead and buried.
I gave a similar response in another thread on this site.
"The problem is that people are sick and tired of getting inside sales people to bug them on the phone. Also, most of the times, the timing is wrong. When you call in, chances are that they don't need the product yet (you are too soon), don't need the product anymore (you are too late), or don't need the product at all (either already have it or don't have a use for it).
What this means is that your window of opportunity is extremely small. Getting someone on the phone, that is willing to talk to you, and has an immediate need for your product is one of those "one in a million" shots."
Check the link below for the full discussion in Answers.OnStartups.com:
I've never had results from cold-calling, but I've gotten great leads and some customers from cold-emailing. Be casual, give them a taste of what you can offer and offer to send them more info if they are interested.
One small paragraph is all it takes.
Direct mail is also a better choice than cold-calling, because you have a reasonable shot at getting quality information past secretaries and being considered. Again, start with a quick letter and follow-up with more information if they are interested.
You can't say it's dead, but context matters. If you want to sell upside down pineapple cakes to senior citizens, it still works. If you want to scam people, it probably still works. Calling people to use your [insert commodity here] is a waste of time.