Sales Strategies to Tackle Voicemail

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It is not surprising that so many sales reps complain about not having their voicemail messages returned. Judging by the dozen or so voice mails I have received from sales people over the past couple of weeks the reason is obvious: they are rubbish!

Sales reps complain about the impact of voice mail on their selling success but often they are their own worst enemies. Here is a list of common voice mail blunders and how you can manage them.

Blunder 1: Leaving a VoiceMail Too Soon

“The first tip in managing voicemail is NOT to leave a voice mail message.”

The trick is to get a live prospect and that often means trying different times. Prepare a list of at least fifty or so prospects. Try calling them earlier (e.g., start at 7:30) or later (after 5:00) in the day.
Don’t leave a message, simply dial. If there is no answer hang up and move to the next name on the list. Cycle the list for about an hour with the objective of getting a live prospect. Try doing this every day for about two weeks.

Blunder 2: Not Listening

When you do encounter voice mail LISTEN to what the prospect has to say. Some have bland generic messages (“I’m not in. Leave a message”) but others might give you some clues about how to approach them. For instance, suppose the message says this:

“Hi this is Pete Prospectis. Today is Monday, May 16th and I will be out of the office until Thursday May, 18th. If you’d like to leave your name, number and a detailed message I will get back to you as soon as I can.”

Note that Pete provided the date. It implies he interacts with voice mail so that when you do leave a message the chances are pretty good that he will listen to it. Because the message is detailed, one gets the impression that Pete is a detail person. This suggests you might want to be equally detailed in your approach.

more significantly, Mr. Prospectis is out till Wednesday. There is no point in leaving a message at this stage because there are probably thirty other messages waiting for him. Even if you leave a good message there is a pretty good chance that it will be lost in the chaos of catching up.

Finally, and this is so critical, don’t call Pete on Thursday! His day will be hectic after having been gone for three days. Think about it. Call on Friday when things have calmed down. If you have to leave a message, do so but again at least you increase your chances of it being heard.

“Statistically, about 87% of sales reps give up after a
single half hearted attempt. About 95% give up after
a second message.”

Blunder 3: Failure to Research

Over the last month or so, I have received voice messages from vendors who assumed I was a long distance company, a service bureau, a telephone manufacturer, and a high tech firm. Simply clicking onto my web site will tell you what I do…and it’s none of the above.

The sales reps wasted my time and theirs. But the sad thing is they are probably leaving dozens of other similar messages to the wrong targets.

Of course, when they do not get a reply they get discouraged. They become victims of their poor preparation.

Learn a little about your prospect. It does not have to be a lot but enough to craft a message that is relevant.

Blunder 4: Providing Infomercials

One of the greatest voice mail tragedies is leaving an infomercial i.e., a grotesquely long, delirious message that tells the prospect everything and anything. In effect, it’s like a radio commercial over voice mail.

Think about this for a moment from the prospect’s perspective: she is inundated with voice mails all day long. The last thing she needs is your product diatribe. I assure you that the prospect will tire by the third line and quickly erase your message.

Blunder 5: Poor Delivery

As if infomercials were not enough, some sales reps compound the problem with poor delivery. I am talking about the “…aahhhs….ummmmms…errr… duhs…” that are liberally peppered throughout the message. And I am especially talking about monotone deliveries that put the prospect to sleep.

You have about 5-8 seconds to catch your listener’s attention and keeping it is even tougher. Understand this: about 15% of your message is communicated by the actual words you use i.e., the message you leave. The remaining 85% of the message is communicated by the tone of your voice. If you sound lifeless, unsure, hesitant or if you speak too fast or too slow, or if you are too loud or too soft: you will lose the prospects interest.

So here’s what you need to do: Jot down what you want to say. Write it in sentences or point form; whatever works for you. Then practice delivering it a few times before dialing. The message should flow trippingly and convincingly from you lips. There is no excuse for a poorly delivered message.

Blunder 6: Insipid Messages

I am floored by the messages that are left on my voice mail. Stunned. Shocked. Dismayed. Sometimes I am amused but rarely am I impressed much less interested.

The reason? The messages don’t grab me by the collar and say “Listen.” Instead, they a drab and speeches about their product or their company. Borrriiinnng! .

A good voice mail message has four components

> your name,
> your company,
> a message that must intrigues and entices
> a call to action

Here is just one example of an intriguing message:

Wallace, this is Vic Vendor calling from Altace Inc. Mr. Wallace, I have a question on extended learning programs that I am told only you can answer. Could you please give me a call at ____?

This is a powerful voice message. Note how the rep uses the prospect’s name a couple of times. Using the name gets the prospect to listen more carefully to the words. Next, the rep creates intrigue and mystery with his message about being the only person who can answer the question. This flatters the prospect at some level and creates curiosity.

Blunder 7: Not Integrating Other Mediums

If there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is more than one way to leave a message. Make your voice mail part of an overall contact strategy.

Voice mail should be just one of the tactics you use to garner interest and stand out from the crowd. Supplement your voice message with an old fashioned letter. Consider sending a fax. If you have the e-mail address of your prospect, send a brief message.

Use these mediums in combination. For example, you might leave a message telling the prospect to expect a “package” in the mail. This alerts her to keep his eye out for “something” which, in itself, is intriguing. Perhaps you could use an email fax as a follow up message to the package rather than another voice mail.

The point is you have to be creative. Some prospects respond better to e-mail than voice mail, others to fax versus mail.

Blunder 8: Lack of Persistence

One of the BIGGEST blunders is a simple lack of persistence. Of the all the voice mails I received over the last two weeks not one rep…not a
single, solitary rep…has called and left another message!

Statistically, about 87% of sales reps give up after a single half hearted attempt. About 95% give up after a second message. Personally, I rarely listen to voice mails from vendors because I figure if it is important enough they will call back. They rarely ever do. That tells the whole story.

I recommend that sales reps leave four voice mail messages spaced three business days apart. I call it the 4/3 strategy. When you do the ‘math’ it reveals about two calendar weeks of follow up but spaced apart so that it is not too overbearing. I will supplement the messages with an e-mail or a letter. I want to the prospect to know that I will not give up easily; I will be polite but persistent.

Blunder 9: Stalking

The last blunder is not nearly as common as a lack of persistence but it does exist and it is sinister and frightening in nature. It occurs when a sales rep calls and leaves a voice mail message (or messages) every day for days on end. Not long ago at a training seminar a sales rep bragged that he left 38 (yes, thirty eight) messages to a prospect.

That is not prospecting, it’s stalking.

It’s a waste of the sales rep’s time and energy …and you can bet it was not endearing to the poor prospect. (I’d be calling the police).


Avoid these classic voice mail blunders. Yes, it takes a little more time and effort but that is precisely what will set you apart from all the other sales reps who are calling your prospects. Go to it.

Written by Jim Domansk, of Teleconcepts Consulting. Jim helps businesses achieve their sales and marketing objectives by using the telephone to help generate leads and sell directly on both a strategic and tactical level.

A highly dynamic speaker and trainer with over 15 years of direct tele-sales experience, Jim has spoken to audiences around the world on telephone selling applications, skills and techniques. His “no bull” training style blends humor with “real life, real drama” situations which he has begged or borrowed from his clients.


Published On: 5th Dec 2005

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