When I recently posed the question of voice mail strategies to a few colleagues, I had some great responses.  But there was one that stood out from Michael Brown, President of BtoBEngage, that he got from a Dallas based IT executive.  When Michael asked the executive about returning sales calls, his comment was “Return their call?  You must be joking! I’d be playing defense on their home field!”  It is difficult to get your information across, discuss your company, and still leave room for your prospect to be intrigued within a 30 second time frame.   So, with that said, here are 11 tips that will get you playing more offense.

Always follow up with an Email– By and large we are an internet intensive society and a majority of communication is now done through email rather than the phone.  It’s about getting on the prospects mental radar.  It’s easy to just ignore a caller ID you don’t know, but if you send an immediate follow up email you have a higher likelihood of piquing that prospects interest in regards to what you just said on their voicemail.  Keep the subject line simple “follow up on my voicemail” is still the best.

Don’t let them know you will call them back in a few days – Often times I hear Inside Reps state the following “If I haven’t heard back from you, I plan on trying to re-connect in a few days.”  What have you accomplished with this statement?  It’s passive and weak.  Establish some rules of engagement and tell them exactly when and how often you plan on reaching out.  The goal is to let them know (politely) that you aren’t going away and it’s in everyone’s best interest to have a quick chat.

Don’t be gimmicky – Avoid saying phrases like “We are the experts in the field of _____” or “I am calling from _____, the world leaders in…..”  Yes you are making a sales call, and yes, you are trying to obtain new business.  Guess what?  Your prospect realizes this too, and everyone thinks they are “experts”, “gurus” or “world leaders”.  If you didn’t, then you have no faith in your product/service and won’t close the deal whether you get an appointment or not.

Slow Down! – One of the best pieces of advice I received was when an Executive Admin took the time to call me back and explain that she didn’t understand a word I said in my voice mail because I was speaking so fast.  Rule of thumb…If you feel like you are speaking to slow, chances are your cadence is perfect for your audience.  Your discomfort in your own “slow” pace is music to their ears.

Know who you’re leaving the voicemail for and their role – There is nothing worse than leaving a voice mail intended for someone in IT and you are calling someone in HR.  First and foremost, do a quick check on Linkedin or Zoominfo and confirm that the person you are calling is at least in the right department.  Don’t waste your time and dials on an inappropriate contact.

Leave your number in the voice mail once – This is a very debatable subject.  If you talk to a lot of experienced sales reps, they will tell you to leave your number twice, once at the beginning and once at the end.  But those same pundits will also let you know to keep your voice mail to 30 seconds or less.  If I am trying to stay within the 30 seconds, why repeat information?  It takes approximately 7 seconds to introduce yourself, provide a company name, and leave a phone number at the beginning of a voice mail.  Double that when you leave the same information in closing and you have already used half of your targeted 30 seconds.  Let them know you will follow up with an email, if they are interested and didn’t get your number through your voice mail; they have it in your follow up email.

KISS- “Keep It Simple Stupid”- Stick to stating the basics, who you are, where you’re calling from, and the purpose of your call.  Follow up with an email and do it again in a few days.  “Hi (prospect name), my name is Jonathan calling from _____ at 555-555-5555.  I wanted to speak briefly regarding ______ and discover any areas you are looking to address.”  The prospect knows within the first 15 seconds who I am, why I am calling and what I am attempting to accomplish with the call.

Avoid phrases such as follow up, touch base, and circle back– These are phrases that will not produce results.  Instead, try using phrases similar to “When we last spoke…” or “When we discussed ____ a few months ago…” to provide more personalization.  The prospect will be more willing to re-engage in conversation with you when you lead with these types of statements.

Leave them wanting more – Most of us know the phrase “why buy the cow when you get the milk for free”.  One of the many reasons for leaving a voice mail is to get your prospect interested or intrigued by your product.  If you provide too much information on a voice mail, you eliminate that possibility.  Plus, you have already given them enough information to say “no”,” not interested” or “we don’t need this”.

Avoid product dumping – This one could be difficult because you want to pique their interest somehow, and usually that involves mentioning the benefits of your product.  Keeping with the theme of brevity and being concise, reserve your product dumping for your follow up email.  Best thing to do is include bullet points either within your email or after your signature.  The eye is automatically drawn to the bullet points, so this could be your best chance to get across the benefits or statistics you wanted to share with your prospect.

Don’t be a robot or depend on automation This one is difficult because I see the benefit in using auto-dialers and pre-recorded voice mails from a time savings point of view, but I caution that you will lose any sort of personalization in the process should you decide to proceed this way.  You lose the ability to say the prospects name and offer information specific to their needs/industry.  Sometime I even purposefully insert a random “umm” or “uhh” in my voice mail so the prospect realizes that I am not a robot.    

Some other tips, such as creating a benefit statement or finishing your voice mail with a Call to Action will also increase response rates, but these basic steps will get you heading in the right direction and playing offense on your home turf more often.  Any tips I forgot?

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