Following Up: Use Voicemail to Your Advantage

by: TJ Tedesco, Grow Sales, Inc.

If you’re like most salespeople, you regard voicemail as your biggest enemy, the toughest of all barriers to making a sale. That doesn’t have to be the case! Don’t view voicemail as a quick trip to a dead end. Instead, use it to create a new path to a successful partnership.

Use your information

One key element of a successful voicemail message is probably right in front of you whenever you make a sales call. If you’ve talked with your prospect before, you should have extensive notes detailing these conversations. Use this information as your message’s focus: “Hi Joe, this is Bob from ABC Bindery. I’m interested to see how that Anderson project turned out. As I said when we met last week, I have a few ideas on how we can help you with similar opportunities.”

Using detailed information in your messages indicates to your prospects that you’re interested in their business and their success, and that you have ideas that may help them. It also does wonders to differentiate you and your company from the many canned messages your prospect receives.

Your information may go beyond what you and the prospect discussed. Did you spot a lure collection in your prospect’s office? If you share their interest in fishing, work it into your message: “I noticed you’re interested in fishing. I know a great spot on the bay.” Keep in mind that a mutual interest should be genuine. If you know nothing about fishing, don’t fabricate a connection. Simply expressing interest in your prospect’s hobby may be enough to differentiate yourself and earn a return phone call.

Strategic messages

Anyone who spends a lot of time calling prospects and customers will encounter voicemail. Making voicemail work for you depends not only on what you say, but how you say it and how you follow up afterwards. Here are a few more tips:

Don’t ask for callbacks – unsolicited calls are seldom returned, and follow-up calls are often tabled while prospects address other issues. Why bother asking them to call you back in the first place? Instead of concluding a voicemail message with some variant of “Please call me back,” say, “We can help your company. I’ll call you Tuesday afternoon to discuss the details.” Then – and most importantly – keep the appointment. Before long, you will differentiate yourself as a sales rep that makes and keeps promises.

Keep messages short – The only thing worse than wading through 10 voicemails is 10 voicemails that ramble and don’t seem to end. Keep messages brief and to the point – 20 seconds is a good rule-of-thumb. It may sound silly, but drafting a message beforehand and rehearsing it a few times can prepare you for either a strong conversation or voicemail.

Use negative check-offs – When you’ve been held at bay by a gatekeeper, consider setting an appointment via voicemail “negative checkoff.” Here’s how: “Hi, Ms. Prospect, this is Bob at XYZ Bindery calling. Hopefully, you’ve received my previous messages as well as the materials I’ve sent you. I think we have a great solution for your specific binding and finishing needs. Unless I hear from you, I’ll stop by on Tuesday morning to talk further. If this time doesn’t work, please call me at 555-1212.”

If the prospect doesn’t call back, on Tuesday, you can credibly tell the gatekeeper that you said you’d drop by, increasing the likelihood of a face-to-face meeting. On the other hand, if you get a call to cancel, at least you’re on the phone with the decision-maker. What you do with that opportunity is up to you!

Voicemail often may seem like the road to nowhere, but it can become your golden path to sales success. Use it properly, and it can help differentiate you and your company, reinforcing to your prospect that you have ideas that can help solve a problem. Prospects may get to know you only by your messages. It’s your job to use that opportunity to build the partnership path directly to their door.

T.J. Tedesco is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc, a company that has served the marketing, public relations and sales growth needs of post press companies since 1996. He is the author of eight books, including Binding, Finishing & Mailing: The Final Word and the newly-released Direct Mail Pal 2012. T.J. can be reached at 301.294.9900 or [email protected] Grow Sales, Inc.’s website is