A ton of people ask me on a regular basis whether or not they should even leave voicemails any more since they almost never get a call back. My response is yes – as long as they are good ones. If you’re leaving ‘touching base’ and ‘checking in’ voicemails then don’t waste your time or the prospect’s. If your voicemails are targeted and state a reason for your call that includes some sort of relevant information or value then I would absolutely leave them.

Voicemails should be part of any overall contact strategy that mixes up calls, e-mails and other ways of getting your message in front of the right target prospect. If your contact strategy includes quality and relevant messaging each time then this increases the chances of someone responding. The prospect may not call you back from your voicemail but if they see (e-mail), hear (call/vm), and realize the different values of your solution then they may eventually reach back out. The question isn’t whether or not to leave voicemails, it’s how do you leave good voicemails?  Here are some things to think about:    

1. Don’t start with your name first

Every voicemail starts off exactly the same way: “Hi, this is John Barrows with XYZ company…”  The problem with this approach is that the majority of our voicemails get deleted right after this because the client either knows your company and therefore has a certain assumption about what you do or they don’t know your company and therefore probably don’t care. Start off your voicemails with “Hi Bill, the reason for my call today is…”  and then add in some sort of short value prop that focuses on getting their attention. The goal is to get them to pay attention to the value you bring instead of some preconceived notion of what you do. Then back it up at the end with “please call me back at 555-555-5555. This is John Barrows with XYZ company. 555-555-5555.” This is brutal to get used to but it works.

2. Keep them under 30 seconds

Anything over 30 seconds and it sounds like you’re trying to sell – and you fundamentally can’t sell your solutions in a voicemail. To practice, leave yourself a voicemail and time it to see how long it takes. Notice that by taking the approach outlined in point #1 you end up getting to the point a lot faster instead of wasting 5-10 seconds with your intro of who you are and where you are calling from.

3. Don’t sell

Again, you fundamentally can’t sell your solution in a voicemail so stop trying. Focus on getting someone’s attention with a compelling value statement about what you’ve been able to do for other clients like them. Prospecting is about getting someone’s attention and earning their interest. It’s about selling time or the next step, it’s not about selling your solutions. Aim for getting a response of “How do you do that?” as if it was a live conversation.

4. Don’t reference failed attempts

I hate when I hear reps leaving voicemails that start like this “Hi Sarah, this is John again from XYZ company. I’ve left you a few messages and am trying to reconnect to see if you’d be interested in…”  If I didn’t care the first few times, why should I care now?  By saying this you are automatically giving me the green light to delete your voicemail before I listen to the rest of it. You should always have a different reason for your call.

5. Be different

Almost every voicemail sounds exactly the same no matter what people are selling: “Hi Bill, this is John with XYZ company. We’re the leading provider of blah blah and I would like to set up a time to discuss your needs related to blah blah and see how we can help you achieve your goals…blah blah blah blah.”  No wonder people never call back. When cold calling, leaving voicemails, sending e-mails, you should always try to stand out in some way. A few ways to be different on voicemails include: By not starting with your name first; making people laugh (with business-appropriate humor); screwing up a voicemail and joking about it; being enthusiastic and positive; referencing some research you’ve done on their business that prompted the call. Whatever it is, just try to do something different and stand out. 

John Barrows has held every position in Sales including inside, field, channel, executive management and ownership.  He continues to sell every day using the techniques he trains to some of the world’s leading tech companies including Linkedin, Marketo, HP and most notably salesforce.com.  He has worked with Salesforce.com for over 5 years and trained over 3000 SRs, EBRs and AEs on techniques that have driven millions of dollars into the pipeline.