Voicemail is a powerful sales tool, but  it can hurt your reputation if done poorly.

Voicemail gets a bad rap, and it’s easy to understand why. We’ve all received (and left) rambling, self-centered messages that are hard to hear or have no contact information. These messages are frustrating and we typically delete them before reaching the end.

When their calls are answered by voicemail, many sales people opt to hang up and call back later instead of leaving a message. This strategy will backfire if your prospect has Caller ID, as they will see you keep calling and hanging up.

If you block your Caller ID, they will continue to put you into voicemail, since everyone knows the only people who block their Caller ID are telemarketers and bill collectors.

The problem isn’t voicemail – it’s us. We all need to change how we think about, craft, and deliver voicemail messages to unlock it’s full potential.

The Real Goal of Voicemail

Since many voicemail messages don’t get returned, we assume they are a waste of time. However, getting someone to call back immediately is not the only goal of voicemail.

In fact, the most realistic outcome to expect from leaving voicemail is not a callback – it is to have the person pick up the phone when they see you calling the second, third or fourth time.

People don’t answer their phones because they are busy. If you want to speak with them, you need to earn that right. A well-crafted voicemail lets the recipient know you are professional and provides a compelling reason to take your next call.

Voicemails as Reminders

As mentioned above, it may take four or more attempts to get someone on the phone. Most salespeople give up after placing two unanswered calls, which means they are missing a lot of sales opportunities.

Another reason people don’t answer the phone or return voicemails is simply because they know this is not the right time. Leaving periodic voicemails enables you to keep your name and company’s value proposition top of mind, which increases the likelihood they engage with you as soon as they are ready.

Components of a Well-Crafted Voicemail

If you are simply thinking out loud into someone’s voicemail box they will tune you out. At first,  it will take a few minutes.  but with practice, you will be able to prepare a new voicemail in less than a minute. You should take as much care in preparing a voicemail as you would a letter.

Here is a list of the information to include in your voicemail messages:

  1. Greeting & Their Name
  2. Your Name
  3. Your Company & Product
  4. Why You Called
  5. Compelling Offer
  6. Website
  7. Opt Out Offer
  8. Your Name (2x)
  9. Your Company Name (2x)
  10. Email Address (2x)
  11. Phone Number (2x)
  12. Thank Them By Name

Here is an example. “Hello Tom. This is Bob Smith with Acme widgets. I am calling to introduce our new line of widgets that XYZ Corp is using to cut costs by 33% per year. I’d like to discuss your current use of widgets to see if Acme’s new widgets can achieve similar results for your company. You can learn more on our website acmewidgets.com. If interested, please call me or email a good time for me to call you. If this isn’t a good fit, please send me a quick email and let me know, so I know not to follow up with you again. My name again is Bob Smith with Acme widgets, my email is…bob@acmewidgets.com and my phone is…2-1-2-5-5-5-9-9-9-9. Again that’s Bob Smith, Acme widgets, bob@acmewidgets.com2-1-2-5-5-5-9-9-9-9. Thanks for your time Tom.”

The most important information in your voicemail is the reason for your call and the offer. Work hard to make these as clear, concise and compelling as possible.

Directing them to your website gives them a way to get educated before deciding whether to call you back, which reduces anxiety and increases trust; however, you must decide whether or not to leave your website address. Only do this if your website looks professional and does a good job explaining what makes your company and its products special.

You obviously don’t want to leave voicemails with every prospect forever, so it is critical to add an “opt out” statement to your message. They may not always contact you to opt out, but  inviting them to opt out demonstrates your commitment to being helpful – not a nuisance.

The Finer Points of Voicemail

We discussed the content of an ideal voicemail above. Now we need to focus on the delivery of that content, which, if done correctly, will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your voicemails.

Make time to rehearse your delivery BEFORE you pick up the phone. The importance of rehearsing your message cannot be overstated. You need to practice it until it sounds completely natural.

First, you first need to find an optimal speaking pace. You shouldn’t speak so fast that people can’t understand you, but you need to speak quickly enough to hold the listener’s attention and keep your message between 30 and 60 seconds. The only time you should slow down is when leaving your email address and telephone number to allow them time to write it down.

Next, you need to find a tone of voice that will make the listener like, trust, and respect you. One way to find that right tone is to record and listen to yourself until you get it right. Since we typically don’t like the way we sound, you may want to ask a colleague for a second opinion.

Most people would think that since the listener cannot see you over the telephone, your body language would not be important when leaving voicemails.  Make no mistake – your posture and expressions have a significant impact on your tone of voice. If you think about it, can’t you “hear” when someone is talking with a smile on their face?

If possible, set up your work area so you can stand upright with your chest out when you make calls. Hang a mirror somewhere that lets you see your posture and/or expression while you speak. Try using a cordless headset so you can move your arms around freely, as this also tends to energize your voice.

Voicemail Do-Over

If you are not satisfied or completely mess up the delivery of your voicemail message, DO NOT STOP. Regain your composure, correct yourself immediately if you made a mistake, and keep going until you finish your message.

Most voicemail systems offer the ability to listen, save, delete, and even re-record your message by pressing the # key on your telephone after you stop talking. The options will vary by system, so pay close attention to the instructions you will hear after pressing the # key.

It’s a good idea to listen to every message you leave – even if you know you don’t want to delete it. This will help you improve steadily over time.

Every Voicemail Matters

While most of this post has focused on prospecting voicemails, you should take time to prepare every voicemail message you leave – even to current customers, partners, and vendors. Just bear in mind that you may not need to provide your email address or repeat your phone number twice for people you contact regularly.

Taking time to deliver concise and engaging voicemail messages to all of your business associates will increase your stature in their eyes.

Questions:

How do you feel about leaving voicemail messages for new prospects?

How do you prepare and rehearse the voicemail messages you leave?

How often are your voicemails returned?

Reminder:

Happy selling this week. Remember, it’s an abundant world so focus on building value and detach from the outcome.

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