For anyone who spends any time at all prospecting for new business it’s no secret that it’s getting more and more difficult to get a decision-maker to answer a call.
Prospecting has always been a numbers game, but it seems that the numbers are getting bigger and bigger. You have to make more and more dials to talk to fewer and fewer people. In 2007, it took an average of 3.68 cold call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts. Organizations are running leaner than ever before. Consequently, people are busier. They simple aren’t sitting at their desks fielding phone calls. In addition, technology has made it easier for your prospects to avoid you. Mobile phones, texting, caller ID and voicemail/email convergence has made it easier for prospects to manage (and delete) multiple communication streams.
All of this adds up to one thing — more voicemail messages are being left. But with more and more voicemail messages filling up inboxes, it critical that salespeople improve their voicemail execution. Most voicemail messages will be deleted and forgotten, but some will rise above the noise level and be remembered and acted on. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get 100% of your calls returned, but if you follow these steps you can improve your response rate.
1. Have a plan.
Before you dial the phone, anticipate what you will say. Develop a plan for what you'll say, not only if your target answers the phone, but also if you get voicemail. Many new salespeople write out scripts or outlines for their calls and even their voicemail messages, but they stop this practice as they gain experience. However, developing a script or call guide is a valuable discipline even for experienced sales professionals. “Shooting from the hip” can work, but it can also be risky. You may get just one chance to position your brand and communicate your expertise to your prospect. Don’t blow it because you were too busy or too proud to plan out your call.
2. Be relevant.
Does your voicemail message sound the same no matter who you’re calling? Every business is unique, so treat them that way. Do a little research on the target company and contact prior to the call and determine a valid business reason for your call. Then weave some of your findings into your message. Your message should communicate who you are, what you do, why you are calling, and why it’s important to them. This is probably the most important thing you can do to stand out among the hundreds of other messages they listen to and avoid being deleted.
3. Be brief.
No one has time to listen to a 3-minute voicemail message, and many voicemail systems only give you 30 seconds to leave a message. So be efficient with your words and get to the point. This is another great reason to have a voicemail script. It forces you to stay focused and meet all your objectives of the message.
4. Speak slowly and clearly.
Don’t rush. If you speak too fast and the prospect can’t understand you, then the call was really a waste of everyone’s time. Keep in mind that a poorly delivered voicemail message can actually damage your personal and corporate brand. Treat the voicemail message you leave with the same level of importance as a one-on-one dialog with the prospect. Your prospect shouldn’t have to listen to your message multiple times to correctly capture your name, company, and phone number. Slow down your speech pattern and clearly enunciate each word, so they can get this information the first time they hear the message.
5. Have a call-to-action.
You need to do more than just leave your name and phone number. You need to provide your prospect with a reason to respond. Why is it important to get back to you? What’s in it for them? Is there any urgency? What impact could you have on their business? Offer them clear instructions on what their response should be. Give them multiple options too — a returned call, an email, and a website to explore and learn more.
Many sales professionals view voicemails as a waste of time. They are if they are poorly planned and executed. However, when a voicemail is properly delivered, your messages can actually extend your brand, reinforce your marketing message, and become an integral piece of your sales strategy.