I was on a recent call with my colleagues with Top Sales Experts and it was an excellent discussion on prospecting.
Short version is: we (the Top Sales Experts on the Roundtable call) have a consensus that in b2b selling, cold calling still DOES work. It's just that most sales professionals don't do it well or even have learned the right way to do it. If you try something the wrong way - it doesn't work, and you say, "I'm not doing this - it doesn't work." - Same goes for cold calling the wrong way.
Just posted on a discussion board about re-framing the phrase, "cold calling" - because it does have a lot of baggage. I say:
"I just call it, "talking to people I haven't met yet!!" - some are receptive, and some are not. Being referred in is a quicker and often easier way to reach those you want to reach - but not always possible.
If you believe in the products and services you provide and know that they add value - then find 'more probable' prospective folks and follow up with them in ways that add value and educate. Let them know that you believe they may be a great fit for your product/service and say why. Once people know you're not just randomly drawing names - they will immediately be more interested. Finally - smile, be abundant, and know that there are many people who could fit as prospects - so keep growing your prospect list. And use a system to track this info!"
Don't believe those who say talking to strangers doesn't work. I like referrals best, but I also know how to pick up the phone or send an email to meet or talk with nearly anyone in the world I want to meet or talk with.