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Are Cold Calls and Spam Illegal?

3 min
Outbound sales professional calling a prospective client

The CAN-SPAM Act is a 2003 law passed to regulate the sending of commercial emails. It set standards for how businesses send emails and manage their contact lists.

The aim was to create clear rules for honest sellers, and also cut down on a then-growing trend of unsolicited pornographic emails. Thankfully, CAN-SPAM and improvements in email filtering largely accomplished the second goal. But the act actually created a lot of confusion around the legality of cold calls and emails. 

In short, both forms of outreach are considered legal in the United States. Still, the last thing you want is for your revenue team’s engagement to get flagged as spam by email providers or get hung up on before you deliver your pitch.  

We’ll provide some clarity around cold outreach and how meaningful account insights can thaw prospect interactions and result in a better first impression. 

Are Cold Emails Legal?

Yes. The CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t stop you from sending cold emails, but it does regulate how you send them. 

Make sure your cold emails meet these conditions.

  • Start with an accurate subject line: Don’t clickbait or mislead recipients; you can still be creative while staying transparent about the contents of the email.
  • Display your “From” and “Reply to” email addresses: If you’re doing legitimate business, there’s no reason to hide your identity.
  • Include your company address: Put your physical address in the footer or under your signature to provide further credibility.
  • Feature an unsubscribe link: You must make the opt-out process easy for everyone — and remove those who opt out from your contact list within 10 days.  

Are Cold Calls Legal?

Like cold emails, cold calls are in fact legal — but once again, there are requirements to follow to ensure you’re in line with government restrictions:

  • You must identify yourself
  • You must clearly explain why you’re calling
  • You cannot handle any transactions or ask for money on the call
  • You cannot use automated calling technology or leave pre-recorded messages
  • You must call between 8 am and 9 pm local time of the prospect

Is Cold Outreach Effective?

When well-targeted, yes. Users spend a lot of time checking their emails, and if they’re already considering a solution like yours, a timely, relevant message with a personal touch may get their attention.

But there’s a huge caveat: People find cold outreach annoying, and if you light up people’s phones and inboxes too often, you can damage your brand’s reputation and drive customers away. Buyers receive dozens of calls and emails from vendors every week, and many view them as cheap sales tactics.

And the numbers prove it: According to LinkedIn research, cold calls have a measly 2% conversion rate.  

The key to standing out is nailing the timing of your outreach by targeting customers who are ready to talk, and speaking directly to their concerns. How do you do that? You use intent data.

How Intent Data Transforms Cold Outreach

Intent data warms your cold calls and emails by providing visibility into: 

  • What accounts in your pipeline are interested in
  • Where they spend their time online
  • And whether they are ready and likely to buy from you right now

Solutions like 6sense enable sellers to identify prospects who are researching keywords and topics relevant to their business — then uses AI to classify those prospects’ buying stages. 

Armed with these insights, sellers understand potential customers’ needs and can reach out when they are approaching a buying decision with relevant and compelling communication.

Using 6sense to prioritize high-intent accounts reduces efforts to close by up to 40% and can increase average contract value (ACV) up to 20% in the first year, according to Forrester’s 2022 Total Economic Impact Study.


Cold calls and cold emails are absolutely legal; you just need to be transparent in your communication, respect the recipient, and deliver value. 

The 6sense Team

6sense helps B2B organizations achieve predictable revenue growth by putting the power of AI, big data, and machine learning behind every member of the revenue team.

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