If like most B2B companies, upwards of 97% of your calls are going to voicemail, it’s probably time to talk about the critical role voicemail plays in your call strategy. We’ve written about voicemail before and suggested strategies for getting past an executive’s gatekeeper to leave a message. But there’s more to voicemail than simply dodging a roadblock and leaving a message.
Voicemail is more than a missed connection. It’s more than a mechanical process, “Hi, this is Jane Doe from Acme. Sorry I missed you. Please call me at…” Instead, it’s an opportunity to begin a conversation — even if you end up leaving several messages before actually speaking with a prospective customer.
Consider this: InsideSales.com reports that a carefully crafted voicemail can improve your response rates by as much as 22%. A well-crafted voicemail requires planning, preparation, and practice. Let’s get to work.
Use Voicemail to Share a Compelling Story
There are several key elements you need to work into your voicemails. Your challenge, of course, is to create a powerful message that’s no more than 18 to 30 seconds long.
As for how you organize your thoughts, take your lead from master storytellers. The goal in any story or message is to keep your audience or prospect wanting more. For example, a title must make readers want to open the book. The first paragraph needs to captivate readers and drive them to read on. From paragraph to paragraph, page to page and chapter to chapter, the message drives readers forward.
It’s the same with voicemail. And the earlier in your message you can present your compelling idea, the better.
- Introduce yourself quickly:
While you need to introduce yourself up front, don’t make the mistake of drawing out your introduction with a lot of background about you and your company. Quickly move into the information of interest to the prospect. Always keep the focus on prospects and their needs. It’s not about you.
- Focus on one compelling idea
Although there may be many reasons why a prospect should be interested in what you’re selling, you need to focus your voicemail on one idea only. You don’t have the time to include more. Plus, more may distract or confuse the listener. Focus. If you decide to frame your message as a question make it open-ended. You’re not looking for a simple yes or no that gives the listener permission to delete your message and move on. Open-ended questions often begin with where, why, what or how to engage. They invite prospects to consider what you have to say: If you could overcome this one challenge, what would that do for your bottom line? If you could change X, how would it impact your competitiveness in the market?
- Build your trust factor
You’re building a relationship, and that begins with trust. Once you’ve delivered your compelling idea and have a prospect wanting more, strengthen the bond between you and the prospect. Perhaps you can refer to a previous meeting or conversation. Or mention a referral. Or demonstrate that you understand the prospect’s business and pain points.
- Leave your prospect wanting more
As you prepare to close your call, you want to leave your prospect with a clear outcome. Work your one compelling message back into your signoff. Tantalize. Suggest immediacy. If you say something like, “I’ve figured out how to solve three of your biggest challenges in X and look forward to sharing them with you,” you’ve requested a callback with a thoughtful and engaging twist and given prospects a good reason to call you back.
- Close by repeating your name and phone number
Even though you gave your name at the beginning, repeat both now and give your phone number. Speak slowly and articulate. Finally, tell your prospect that you’ll be following up with an email.
That’s it. You’re done.
Don’t Script Your Voicemails … Practice
As you work on your voicemail strategy, you may be tempted to script your message to ensure you remember everything you want to say and present your points in the right order. The fact is, almost no one can read a script without sounding stilted. Prospects will know immediately that you’re reading, and there goes your trust factor.
If you need to write a script as you’re developing your message, you can. But ultimately reduce it to bulleted talking points and tear up the script. Identify your compelling idea, make your talking points and then practice, practice, practice. Record yourself leaving the voicemail. Listen to your message. Evaluate your presentation, revise and repeat until you have it just right.
That goes for tone too. You want to sound enthusiastic without sounding like an infomercial pitchman. Present yourself as positive, professional and honest.
Build a Voicemail Campaign
You might as well expect that you’ll be leaving several voicemails before you either connect or receive a callback. Research shows that 90% of first-time voicemails are never returned.
Don’t let this fact discourage you. Rather, use it as an opportunity to orchestrate a strategic campaign. Each message will dig a little deeper with a new message and another opportunity to build trust. Use your first call as the opener. Then subsequent messages will feed new ideas, information and insight. By sharing thoughtful, compelling concepts, you’re inviting prospects to engage…and call you back.
Always Be Working to Improve Your Results
Even after you commit the time, thought, energy and practice necessary to create your perfect voicemail, you’re not finished. In truth, you’re never finished. You should always be looking for ways to improve your message and increase your ROI.
One way you can do this is with split testing — also called A/B testing. Once you’re comfortable with your first campaign, start working on a second campaign. Try new closing hooks and different compelling ideas. You can even experiment with changing the order in which you present your messages throughout your campaign.
The point is you should always be looking for ways to improve your results. Once you have a second campaign, test both by alternating voicemails throughout the day and tracking the number of callbacks for each.
Voicemail is an integral component of your inside sales strategy. You just have to unleash the power.