When it comes to sales voicemails, you have a very short timeframe to do it right. You might have 10 seconds to get the prospect’s attention before they hit delete.
What is the secret to success? Lots of practice. This bit of wisdom applies to every area of our lives. Any real success has been the result of doing a task over and over again, and this includes sales voicemails.
However, all too often, we get stuck in a rut, take the same ineffective approach again and again, and expect different results. And that’s just insane.
First time sales outreach response is plummeting. According to Jill Konrath, 97% of all business calls now go to voicemail. Therefore, it goes without saying that all salespeople must be good at leaving voicemails. Not only that, but voicemail can — and should — be measured, coached, and improved.
Through personal experience and research, I’ve been able to identify the keys to great voicemails that generate responses.
1) Start Practicing
If you want to improve your voicemail performance, then you had better get deliberate in your practice. This means creating a highly structured practice routine that offers ample opportunity for repetition and immediate feedback.
This sales voicemail practice consists of three phases: before, during, and after.
Before You Dial
Before you make any calls, start with setting a goal for your voicemails that day. Will you be working on your tone? Your passion? The length of the message? Whatever it is, decide how to accomplish that goal by developing specific, technique-oriented plans.
While Leaving the Message
During voicemails, focus on execution in the moment. This process, called metacognition, enables you to mentally observe your own process from the outside. Develop this skill and you will be able to react to changing conditions quickly, in addition to improving your voicemail skills.
After You Hang Up
After each voicemail, evaluate your performance. Most voicemail systems provide the option of listening to the voicemail you just left. Listen to the recording — it will not lie. The recording gives you the most specific feedback for improvement. Doing this as much as possible will improve your voicemail performance more than anything else.
Approach voicemails with a scientific outlook. As you listen to every voicemail, score it. Create a score sheet with a rating system that addresses the following:
- Would you save that voicemail?
- Would you return that call?
- Would you return that call right away?
- Are you missing the basics (alternative phone number, optimal ways to get in touch, a fall back person to call)?
- Did you craft it or wing it?
Save the highest rated voicemails. If your voicemail sounds like one you would delete, then it needs work. Separate those elements that require improvement, and then focus on one at a time until perfect voicemails become second nature.
Continue to test as you score your results. For example, RingDNA finds the best times to call are 6:45am to 9:00am and 4:00pm to 6:00pm. The worst times are Monday mornings (6:00am to noon) and Friday afternoons. Try different call times and see what works for you.
Remember, shooting baskets alone does not prepare you for a basketball game. Tossing a football back and forth does not prepare you to take a hit. You need real world situations to prepare for the sales game. Consider this spring training and get ready for the big game.
2) Create an Effective Outline
As you practice and score your sales voicemails, you’ll start to determine some best practices. Write these down, and use them as an outline for future calls.
Note that the outline is not a script. Scripts cause you to sound wooden, while bullet points ensure that you cover the important points without being robotic.
Here are some effective pieces of your outline.
Leave your telephone number twice.
This ensures understanding and helps the prospect write it down accurately. However, don’t repeat yourself — say the same thing in a different way. For example: “Call me back at 8-7-7-9-7-7-8-0-8-0. Again, that is 8-7-7-9-77-80-80.”
Use the prospect’s name often.
People pay attention when their name is mentioned. After all, they have been conditioned to pay attention to their name their whole life. If you want to get someone’s attention, use their name.
Include a credible example.
Who have you helped? If you don’t speak with authority, borrow it.
Keep it to 17 seconds or less.
Too many reps are the inside sales equivalent of chatty grandmas — pitching solutions, discussing features, and offering value propositions over a voicemail. Long voicemails are not going to get you responses. Quite the contrary.
Voicemails should be 17 seconds or less. They should merely pique a prospect’s interest. Save your real pitch for an actual sales call.
Always provide context.
Whether it’s your last encounter or a recent ebook download, have a relevant reason for calling in order to get the prospect’s attention.
Offer clear value.
State upfront how you can help the prospect. Are you saving them time or money, or helping them get promoted? Let them know the benefit.
Ask for what you want.
Clearly state your purpose and the next steps. Whether it’s a demo, an appointment, or the best contact to talk to, simply ask for it.
3) Do Your Research
From the time we’re young, we’ve been told to be wary of strangers. When your prospects hear a voicemail from a person they’ve never heard of before, it sets off an alarm. They know it’s a sales call, and no prospect wants to feel like a number in a sales rep’s quota. Your job when leaving a voicemail is to quickly build rapport with that prospect, and research will help.
The difference between a cold voicemail and a warm voicemail is research. Research creates a distinction that compels a prospect to return your call over the countless others in their inbox. Visit the prospect’s website and investigate their solutions. Use tools and technology that collect more information about the prospect, such as their social profiles, their past experience, their connections, and so on. Find a piece of connective tissue, such as an alma mater, a favorite sports team, or a common pet (I’m a dog lover, personally). This opens the conversation, and shows that you’ve done your research.
Your research should include finding other people in the prospect’s organization. Selecting the right people, such as the prospect’s manager or department head, facilitates the ability to build rapport and adds a sense of urgency when you mention them in the voicemail. When you build rapport, you’ve got more influence and you’ll get more callbacks.
Passion is the wind and research is the rudder, which leads me to the next point.
4) Have a Positive Attitude
If you want your prospects to be excited to get back to you, you better sound exciting. If you have a monotone voice or sound generally unenthusiastic on a voicemail, you are almost certainly not going to get a response.
Remember, the idea is for prospects to want to talk to you. Have passion in your voicemail. Prospects can hear it in your voice. If you’re not in it to win it, why should the prospect feel that way? Your tone can make or break the voicemail, so remember you’re not bothering them; you’re enlightening them. If you have a purpose for calling, you’re never going to trouble them.
A positive attitude extends to your voice and how you’re speaking. At the same time, if the prospect can’t hear or understand you, all of your work is wasted. Follow the four Cs:
- Be Clear. Drink water, clear your throat, invest in a good headset, phone, etc. Be aware of your accent or the way you say words or numbers.
- Be Concise. Keep it short and simple.
- Use a good Cadence. Don’t be afraid of strategic pauses, and vary the speed of your delivery.
- Be Compelling. Speak with authority.
Perhaps the biggest mistake in a sales voicemail is pitching too aggressively. If you sound like a smarmy used car salesperson, your prospects are going to delete your voicemails faster than you can say “lowest price guaranteed!”
Avoid sales speak and buzzwords. It’s okay if your prospect knows that you are a sales rep. Qualified prospects don’t mind hearing from sales reps. They just want to speak to reps that are helpful, knowledgeable, and possess integrity.
Most importantly, have fun with it. If you don’t enjoy leaving a voicemail, you may not be in the right job.
Voicemails can add a lot of value whether or not a prospect calls you back right away. Even if a voicemail triggers an email response or a call back six months down the line, it still adds value. The better your voicemails are, the more likely you will be to get a response — whatever that response might be.