How To Leave Voice Mail Messages That Get Returned
By Jeb Blount, Author of People Buy You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Business
I hate voice mail. I love email, text messaging, and even smoke signals but I despise voice mail more than any other communication tool. Why?
I’m a pretty busy sales guy and I usually spend most of my day talking to other people on the phone. On most days it seems as if my phone never stops ringing. There is just no way to get to every call. Many calls go straight to voice mail. In fact, I average in the neighborhood of 20 voice mail messages every working day.
You may be thinking to yourself, “that sounds like a good problem to have Jeb”, and in some cases you would be right. Some of these calls are from customers and clients who want to buy more from me. Trust me, when someone is calling me to do business I’m happy.
But, the vast majority of the calls are from people who want me to do something for them. They want me to buy something, form a partnership, give them an opinion, introduce them to someone, or answer a coaching question. But this is not why I hate voice mail.
I hate voice mail because every day I have to stop what I’m doing, dial my inbox and listen to all of those messages one at a time. It is a slow and time consuming process that sometimes takes up to thirty minutes. Which is usually time I don’t have. And of course, the catch with voice mail is that it is linear; meaning that you have to start at the beginning and listen to each message until you reach the end. You can’t look at all of your messages, like you can on email, and then determine which ones are a higher priority than others and which ones are just junk.
This is where the pain comes in and my hatred of voice mail begins. As I reluctantly trudge through my messages there are three kinds that really drive me crazy.
The first is when people don’t leave their names and phone numbers. I get a message but I either don’t know who you are or how to reach you. These messages are automatically deleted.
Then there are the people who leave long-winded messages. There are occasions when I’m ok with this like when the long message gives me all of the information I need and I don’t have to call back. But if the message requires me to call you back, which is almost always the case, I just get irritated. Most of these messages are saved for when I have time. Of course the brutal reality is . . I never have time.
Finally, there are the people who garble or say their name or phone number too fast. I hate these messages the most because I’m required to listen to the message more than once which wastes my time and makes it more likely, if I am busy or in a hurry, that I will just delete the message.
So why, other than getting all of this off of my chest, is this long rant important to you? Because, as a sales and business professionals, the telephone is still your most important business tool. Every day business professionals all over the world make millions of calls to current and prospective customers, colleagues, and potential employers. Most of those calls go straight to the voice mail boxes of people, who like me, hate voice mail. This is why so many of your messages go un-returned.
The key is to come to grips with the fact that on some level most of your buyers despise voice mail and either ignore or delete most of their messages. However, with a few simple adjustments, that make your messages easier for your prospects to deal with, you may succeed in getting many more messages returned and at the same time earn the respect of the people you call.
Five People Buy You Tips for Winning Voice Mail Messages
Give Contact Information First: 99% of the time when we leave a voice mail we want the other person to call us back. When you give your contact information first you are far more likely to entice the person you called into writing down your name and number for a call back. Besides, it is just good business. Try something like this: “Hi this is Jeb Blount, from SalesGravy.com. My phone number is 555-222-1212.” This demonstrates your respect for the other person’s time and your professionalism.
Keep It Short: Your messages should be thirty seconds or less and deal with only one subject. When you hold yourself to thirty seconds if forces you to be succinct and to focus on the most important information. In her outstanding new book Snap Selling Jill Konrath describes how “crazy-busy” buyers are struggling to deal with information overload. Take Jill’s advice and make your messages simple.
Say Why You Have Called. After you give your personal information just say, “The reason for my call is” or “the Purpose of my call is”, then tell them why you are calling and leave your message. In SNAP Selling Jill drives home the point that if your message is not relevant to your buyer’s situation they will not give you their attention.
Be Honest. One of the core People Buy You levers is trust. If customers and prosepects don’t trust you there is virtually no chance you will win their business. There is nothing more irritating to a buyer than a salesperson who is less than honest about their intentions.
Repeat Your Name and Phone Number: Before you push # always say your name again slowly and clearly and always, always say your number twice. It should sound something like this, “again, this is Jeb Blount with SalesGravy.com my phone number is 555-222-1212 that’s 555-222-1212.” This will ensure that your name and phone number are registered correctly and that you leave your prospect with a positive impression of you.
Bonus Tip: Leave your email as well. May people will write back via email quicker than returning your voice mail.