I recently attended a conference in San Francisco where the focus was on how to get a message heard in the frenzy of today’s digital age. During one breakout session, I asked the presenter, “Why not just call?” The laughter in the room indicated that the audience thought I was kidding.

I wasn’t.

It’s easy to think that in today’s business world no one will answer the phone when you call. We spend our days emailing, tweeting, and sharing more frequently now than ever before. But I’m convinced that a ringing phone is far more effective than joining the chorus of those shouting a one-way elevator pitches into to the stratosphere.

Great salespeople must trust in their ability to build relationships. And you cannot build a relationship without two human beings engaging in an actual conversation. That's what people used to do on the telephone.

The first thing you need to remember is that cold calling does not mean cold selling. The goal of any first attempt with someone new is to get his or her engagement. To do this, you need their attention first, and you only have about 15 seconds to do so. That’s not a lot of runway. But many sales execs make the mistake of cutting straight to the chase--often with long-winded value statements, claims of “ROI,” and various “calls-to-action.” Slow down. Use a phone conversation to show curiosity about potential clients; get their attention by getting them to discuss their favorite topic: themselves.

That's important because studies show that most successful sales required the salesperson to "touch" the customer at least five times. And yet studies also show that about half of all sales reps average a meager single touch per contact. Put yourself in the client's shoes. Nothing advertises lack of urgency more than a solitary email. Phone calls require effort. Multiple calls require vulnerability. Both signal that this conversation is an important one. 

When my conference had finished for the day, I looked at my inbox and sighed: There were 81 unread emails requiring my attention. I also had more than a dozen requests to connect on LinkedIn and several DMs on Twitter.

But I only had six voice mails. And they were all from people I know. Not one from someone trying to get my attention. I know this, because I listened to every single voicemail that afternoon. I can’t remember how many emails I opened, but I’m sure it was nowhere near 81.

The more important the contact, the more likely I still will grab for the phone. These days, emails are forgotten. But a phone call is an investment in a new relationship.