Bad sales advice travels fast, so it’s no wonder the same mistakes being made today are exactly as they were 20 to 30 years ago, especially when it comes to sales call voicemail.

Prime example: “No one checks voicemails anymore,” says the modern-day sales rep who thinks voicemails are outdated, yet leaves audio or video messages on LinkedIn.

See the irony?

Despite their cool factor, or lack thereof, voicemail messages should be part of the multi-channel network you use to communicate — not using it as a tool means you’re robbing yourself of the chance to leave lasting impressions with prospects.

In an episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, Business By Phone’s president Art Sobczak stopped by to talk best practices for leaving voicemails: Are they a waste of time? Nope. Should they be a part of your outreach toolkit? Yep. Are there mistakes to avoid? Always.

Quit talking about your thing

voicemail message

Everyone’s overstimulated these days.

Your phone is buzzing, beeping and ringing you into becoming a “professional ignorer” just to avoid rampant daily messages.

There’s no way you can pay attention to most of them, but Art reveals people do pay attention to messages that are about themselves.

What you’re trying to do with your voicemail is leave a question in the listener’s mind that they want the answer to. According to Art, that’s really all it takes.

You’re thinking, “easier said than done.” I know. But stick with me.

Whether you’re leaving a voicemail or an opening statement, Art suggests you set yourself apart with a message that creates attention and curiosity. To do that, watch out for these mistakes:

1. Not offering value for your listener

This isn’t about you! Art puts it well: “Too many people have the me-me’s,” referencing how some salespeople just want to talk about “their thing,” or how great their product is without knowing what the prospect actually finds valuable.

Sure, you can guess what they care about based on research and industry knowledge. But Art says you won’t really know until you have a real conversation and — here’s the big thing — ask questions.

2.Not personalizing and customizing your message

“There’s absolutely no reason for us to not know something about the people we call. With a couple [of] keystrokes and mouse clicks, I can find out a lot about you, your organization, [and] what’s going on in your world,” says Art.

Your voicemail will definitely be professionally ignored if you don’t allude to your listener’s needs or values. Why would they want to call you back if your message is generic and applicable to anyone?

3. Asking for 15 minutes of someone’s time

Getting someone’s permission to take up their time while you have them on the phone is so common, it must be right…right? Nope.

The biggest decision your prospect should have to make is whether or not they’re going to respond to your voicemail (AKA give you some of their time). The voicemail itself is an indication of your interest, so prospects know you want that prized calendar slot — but leaving an intriguing voicemail is a lot more effective than asking for their time.

Here’s another tip: When you have someone on a live call, don’t ask for 15 minutes to talk; you already have it!

Are they curious enough?

effective voicemail

We call it “voicemail,” but it’s really just a message, right? Don’t let any perceived formality around voicemail detract from what you’re trying to do — which is asking a question they feel compelled to answer.

To do that, Art says not to give the whole story; otherwise, “if they can make the decision that they don’t ever want to talk to you, guess what? They never talk to you.”

Here’s the bottom line: Focus more on the content of the messaging and not about the mode in which you’re delivering it. Why? Because you don’t know what their favorite mode of communication is.

And since you don’t know what they prefer, it’s not the worst idea to follow up a voicemail with an email.

Remember, you’re not trying to sell anything when you leave the voicemail; you just want to make them curious enough to at least call you back or reply.

If it’s not broke…

What if you leave a message, but then don’t get a response? You might be wondering whether you should leave a different voicemail next time.

Short answer: Tweak it, but keep your messaging on point, grasshopper.

“A big premise of advertising is repetition,” says Art. “The more we hear something, the more it’s going to sink in, especially if we’re agreeing with it.”

What you want to do is reinforce the value proposition you had initially and leave the message again — except maybe leave out the part about them not responding to your previous voicemail…

This goes for emails, too, so make sure they accomplish the same thing as your voicemails: pique enough curiosity to get a reply.

Myth: Voicemail is dead

Fact: Anyone who tells you voicemail isn’t relevant anymore needs to quit making assumptions about your customer.

One pretty excellent thing about voicemail is it allows you to make a direct impression with your prospect. Your job is to use all the tools available to you to engage that customer — that means using multiple channels to reach out.

“I’m leaving messages and impressions…value messages in a variety of different ways so I can communicate with people the way they accept their communication,” says Art.

Another way to look at it is this: If you’ve already invested time by doing pre-call research, why not take the 15 or 20 seconds it takes to leave a voicemail?

You’ve already done the heavy lifting! Just seize the opportunity to leave an impression.

Sales Call Voicemails Matter

Remember, leaving a voicemail for your prospect:

  • Helps you stand out
  • Allows you to leave a call to action
  • Gives you a reason to follow up

To learn more about leaving winning voicemails, check out Art’s podcast, The Art of Sales, or read his book, “Smart Calling.”

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