Linking Human Capital With Strategic Intent

Staying Out of Voice Mail Jail

Sales Excellence LogoStaying Out of “Voice Mail Jail”!

Do not take this basic sales principle for granted; leaving an effective voice mail is critical to your success or you just might wind up in “Voice Mail Jail!  Leaving the proper voice mail can mean the difference between returned calls or lost opportunities. There are different reasons and elements necessary to understand as it relates to leaving good voice mails. There are basically two purposes for leaving a voice mail in sales, one is to call as a way of introduction and hopefully secure an appointment (the prospecting side) and the other is to follow up either from a meeting or because they are already a client and you are trying to stay in front of the customer (the account management side).

It is important to remember that the sole purpose of voice mail is NOT to sell your products or services, it is to “get an appointment”. Now obviously a key point to remember is that you are selling yourself, but other than that your objective is to create interest, get them to call you back and motivate the prospect to grant you an appointment.

4 Principles for Leaving Voice Mail.  There are 4 principles for leaving voice mail which are all centered on motivating the prospect to talk to you.

The example I use when I call a VP of Sales and Marketing is… “In my 20 years of doing business, I have found that 20-25% of an organization’s sales force is underperforming and selling below quota”.

I always get, “Yes, and this is possibly light”.

To motivate your prospect you must provide:

  1. Reasons worthy of calling back
  2. Possibilities of benefits for them (WIFM – What’s in it for me?)
  3. Something of value
  4. “Proof of performance” results and accomplishments

Rule #1 – Know thy persons name and title.
To avoid shooting yourself in the foot right from the start do not be guilty of ignorance. Before you make that call make sure you know the correct pronunciation of the name of the person you are calling. Make sure you know their correct title and position in the company as well. If you are not sure of either then place a call to the switchboard, secretary or admin to find out. Do not embarrass yourself by making your first call your last call.

Rule #2 – Slow Down!
This is not a race to see how many words you can get out of your mouth in 60 seconds or less. Yet time and time again I have received voice mails where I couldn’t understand the persons name and had to play the recording back 4 times just to write down their number. The person on the other end shouldn’t have to work at being able to get back to you. Make it easy for them to deal with you and the rest will fall in place. 

Rule #3 – Control the Conversation and you control the Process.
Regardless of the reason for leaving a voice mail, keep in mind you must maintain control of the process by controlling the communication and conversation.  What I mean is when you leave a voice mail, and you end the voice mail by giving them your number and ask them to return your call, (and sometimes we even say something so ridiculous as; “at your convenience”), you have just given up complete control of the sales process and put the control of calling you back in the hands of your prospect or client by saying, “Mr. Prospect, whenever you have the time or the inclination, feel free to call me.” You could wait for a lifetime. And a friendly word of advice; don’t hold your breath waiting for the call.

So how do you stay in control?  My preference is to say, “Mr. Prospect, when you have a moment to return my call my number is 219­-406­-2425, but due to the possibility that we’ll wind up playing telephone tag and in the event you are unable to get back with me, I will try calling tomorrow between 2 and 4 to see if you are available to talk.”

You accomplish three things:

  • take control of the process
  • show respect for their time
  • show commitment to follow up

Then when you do follow up, you confirm your sincerity and conscientiousness.

Rule #4 – Make a Compelling Statement.
The next important thing when leaving a voice mail is to make a “Compelling Statement” that sounds and hopefully is intelligent.  It can’t sound phony or make unrealistic claims.  This is just as bad, if not worse, than relinquishing control of the conversation.

You may have heard the term what is your 30 second commercial or what is your elevator speech? Well I recommend if you have either or both quit using them immediately. Those concepts are old and out dated. There is a difference between a Compelling Statement and an Elevator Speech or a 30 Second Commercial.

What is an example of a poor voice mail?  Salespeople customarily start off with something that sounds like this; “Good morning Mr. Jones. This is Ron Smith from XYZ. The reason for my call is to talk to you about some strategies I have for saving a million dollars by next Monday morning.”  Obviously, I am exaggerating but I have heard some very bad voice mails in my career.

Or even worse, “Good morning Mr. Jones, This is Ron Smith from XYZ.  I was wondering if I could show you a way to save $50,000, would you give me a few moments of your time to show you how my company can do that for you?”

These are NOT “compelling statements”.  They will either turn the prospect off or make them laugh, as they hear this same type of message again and again.  And, it is not likely to get you a return phone call.  These are typical mistakes the rookie salesperson makes and sometimes even seasoned salespeople are guilty of making.

If you are guilty of leaving a voice mail that is remotely close, or asking the customer to call you back, it should now take ALL of the mystery out of your question; “I wonder why I haven’t heard back from Mr. Jones?”  At this point you have provided no basis or relevant information that allows them to assume you can do anything for them.  In many cases it is timing, and unless they have a perceived need, and they usually don’t, these old tried and true ways to leave a voice mail go unanswered.

What is an example of a good voice mail?  A better statement might be about work you have done successfully for somebody else.  A better approach might go like this, “Mr. Jones, my name is Ron Smith. The reason I am calling you today is that I have just completed a program for L & L Corporation that saved them (or increased for them) . . . over the past year.  I would like to set an appointment to tell you how I did that and how I might be able to do something similar for you.”

You are making a true statement about what you have done for someone else, you are up front about what it is you are asking for, the prospect’s time.  You establish a meaningful conversation based not on what you can do for the prospect but on what you have done for someone else.  This kind of voice mail creates a realistic foundation for your future discussions with them.

Rule #5 – Prepare a Statement of Value.
A “Statement of Value” speaks to your ability to fulfill the customer’s needs. It helps the client or customer connect the dollar value, savings or ROI that might be achieved and makes them want to talk to you. In some circles it is described as your “Value Proposition”. Either way, customers expect “value” and the better you are at selling value the less you will have to deal with price down the road.

Rule #6 – Prepare and go through a Telephone Checklist.
Next, you need a telephone checklist to prepare you.  Pilots have a checklist before they take off.  Do you have a flight plan for yourself before you pick up the phone? Having a well thought out game plan saves time and effort.

Telephone Checklist

  1.  List of names and numbers
  2.  Script
  3. Compelling statement
  4. Statement of Value
  5. Right attitude
  6. Voice inflection
  7. Speak clearly, don’t rush or speak too fast
  8. Use a headset
  9. Smile when you talk

You will be 50% more effective when you prepare and go through your checklist. 

If you speak in a monotone voice you are going to come across as boring and uninteresting.  Speak in an over exaggerated tone and you will sound phony.  Use a headset and you can make more calls in a day and free up your hands.  Why free your hands up?  Well most of us talk with our hands anyway, you need to feel as though you are free and when you can be more mobile, you can be more fluid because you are not restricted to holding the receiver.  The single biggest thing to understand when leaving a voice mail is to realize that you are TALKING WITH SOMEONE and not into something.

Rule #7 – Tell them when you are going to call them back.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for them to call; you just might pass out.  It’s not their responsibility to call you back, so why would you expect them to? The simple solution is to make sure you call them back.

People make decisions about you in less than 7 seconds and 71% of all purchasing decisions are based upon the trust between the salesperson and the prospect.  Your initial voice mail sets the tone.  Remember, you may only get one shot, don’t blow it by being unprepared.

Rule #8 – Don’t ramble.
You should keep your voice mail to 60 seconds or less; more is overkill.

Rule #9 – Repeat your name and number.
At the end of the voice mail, slowly repeat your name and number, again.  Don’t make them have to play your message back several times just to retrieve your contact information.  I’m sure you have had it happen to you, so don’t be guilty of the same thing.

Rule #10 – Call them back when you said you would.
The odds are they will not call you back. Make sure to call them back when you said you would. If you get their voice mail again you are back to square one and the process starts all over again.  Do not leave out the steps and do not forget the rules.

Happy Voice mail and best of luck in obtaining more appointments!

Good Luck, and Go Forth and Sell!

Rick Tiemann

The Executive Group
80 E US Hwy 6
Valparaiso, IN 46383

Tel: 219.477.6378
Fax: 219.477.6379
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