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Breathing New Life into Stalled Sales: The Art of Re-engaging Cold Leads

Published Date: Wednesday, Nov 01, 2023
Last Updated on: Friday, Nov 03, 2023
A kind-looking woman trying to re-engage a cold lead

Building a quality pipeline requires all of a sales team’s most precious commodities: time, budget, headcount and effort.

So, when high-intent leads go silent, astray – or worse, ignored – the consequences are rarely painless. Aside from the obvious diminished profits, missing genuine sales opportunities lowers team confidence, shatters brand reputation and in most cases, escalates friction between marketing and sales teams.

Salvaging the investment made to generate cold MQLs or SQLs is rarely an afterthought – but notoriously overlooked. In fact, 74% of B2B firms admit to having no lead recovery campaign, and 42% of those that do say their strategies require serious improvement. 

So how can you move the needle? What does it take to strike the balance between rekindled relationships and wasted energy? In this article, we’ll explore the science behind re-engaging stalled sales and the methods you can use to pull disengaged leads back into your sales funnel.

Why do leads go cold?

Even the most promising sales opportunities can fail to materialize. Whether a customer wanders or has a sudden change of heart is rarely in your complete control – but there are almost always factors that contribute to this decision. 

The act of reaching out to a sales team shows that an individual has entered the buying cycle and is an interested handraiser. Depending on the nature of their request, a sudden change in intent may seem normal, especially for leads in the softer consideration stage. If data suggests a trend or recurring theme, however, it usually suggests a flaw in the process, team or technology – all of which are rarely faultless.

So, what causes warm SQLs and MQLs to go cold?

Lack of follow-up – Timely and persistent follow-up is the lifeblood of lead nurturing – but a reported 58% of leads that “request contact” are never addressed by sales. When leads don’t receive a response or encounter slow, inadequate follow-up from a sales team, their enthusiasm can quickly dissipate. The quality of the first touch matters too. If leads don’t feel valued or attended to, they are likely to explore other options.
Lack of persistence – 80% of B2B sales are made between the fifth and twelfth contact, but only 8% of sales professionals follow up six or more times. The B2B landscape is noisy. Decision-makers are usually balancing a variety of priorities – which means replying to a sales rep isn’t always foremost in their thoughts. A lack of persistence or tenacity can cause early touches to be missed, leaving leads in limbo without any defined pipeline status or quality score.
Surge in volume and limited resources – Many sales teams aren’t set up to handle lead volume beyond their expected capacity – which makes managing sudden surges or seasonality incredibly difficult to deal with. Without the appropriate headcount and resources in play, businesses fail to capitalize on inbound handraisers – regardless of their interest or intent, because they systematically do not have the time or capacity to serve every lead that enters their pipeline. This causes inquiries to be missed, wait times to increase, and acquisition costs to skyrocket.
Competing offers – In saturated markets, your potential customers are constantly exposed to alternatives. If a lead receives a more enticing offer from a competitor, they are likely to explore this option instead. To keep leads warm, it’s crucial to respond promptly with messaging that differentiates your brand, demonstrating the unique advantages to working with you.
Speed – Efficiency is critical to pipeline growth. Buyers don’t expect to be waiting around for a sales response – in fact, 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that simply responds first. Instant gratification is the new normal, and those that reach leads in one hour are seven times more likely to hold meaningful conversations.
A woman calling cold SQLs and MQLs

Why re-invest in cold leads?

Re-engaging cold leads is a smart, cost-effective way to contribute to customer acquisition targets and bottom-line growth. These contacts have already shown the right intent for your product and have openly reached out for assistance. Leaving them unattended means you’re not just losing their business – but the effort, interactions and marketing spend used to bring them into the pipeline in the first place.

Cold leads are also typically easier – and cheaper – to market to than new prospects, because they’ve already passed the initial research and awareness stage – therefore, require a shorter sales cycle. These potential customers have identified a need, and see your brand as a solution, meaning they require far less advertising spend and seller effort to convert than net-new prospects. 

Even if cold leads fail to convert – re-engagement still preserves brand equity. By reaching out to cold leads, you demonstrate your commitment to customer relationships, which can leave a positive impression and potentially lead to future business or referrals.

Re-engaging cold leads: Best practices


Segmentation is a powerful tool in re-engaging cold or unresponsive leads. By categorizing leads based on their behavior, interests and position in the buyer’s journey, you can deliver messages and offers that align with their unique needs and acknowledged interests. This personalized approach significantly enhances the chances of getting a positive response from otherwise disengaged prospects – rather than a one-size-fits-all, blanket re-engagement message.

Additionally, segmentation can help teams strike the balance between waste and reward when re-engaging. By segmenting cold leads based on product interest or intent, sellers can “personalize en masse,” delivering selective, relevant messaging to multiple leads with shared preferences – without expending excessive 1:1 effort on each contact. Segmentation can also help teams to build targeted “cold lead lists” and prioritize specifically high-value, high-intent MQLs, rather than targeting every single cold contact – therefore reducing effort and lowering customer acquisition costs.

Stay channel native

Multichannel is the way forward – but re-engagement cadences should always start in the customer’s channel of choice. They took an action previously that revealed their intent on a very specific platform. You know they use this channel – why abandon it? Recognizing that there was a potential relationship is key to effective re-engagement: The prospect may remember contacting you, consciously or subconsciously – and there’s a +25% increase in next attempt contactability and discussion by reaching out on their native platform.

Be sure to layer your cadence with other similar channels, too – but know your limitations and respect the customer’s boundaries. Those looking to re-engage effectively should make informed choices regarding the channels to employ for specific cold leads, taking into account all prior interactions. If the customer previously engaged through text-based interactions, expand that type of communication to keep it familiar and convenient for them.

Acknowledge missed opportunities

If you were unresponsive during a period of high volume or seasonality, own that fact. Cold leads warrant a reason for your delayed response – most won’t re-engage without it. Reach out earnestly and acknowledge the huge wave of interest in your offering and how this has contributed to untimely interactions. While there’s no guarantee that the prospect will immediately reignite their interest, showing that you’ve made strides to better handle inquiry volume not only improves brand reputation, but creates a sense of urgency at the same time.

This is especially impactful if you can layer initial touches with their original inquiry data. Reference their inquiry and make it personal. Ultimately, you’re appealing to a human being – not a machine. Re-qualifying prospects or making them repeat their request or preferences will only further damage their interpretation of your brand.

Assign dedicated resources

If you recognize in your business that you haven’t been as responsive as necessary, it’s critical to identify friction points. Typically, this is related to time and efficiency: If salespeople are backlogged or capacity is stretched, their ability to respond to prospects in the preferred “24-hour window” is dramatically reduced.

Businesses looking to effectively re-engage a backlog need to assign appropriate resources to handle these more responsive communications. If your budget doesn’t permit heading into the hiring market, look instead for areas to streamline existing workload: call routing, automation, data management. Between 40-55% of calls, chats and web forms are non-revenue-generating activities with existing clients, according to Forbes. This is a huge roadblock between sales teams and their potential lead re-engagement efforts. Simply making efforts to protect their time and remove tedious admin work enables high-value resources to focus on what they do best.

A caller initiating the best practises to use on a cold lead.

Key considerations

Give them space

Always leave breathing room for your prospect and avoid being overly persistent. Re-engagement means putting the ball back in their court. Your value proposition and the way this is bled throughout your messaging should be persuasive enough to convince them to re-engage. If not, consider the additional incentives you can provide to reignite their interest – rather than bombarding them with countless touches which will damage your reputation and the likelihood of the lead returning in the future.

Lead with data and create standardized templates

To improve return on effort, create a series of standardized templates for re-engagement messaging and optimize touchpoints based on the results. Remember, buyers won’t always respond well to cookie-cutter messages, so ensure that 20% of your message can be personalized to their requirements, based on the data they provided in their initial inquiry. Lead with the value proposition and asset that aligns most closely with what you already know about the prospect.

Prepare for objections

If a lead has gone cold, it means something hasn’t gone to plan – be it your process or their expectations. This means, when attempting to re-nurture, there’s a high chance sales teams are already on the back foot, and increased likelihood of triggering objections. Encourage sales professionals to create objection handling sheets, or standardize responses based on data-led suggestions. By anticipating their likely objections in advance, you’ll stand a better chance of building consumer confidence, winning both their faith and their investment.

Know when to accept defeat

When a lead goes cold, it might not always be possible to restore their interest – and unsolicited communication, such as standard lead nurturing campaigns, won’t always help. Instead, businesses need to know when they’ve lost the opportunity, and accept defeat. Collect the data, restrategize and learn from your process shortfalls.

a group of callers closing a cold deal

Final thoughts

Re-engaging cold leads isn’t just about recovering missed opportunities; it’s about nurturing lasting relationships and demonstrating your commitment to delivering value. In the competitive and ever-changing marketplace, these rekindled connections can become valuable assets, driving not only immediate revenue but also long-term growth and sustainability. 

Remember, the science of re-engagement is a dynamic one, requiring continuous learning, adaptation and refinement. In embracing this journey, you’re well on your way to revitalizing your sales pipeline and ensuring a prosperous future for your business.

Looking to outsource? Harte Hanks is highly experienced in supporting the delivery of high-impact re-engagement campaigns for a variety of world-renowned businesses. Through targeted outreach and continual process optimization, we find the most cost-effective way to convert cold leads into appointments and lower customer acquisition costs – without ever decreasing service quality or damaging brand reputation.

Discover how we helped New York Bariatric Group successfully process and qualify a backlog of 82,000 leads in our latest case study.

Contact us today