Breaking Down the Voice Mail Barrier

Voice mail is an inevitable fact of life when reaching out to prospects by phone. But hanging up and trying again later isn’t the best way to handle it.

Nor is leaving a generic message that will likely be deleted even before the recipient gets to the part where you ask them to call you back.

Like any part of the sales process, voice mail requires a strategy to ensure that the time you spend making the call and that the recipient spends listening to your message isn’t  wasted.

As with any strategy, preparation is the key. This means being ready with at least the idea of what you want to say when you hear the beep.

The most effective messages not only make use of the prospect’s name, but also show you have a basic understanding of their business and get them thinking about how your offering can meet their needs.

For example, “Hi Mary, this is Kathleen from XYZ Health Insurance. Small business owners like yourself are struggling to find ways to contain the rising cost of health insurance while still providing their employees with comprehensive coverage. To learn some proven strategies for doing just that, please call me at…” is more effective than “This is Kathleen from XYZ Health Insurance and I’d like to speak with you about your company’s insurance needs. Please call me at…”

Having a good understanding of what you want to say also keeps you from being tongue-tied when you hear the beep (or if you actually connect with a live person, for that matter).

Finally, don’t rush through your message so quickly that your words are unintelligible. Spell your name when necessary and state your phone number slowly enough for the listener to write it down the first time. In fact, it’s a good practice to write down your phone number as you are saying it, which ensures your listener can do the same.

The cardinal rule of voice mail is to keep it clear and concise. If your prospect has to replay your message several times to understand who you are, why you’re calling and how you can be reached, you’ve blown your chances for a return call.

One thought on “Breaking Down the Voice Mail Barrier”

  1. Aside from the tips to say the phone number slowly, I disagree with this approach completely.

    This should be the approach for a voice message:

    “Hi (name), this is Ted. I’m following up on your request. 512-123-4567.” (say the phone number low and slow–like the article recommends (I also recommend writing it down to get the proper pace))).

    Period. This can work for people who have downloaded your software (they came to the website to request more information), filled out a form at a trade show, showed any initiaitve to find out more about your product, etc.

    Here is why this approach works better. A voice mail is the same as an approach. Most people say they have an approach. They rush to get in front of a prospect and then say, “Hi. My name is John Doe, I’m from XYZ company, and…”

    You can stop right there. First, people don’t care about your name–you only say the first name as a courtesty, but they don’t care. To prove this, at the end of a call when you actually caught someone life, ask them, “what is my name.” Most folks will not remember. Why? Because they didn’t care to remember anything about you when they were not interested in you. They may ask your name if they show interest, but only because it is then relavant to them.

    They also don’t need to know the name of your company. Why? Unless it is someone highly recognizable that makes them curious (like Microsoft), then again, it is unimportant to them. So why say it? You may say, so they know who you are with.

    Now this brings up the key to a good approach–curiosity. When people say they are not interested they are telling the truth–you haven’t said anything that interest them. Another word for interest is “curious.” They are not curious about you or your company. So how do you increase curiosity? Tell them less, not more.

    Besides, who says you have to be so formal. You should treat folks how you would like to be treated–as a friend. How do you respond to a friend? “Hi Mike. This is John Doe. I’m your neighbor of 11 years and I work at Safeway. I’m calling to see if….” This is absurd.

    With your best friend, if you want them to call you back (rather than playing phone tag) you would say, “Hi Ted, this is John. Call me back at xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

    You should mimic how you talk to a friend.


    – At one company, the top sales guy had been leaving variations of the authors approach to IT managers. When I asked how many call backs he got, he said “2.” I asked, “Per day?” “No. “2” ever. In 18 months! And none of the other sales people had ever gotten a return call.

    – We used the second approach and the team averaged 15 return calls EACH per day. This produced such a dramatic increase in contacts that it helped increase contacts six times.

    – In my case, with door approaches (where I learned the concept of a perfect approach), my three year door approach was 97.3, 97.7 and 97.4% per year. The company average was 24%. It works the same on the phone.

    There’s more, but less establishes more curiosity and results in more return calls. Next you have to know how to respond to this kind of call back. It is usually just, “Thanks for calling me back. My records show that you requested….” and then take it from there.

    If you can prove that another approach works better, then by all means use it… but I have NEVER see an approach recommended in this article (regardless of the variation) beat my approach when you track the numbers (which I do religiously).

    I hope this helps,

    Ted – aka Chanimal

Comments are closed.