People hate voicemail. Leaving messages, receiving them… With so many other ways to communicate, most of which don’t require you to actually use your voice, voicemail has become anxiety-producing. It’s even worse when you’re talking about a marketing or sales voicemail, too. The recipient usually thinks, “You’re just trying to get money out of me,” and they often hang up before listening to the entire message.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. First of all, leaving a voicemail isn’t that big of a deal. It’s just a message. Less than a minute of you talking, and that’s it. It’s doesn’t call for panic.
Second, when a marketing voicemail is handled correctly, it can actually add value to the recipient’s life. You just have to know what you’re doing.
How to leave a voicemail (without letting it ruin anyone’s day)
Your voicemails should be clear, concise and understandable. They should also sound natural and be short enough to hold the attention of the contact. Here’s how to get it right.
Make your calls at the end of the day
People tend to remember the first and last events of the day. Now, you could make your sales calls in the morning, but nobody wants something else on their plate when they’re just starting their workday. By waiting until the end of the workday, though – traditionally, around 4:30 p.m. – you won’t be competing with other distractions, and you’ll be one of the last things that happened to the contact while they were at work.
Prepare yourself for how to leave a voicemail
If you get stage fright at the thought of making a sales call and leaving a voicemail, preparation can go a long way. Knowing what you’re going to say before you dial – and even running through the script a couple of times – can make you feel more in control. If you want to know exactly how you’ll sound and where improvements have to be made, leave yourself the voicemail and listen to it back. You can also use a breathing exercise to help yourself relax and keep your voice steady.
Keep it short
When your marketing voicemail goes on for too long, you can lose the contact completely. Or, even if they do stick with you through the whole thing, they may lose the main point of why you’re calling. Keeping your voicemail between 20 and 30 seconds is enough time to make your elevator pitch without over-talking.
Why not shorter than 20 seconds? The voicemail indicator will tell the contact how long the message is, and if it’s just 5 or 10 seconds, it may seem like a spam call or a wrong number, which means they won’t listen to it at all. Messages between 20 and 30 seconds seem important enough to listen to but not so long that they’re off-putting for the contact.
Whatever you do, don’t call and hang up without leaving a voicemail. The contact is never going to return a call from an unknown number and, the next time you call, they’ll be even less interested in what you have to say.
Start with the most relevant information
Sort of like putting the most important information above the fold in a news article, you have to front-load your voicemail with the most compelling and relevant information. Stating your name and company is not compelling, and it’s not as relevant as what you can do for the contact. What the person hears is, “I’m a salesperson and I want your money.” That’s the quickest way to get your voicemail deleted.
However, it’s awkward to just jump in without any context, so a very quick introduction followed by your question is the best option: Hi Erica, this is Ryan at Company X.
Pro tip: Only use first names. People of authority call each other by their first name only. Using the contact’s full name or saying Mr./Ms. [last name] can make you seem less confident and important than the person you’re calling.
Create a sense of urgency
Your message should be specific, and you have to create a sense of urgency so the contact opts to get back in touch with you. Words and phrases to use include:
- Must; I must hear back by [day]…
- Need; we need to talk about…
- Should; we should discuss…
Here are a few more ways to light a fire under the contact so they call or email you back:
- Ask them to tell you about something you know they’ll enjoy talking about, like a vacation they just took or a new product they’ve released. This can be used to simply get them on the phone or to directly lead into what you want to discuss with them.
- Bring up a topic you touched on but didn’t get to dive into: I know we started talking about XYZ, and I was wondering if you had more thoughts about [a component of the topic].
- Mention one of their top competitors, especially if you’ve worked with someone from the company: I was talking to Joe over at [competitor’s company] and it got me thinking about your marketing strategy…
- Send them content, like a new blog post or white paper you just published, and ask them for their feedback. Generally, people like to offer their opinion, especially if it’s on a topic they have expertise in.
Use a different approach with how to leave a voicemail vs. sending marketing emails
If you’re contacting the same people with marketing voicemails and emails, you shouldn’t repeat information verbatim. By mixing up your approach, you make it more likely to get a response to at least one method. Also, your voicemails should be more personalized than your emails. For example, you could send an email to a contact – and 500 others – asking for feedback about a specific product they recently bought.
With a voicemail, though, you (should) know exactly who you’re calling – their name, their company’s name, how many employees they have, etc. Your message can be hyper-customized to that one person you’re calling. When you make that message just for them, they’ll feel more of a responsibility to return your call.
For example, instead of saying, “Hi, I was wondering if you’re looking for different web hosting,” you could personalize it by saying, “Hi [name]. I wanted to pick your brain about the web host [company name] is currently using. What are the challenges or successes you’ve had with it?”
Yes, you can make an email personalized, too. But voicemail is already much more personal than an email, and your level of customization should rise to meet that. Plus, if you’ve spoken with the contact in the past, there’s an even bigger opportunity to build on what you already know and cater the message to them.
Don’t use a traditional CTA
In an email, you may end by telling the contact what you want them to do next. In a voicemail, though, ending with something like, “Call me back,” or, “If I don’t hear from you, I’ll call next week,” can discourage the person from responding.
You need the caller to feel like they’re responsible for taking the next step. “Call me back” is too generic (and can come off as a little desperate, too, which is a turn-off), and saying you’ll follow-up with them completely removes any responsibility on their part.
To end the voicemail, state (or restate) your main question, then say your phone number. You can also say you’ll follow-up with an email. Now, this isn’t the same as saying, “If I don’t hear from you, you’ll hear from me!” Instead, it’s giving them another way to contact you, one they may be more comfortable with. They should still feel a responsibility to respond to your question, but now they have two options for how to get back in touch. (Then send that email, of course.)
Use your regular voice
Imagine listening to a voicemail from a salesperson who is just so excited about the message that their tone is now unnaturally high-pitched and energetic. Today, people aren’t fooled by that, and in trying to make the message more meaningful, this approach actually makes it less meaningful.
Use your regular, normal voice – not too excited, not too subdued. Talk how you’d talk on the phone with someone you like but who doesn’t make you nervous. Communicate ease without flippancy and importance without exuberance.
One quick way to sound more relaxed is to speak slower – slower than feels natural to you, even. If you rush the sales voicemail, it’ll sound like you’re trying to squeeze in your 50 calls for the day, and nobody wants to feel like they’re just another name on your list. Also, speaking slowly saves you from mumbling – if the contact can’t understand what you’re saying, what’s the point of learning how to leave a voicemail?
Final thoughts about how to leave a voicemail
Here’s the thing: no matter how perfectly-crafted your sales voicemail is, plenty of people are still going to ignore it or stop listening midway through. That’s actually okay, though. We already know that other types of messaging, like emails, get a higher response rate. But where voice messages win is in quality – when you do get a response, that means the person has a very high level of interest.
We have more help for you if you’re regularly making marketing and sales calls. Check out our guide to cold calling and cold emailing.
Featured Image via MarcoVector / Shutterstock.com