Leave a message after the tone.
Does that strike fear in your heart? Well, we’re here to help you get over it.
Sure, it’s easier to text or email. Maybe you even prefer to talk to someone on the phone rather than speak into the void. But sales voicemails aren’t rocket science, even though there’s a bit of an art to them.
And they’re a necessary part of your toolset. If you’re placing sales calls with any frequency, you’ll probably get voicemail about 70% of the time, says veteran sales trainer Art Sobczak, who literally wrote the book (“Smart Calling”) on best practices for using the phone to sell.
👉 Voicemail can be a powerful tool for sales if you use it wisely.
- Know your goals and hone your strategy
- Sharpen your tech stack
- What to do
- What not to do
- After you hang up
Know your goals and hone your strategy
“We call it voicemail, but ultimately it’s a message,” says Art.
And the message should pretty much be the same, whether you’re leaving it on a cellphone or landline, via a video or a LinkedIn voice message, or written in an email.
Bottom line? Focus on the content of your messages, not the delivery method – and by the way, “you should be using all of them,” Art adds. “You never know what somebody’s favorite mode of communication is.”
Plus, your messaging should be consistent across every channel. Every touch is an opportunity to add value and reinforce your personal brand.
☎️ Do your research
It’s the first rule of prospecting: Know who you’re calling. But shockingly, off-base cold calls are still so common that buyers don’t answer their phones for that very reason.
At a minimum, you should visit the prospect’s/company’s website and use LinkedIn to collect information about who you’re calling. The more you learn, the better you can determine whether they’re a good fit for your solution and the more likely your messaging will work.
☎️ Practice, practice, practice
You wouldn’t start a workout without stretching first. So you should warm up for a stretch of cold-calling, too.
Donato Diorio at Hubspot, who advises using a bullet-pointed script, says the key to making it work is to practice: “You can’t read it line-for-line, so it’s important to work out the kinks before you place your call.
☎️ Intrigue them
To paraphrase the great Cheap Trick, you want them to want you. So give your prospect a compelling reason to call you back.
“Make your questions so specific and directed towards that one particular person that they feel inclined to answer,” says Mary Clare Novak on Learning Hub.
Art uses the same tactic with different logic: Pique their curiosity.
“Leave a question in the listener’s mind that they want the answer to,” he says.
☎️ Focus on value
Ideally, that question should entice the prospect with a value proposition.
You might say: Hey Steve, it’s Audrey. I want to share how I was able to help your competitor grow their free trials by 22%. If you want to know how we did it, give me a call back. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll reach out again soon.
☎️ Show your personality
Scripts are useful, but you shouldn’t read directly from one. Speak as naturally as you would to a friend!
☎️ Personalize it
Many buyers are what Art calls “professional ignorers,” who are compelled to ignore almost all of the messages. They get so many, there’s no possible way to pay attention (let alone respond) to most of them.
But Art (a bit of a professional ignorer himself) says they do pay attention to some.
Which ones, you ask?
“The ones about us,” he says.
That’s why it’s crucial to personalize your messages. (See below.)
☎️ Warm it up
Let your prospect know how you’re connected if possible. Perhaps:
- A mutual contact connected you
- You recently met at a conference
- You heard about their company in the press
- You read one of their blog posts
Sharpen your tech stack
You probably know by now that software can set you apart.
A great sales engagement platform like VanillaSoft is the key to leveling up your productivity – and your results.
💡 Increase sales productivity with Voicemail Drop
Whether you get a bit of “stage fright” when you’re leaving messages or just want to save time, VanillaSoft’s Voicemail Drop is an ingenious solution that allows you to send pre-recorded voicemails with one simple click.
💡 Follow up via email (and be sure to mention it)
Voicemail plus email is the one-two punch that maximizes the likelihood of a prompt and engaged response. You should leverage sales engagement software to produce (and manage) a seamless messaging combo. And don’t forget to mention on your voicemail that you’ll be popping into the prospect’s inbox, too. That way, they can reply with whatever method works best for them.
💡 Create a cadence
A sales cadence (aka a sequence) can include voicemail and email, along with LinkedIn messages, and even texts. Use software to develop and adjust a cadence that works for every segment, business type, or role you target when prospecting.
What to do
Ready? Set? Dial! And after the beep…
🚨 Leave a message! Perhaps this goes without saying, but leaving a message is imperative if you want a call back (and want to avoid alienating the person you’re calling). These three concepts are your blueprint for success.
1. Timing is everything
Call at a strategic hour
Most experts agree that the worst time to call anyone is first thing Monday morning or Friday afternoon. Donato says to stay away from Mondays and Fridays altogether since “those days include playing a lot of catch up and a lot of winding down early.” Response rates during these times are low across the board.
Many veteran sales pros advise against calling during early mornings and late afternoons. But RingDNA found the best times to call are 6:45 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday (within your prospect’s time zone, of course).
The bottom line: Develop the schedule that works best for you, and remember that every prospect is different. Some will just never answer the phone – hence the need for voicemail in the first place.
Keep it short – but not too short
The ideal duration of a voicemail is between 15 and 30 seconds. “The last thing you want to let yourself do is ramble on for a couple of minutes,” says Mary Clare. And do note that many voice mail notification systems indicate the duration of each incoming message.
2. Clarity is key
Greet and meet
Open your message with a warm greeting, along with your name and your company.
“It’s an unfortunate truth that your prospect might not listen to your voicemail all the way through to the end,” Mary Clare notes. “It’s important that you state your name, company, and reason for calling in both the beginning and end of the message, especially if this is a prospect you’ve never spoken with before.”
That’s why you might consider leaving your phone number near the beginning of the message as well (as we’ll note, you should absolutely repeat it later).
Speak slowly and clearly
There’s nothing worse than having to replay a message multiple times to understand what the caller is saying.
Plus, many people don’t listen at all – they just read the translation of “visual voicemail.” So be sure to enunciate your words.
Beware of Caller ID
Make the call on the phone that you’d like to receive a return call on, and make sure the Caller ID is turned on. This will help overcome the Caller ID problem should the prospect want to call you back.
3. Look to the future
Wrap up with a call to action
At the very least, ask the prospect to call you back. Even better: Suggest a plan for moving forward. You might try something like: Next time we talk, I’d like to tell you more about how we helped [a similar organization] increase their revenue by 20%.
Share your availability
You don’t just want a call back – you want to schedule a longer conversation, like a demo. So open up that calendar and suggest a few times to meet (and/or mention when you’re not available, as well).
Let the prospect know you’ll follow up with an email (or a text, InMail – whatever is the next-best method in your sequence. Finally, end the message with your phone number. That way, the recipient doesn’t have to “rewind” the message very far if they need to play it back.
What not to do
It’s way too easy to ignore messages or just let them get lost amidst the noise. So don’t make these mistakes.
🚫 Repeat an email: Although your messages should be consistently on brand, don’t read from an email (or repeat the same ideas contained in one).
🚫 Throw a pitch: Now’s not the time to sell. “Too many reps are the inside sales equivalent of chatty grandmas – pitching solutions, discussing features, and offering value propositions over a voicemail,” Donato says. “Save your real pitch for an actual sales call.”
🚫 Make it about you: Talking about yourself or your company is the wrong tactic. Art made an entire YouTube video on the topic called “Stop Talking About Your Thing.”
🚫 Sound desperate: Even if you’re anxious to make quota, don’t show it. Like dogs and bees, prospects can smell fear. So lead with strength and confidence.
🚫 Ask for their time: You might as well ask the prospect whether you can have $300 out of their wallet right now, says Art: “If I ask for your time, that’s more valuable than money.”
🚫 Chastise them for not responding: The worst thing you can say? “You haven’t called me back.” Remember: They don’t owe you anything.
After you hang up
Donato suggests evaluating your performance “with a scientific outlook” after each voicemail.
👉 If you have the option of listening to recordings of them, do so: They “will not lie,” he says, noting that recordings give you “the most specific feedback for improvement.”
You might also want to role-play with colleagues and solicit their feedback on the recordings.
Donato’s method is to score each one, tracking them with a rating system that addresses the following:
✅ Would you save this voicemail?
✅ Would you return the call?
✅ Would you return it right away?
✅ Did you miss any basics (contact information, best times to call, or whatever is crucial?)
✅ Did you stick to the script or wing it? (A case could be made for either!)
“Save the highest-rated voicemails. And be honest about which ones you would delete. Those are the ones that need your attention,” says Donato.
Focus on one at a time, piece by piece, until leaving compelling, clear, and concise voicemails become second nature.
What’s next is up to you.