Should you leave voice mail messages?

You must be creative and strategic when leaving voice mail messages.

There is a running debate in sales on whether you should leave voice mail messages when contacting prospects.

One school of thought goes like this –

Leaving voice mail messages is a waste of time because most people rarely return phone calls anymore from salespeople. If you leave enough voice mail messages, the prospect may delete them before having a chance to listen to your entire pitch.

Thus, it’s better to keep calling until you reach someone or send them enough emails that they will reply to you.

The other school of thought goes like this –

Leaving voice mail messages is just one of many ways you can break through the wall to reach a prospect. Sure, the argument goes, most prospects will not return your voice mail messages, but with a combination of different tools, including emails, and social selling, like Twitter and LinkedIn, you will eventually reach your important contact.

So, which is the better school of thought?

I take the middle ground.

Yes, you should leave voice mail messages. But…. don’t waste your time leaving your phone number. Because based on my experience, most prospects these days will not return your phone calls. Even inbound leads will rarely return your phone calls. Why? Most of them are busy, and they don’t want to play phone tag.

(I will only leave my phone number if the prospect requests it in his message as a matter of courtesy).

The better solution is this –

Leave a short voice mail message telling the prospect why you are calling. Then identify who you are and what solution you have that you think will solve their problems or pain points. And finally, let them know that you are sending them an email with openings for this week and next to schedule a short initial call.

I recommend doing this at least four to five times in a combination of using LinkedIn and Twitter.

What you want to avoid is the following –

First, you don’t want to do a “product vomit”, i.e., telling the prospect everything about your product and benefits before you had a chance to qualify him and understand his concerns or problems properly.

Second, you don’t want to leave cryptic messages, like “This is Joe Doe. I have some important information to share with you. I will call you at 4:00 p.m. today to discuss further.”

That kind of message will make most prospects angry because they don’t have time to play games. Also, because they have hectic schedules, they probably will not sit around and wait for your phone call.

Sure, you may try the approach of leaving an honest message about why you are calling and inform the prospect that you will call back at a specific time later that time or the next. It could work. But I doubt it.

Just as phone technology has changed, your voice mail techniques must change too.

Third, don’t repeatedly call and leave messages. Give prospects some space and time to call you back. As a rule, when I leave a voice mail, I quickly follow-up with a short email outlining some openings I have for that week and next. Further, I may attach an interesting article or some other content to share that I feel will interest the prospect. After leaving a message and sending out an email, I will usually wait at least two to four days before following up.

Fourth, I leave a different voice mail each time. I usually have a script of different voice mails to leave. The same is true when sending emails. Leaving the same message or posting the same email is boring and will undercut your chances of getting a sale.

Fifth, avoid long lingering voice mails. Try to keep the voice mail no longer than 30 seconds. Your goal is to get to the point quickly, highlight why it’s in the best interest for the prospect to speak with you and move on. You will have plenty of time later to do your sales pitch and presentation.

Sixth, ask a specific question in your voicemail. Instead of opening with “This is Tom Smith from ABC Company calling about Widgets products,” start with “How are you securing your passwords?” or “What types of sources are you using for tax research when doing tax preparation?” And then go on and add that you offer a solution that could help him them, and that you will send them an email with some openings and more details. Sometimes, I might mention specific vendors that use our services/products, and do a little name dropping.  In other voice mail messages, I might add a benefit or two that may help the prospect.

Don’t be mysterious when making phone calls.

Seventh, don’t be that mysterious caller who never leaves voice mails. Yes, I’ve been guilty of doing this before, but I now realize it was a mistake. Why? Because if someone is screening your calls and you don’t leave a message, they may not think it’s important and they will completely ignore you.

And finally, don’t sound salesy. Speak with your normal tone of voice. And, please don’t sound desperate. That’s a major turnoff.

Leaving voice mail messages is just one of many tools you have in your arsenal to make sales. Even if a prospect doesn’t respond immediately, it’s a great way of promoting your company with the goal of getting a deal down the road.

Sometimes you must play the long game to be successful.

Credits:
Middle Image by Monoar Rahman Rony from Pixabay
Bottom image by Alexandr Ivanov from Pixabay

Phone Interview Tips for Salespeople

Most companies these days will ask you to do a phone interview prior to inviting you in for an in-person interview. This is done for several reasons. First, it saves everyone time by making sure you are going to be a good fit for the job. Second, it’s a good way for the employer to hear you speak and interact over the phone (especially if you are applying for an inside sales position). And third, it allows the employer to weed out candidates who don’t do well over the phone, or who don’t have the qualifications to do the job.

When doing phone interviews, always make sure you have your resume, the job posting and any other supporting documents you need at your fingertips. While this may be a phone interview, you have to be just as prepared as if you were attending an in-person interview. And it goes without saying; always do some research on the company and the hiring manager.

Also, never assume that only one person is listening to your phone interview. While in most cases the HR person will do the first phone interview, sometimes the hiring manager will stay quiet and sit in the background listening to your conversation. Shortly after the interview, he may tell the HR person to give you thumbs up or down and then move on to the next candidate.

And depending on the sales job you are applying for, sometimes you may be asked to do two phone interviews before being asked to meet someone in person. This could be the HR person and then one of the hiring managers. They may want to compare notes before asking you to come in.

Doing a sales phone interviewLeaving Voice Mail Message Test

In some cases, before you even speak to the HR person or Hiring Manager, you may be asked to call and leave a voicemail message. You can leave any voice mail message you like, but it’s usually sales related to what you are currently selling or have sold in the past. If you leave a good voice mail message or sound professional, you will move forward in the interviewing process.

While leaving a voicemail may be a requirement before you are interviewed, sometimes you may ask to give a spur of the moment sales presentation over the phone. This happened to me a few years ago when I applied for an inside sales position at a durable medical equipment company. After going through a series of interviews, at the last-minute, I was asked by the owner to call him from another office. I could make any sales presentation that I like. I was not prepared for this in advance. And to add more pressure, most of the sales team was listening in and gave their critique after my presentation. Fortunately, I passed with flying colors and I was offered the job in a few days.

No Appointment Phone Interview

And finally, sometimes the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment. They do this for a couple of reasons.

First, they want to catch you off guard and see how you interact with a total stranger over the phone. Are you poise, confident, and speak well under pressure? Or are you flustered and irritated by the call? Can you answer questions about the job you are applying for without the job posting and notes in front of you? Can you answer questions about your employment history without your resume in front of you? Can you ask questions of the sales manager without your notes in front of you? You may think the sales manager is being rude by calling you without an appointment, but consider this a test – perhaps the first of several tests you will have to go through during the interview process.

Second, the sales manager may want to call you without an appointment because he’s busy. He has a job that must be quickly filled, and he doesn’t want to go through all the niceties and bureaucracy of hiring someone. If you sound half-way professional over the phone, and your resume is above average, he may want to get you in the door quickly. This is especially true for a high-turnover sales department or a small company that can’t afford a sales position to be open for too long. If that’s the case, beware that you are not walking into a “churn and burn” sales department. Unless you are desperate for a job, take your time before considering accepting a job offer in a hectic and crazy sales environment.

Treat the phone interview just as seriously as an in-person interview. It could make the difference between landing your dream job or being unemployed.

For more advice on handling phone interview, please read –

“17 Phone Interview Tips to Guarantee a Follow-up,” by Larry Kim

“6 Steps to Nailing a Job Interview over the Phone,” by Judith A. Stock

Note: If you like my post, please check out my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

What would you do with 10,000 sales leads? Part 2

In part 1 of this post, I asked the question “What would you do with 10,000 sales leads?” In part 2, I will provide you with more of my suggestions.

6). Do some research. Prior to making a cold call, do some quick research on your prospect. You don’t have to be a professional research associate. Just take a few minutes to read the prospect’s profile on LinkedIn or some other site. What is his title? What are his responsibilities? Can you find a hook, e.g., did he work for a company that is now your client? Or, did you find an article that his company is having a problem that your service can solve?

7). Develop a cold calling script. As a rule, I’m not a big fan of using scripts. However, when you are new to an industry, it’s always helpful to have a script handy when making first-time calls. Eventually, you will develop your own natural voice, and throw the script away.

Below is a list where you can find sample cold calling scripts –

www.profitbuilders.com
blog.close.io
cdn2.hubspot.net

8). Develop a voice mail script. What type of message are you going to leave if you don’t reach the prospect? The last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself by leaving a fumbling or long message that screams out “please delete me.” You need to know in advance what you are going to say. Everyone has their own variations. Just use your natural voice, but sound confident and strong at the same time.

Below is a list where you can find sample voice mail scripts –

www.salesgravy.com
blogs.salesforce.com
sales.about.com

9). What is your goal? Why are you calling prospects? In the case of our young salesperson, his goal was to set appointments for his company’s consultants. Once the appointment was set, the consultants would do the heavy lifting. You may have a different goal. Maybe you want the prospect to trial your service for 30 days. Maybe you want the prospect to watch a demo. Maybe you want to qualify the prospect to determine if he needs your service. Regardless of the reason, have a goal in mind. You don’t want to fall into what’s known in the industry as the “busy fool syndrome,”  i.e., doing a lot of make work and activities that don’t lead to any concrete results.

For example, I once worked for a company that had a very strict outbound call policy – you were required to make at least 50 calls a day. However, there was one sales person who almost consistently didn’t meet his call quota, but he always generated more sales than the rest of the sales team. His secret? He did some research before making calls and he had a set goal in mind for each call he made. (Despite his success, he has still fired anyway for not meeting his daily call quota).

Do you want to be a busy fool or a successful salesperson? Have a goal in mind.

making sales calls10) Start making phone calls. OK, you have a client profile in place. You have reviewed your prospect list and will begin targeting who you consider being the best prospects that meet your client profile. You have cold call and voice mail scripts in place. You know what your goal is. You also know that you need to do some quick research before making each call.

Now comes the fun part – making phone calls.

I can write several posts on how to make cold calls (which I will later). But for this post, let me give you a quick and dirty approach.

First, the best time to reach prospects is early in the morning and after work. This way you will bypass the gatekeeper. Sure, you can leave voice mail messages, but your ultimate goal is to talk to a live person.

Second, there is a big debate in the sales community on how many attempts you make, but depending on the industry you are in, and the types of services you are selling, I would make at least 6 attempts – but spread those attempts out over a period of time. Don’t be a pest and call every day. That’s rude and unprofessional. And when I mention attempts, I’m also including sending emails and sending direct marketing material.

Third, don’t just rely on phone calls. Send emails too. Keep the emails short and to the point. Offer some value. Maybe attach a case study, white paper or an interesting article that is related to your prospect.

Fourth, in some cases, send some printed material, and include swag – may be a magnet, a pen, a mouse pad or something with your company’s name and contact information.

Fifth, after making several attempts, if you are not getting anywhere, put them on your back burner call back list, and circle back in a month or six months (depending on the size of your prospect).

It would also be a good idea to have your employer or someone senior listen in to some of your calls and voicemails. They can offer you some valuable advice and pointers to help you.

In part 3 of this post, I will make suggestions on social media strategies.