Prospects can be very difficult to reach. Sometimes, even when you leave a clear voice mail, they don’t get back to you. In this case, always call again—and soon! Unless you know of a specific reason not to (if the prospect’s on vacation, for example), you should make your second call within two or three days of the original message. If they haven’t returned your first call by then, they’re not going to. Also, make sure that you make no mention of your previous call during the second outreach. If you do, it will sound like you’re whining, no matter how hard you try to seem positive. Instead, put a slightly different spin on your first pitch or add some useful information that they can get by calling you back.
Call backs are also where you really use that information you got from the human operator. Try the other phone numbers the company may have—especially direct ones. Call during non-business hours. This can be particularly effective when using direct-dial numbers since many people will answer their own phone when the switchboard is closed.
Don’t run from the voice mail battleground. With a little preparation and a positive attitude, you can win the battle!
There are a couple of other things you can do to improve your voice mail results. Always mention the date and time of your call even though most voice mail systems do this electronically. This will underscore your professionalism. Also at the beginning of the message, give both your first and last name (it’s shocking how many other people are named Dave) and spell your name if it is difficult, unusual, or of foreign origin. Give your telephone number at the beginning, too. Repeat both your name and your number again at the end of the call so the prospect doesn’t have to go back to get it if they like the message in the middle.
Attitude counts big time in a voice mail message. You want to sound like a winner, so speak energetically and confidently. That doesn’t mean speaking fast! One of the worst things you can do is rattle off your message like you can’t wait to finish—especially when it comes to leaving your phone number. Sit up straight or even stand while you are talking. Smile and use gestures—the prospect can’t see them, but they most certainly can hear the energy they create. It really pays to rehearse your message out loud a few times before you leave it. Get rid of the “downgraders” in your speech. These are those little words that move your message to the bottom of the pile because they tell the prospect even you don’t think it’s important! “I’m just calling…” “If you have a chance…” “Nothing urgent, just a message about…” If you don’t think you use these phrases or others like them, try listening to that message you just recorded!
Which brings up another good tactic. Before you hang up, try pressing the pound key (“#”) to replay your message and re-record it if necessary. If there is any stumble, hesitation, or glitch—no matter how small—do it over! A poor message will make a negative first impression that you may never be able to overcome. Not all systems have this feature (or make it readily known), but it’s worth the effort. You may also be given some other options like marking your message as “urgent” or transferring to another number or person.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, hiring, firing, and motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.