My friend Tom at Bottomline Technologies was running a sales team making thousands of phone calls a week.
Despite all their best efforts, his sales reps were only connecting with prospects 3% of the time. The other 97% of the time, they had no choice but to leave a voicemail.
In a typical week those voicemails could generate a grand total of one returned call each day. But when they did get callbacks, they celebrated! Those calls were their warmest, best leads.
So Tom asked himself a question. What if he could help his sales team leave effective voicemails that got more callbacks? What if he could make that 97% chunk of time and effort actually work for him?
I worked with Tom and his team, and after two focus days they spiked to 27 returned calls. That’s 13 more conversations per day than normal. Two converted that week. Boom!
It’s like peg-legged jeans and snail mail. Voicemails are new again in sales!
Here’s what we’re covering in this article:
It blows my mind that 80% of sellers don’t leave a message when given the chance.
You are probably going to call the prospect five times before giving up anyway (actually the real average is a much sadder 2 times). So at least leave a message and log the touch. It’s minimal extra effort, especially when you’ve got an effective script.
On the bright side, if you do get a callback, it may be the warmest call you have all day. Bonus!
If you don’t leave a voicemail on your first call, you send the message that you aren’t important. If you don’t leave voicemails on any calls, you send the message that the prospect isn’t important.
We put a lot of effort into getting cold-calling right. But somehow, we sometimes only prepare for the times when we actually get a prospect on the phone! That’s not careful prospecting.
Leaving a handful of the right voicemail messages sends a much more positive message. It shows that you are important, your prospect is worth the time, and that you believe deep down a deal between the two of you will be a match made in heaven.
We’ve all heard it takes at least 8 touches before a prospect will take a meeting. A great voicemail is a touch! Done right, they can also help with name recognition, urgency, and professionalism.
Hell, you might even add some helpful guilt to the eventual sales call. All of those are useful sales tools.
Some research has shown that each time you leave a message, the chances of a callback go up about ten percent! Here’s how it works out:
According to Zoominfo, the average callback rate after one call is just 4.8%. Still, you can be confident that more attempts will result in more successes!
There are plenty of ways to make mistakes during a sales conversation, but because voicemail is one-sided, the pitfalls are different. In all my experience running trainings, here are the eleven mistakes specific to voicemail I see most often.
Trying to pitch your product or service in the voicemail is by far the most common mistake. It’s sort of understandable! After all, selling is our job and we mostly connect with voicemails during the day.
But if you actually try to sell in a voicemail you’ll be lucky to get 1% callbacks.
Here’s an example of what a voicemail script might look like when there’s a pitch in it:
“Hi Max. LB calling with Factor 8. I’m calling because we’re really excited to announce our brand new offering to the community. For years we’ve been working with inside sales teams of about 50 or more reps and now we’re so honored to open our doors to companies of all sizes and industries. Our new platform is called The Sales Bar and it all started. . .”
Feedback: Honey. We ALL quit listening to you around “our brand new offering”. You need to sell a meeting before you can sell. Get their interest with what they are interested in – not what you need to sell.
2. Talking for more than 20 seconds
This one’s simple. Sticking to a 10-second limit is even better.
This voicemail sample recording is what it sounds like when you do just the opposite. (Yes, this is a real recording of a seller calling an old client I used to work with.)
Not only should you use the recipient’s first name, make sure you say your own name twice, slowly.
Along with many other words and phrases that effective sales professionals use, light use of your prospect’s name correlates with better outcomes. It seems obvious, but I’ve heard voicemails without names in them! Don’t forget.
I have literally left a message before saying, “nothing urgent. Call me back whenever.”
Yup. Still waiting on that call.
If you leave a message that essentially says “you can do this whenever”, it means you won’t make the prospect’s to-do list. After all, they’ve got a lot of more urgent things going on!
Your goal should be to authentically generate enough urgency that the prospect feels like they can’t wait to call back. The key here is authenticity. Don’t overstate the urgency, or make it sound like a life-or-death scenario.
Usually, a rambling voicemail is a result of not having a plan going into the dial. If you don’t stick to a few very short points, the prospect will regret listening to the message.
Here’s another real example of a voicemail we recorded, where the rep doesn’t seem to have a point:
Pretty bad, right? Why not keep it to one point? Even if the prospect isn’t interested in the offer, you’ll at least avoid annoying them if your message is to-the-point.
We all know this, we’ve all read it, but some people continue to only give it two attempts before giving up.
You need to make several attempts for this to work. Try 7-10 messages before calling it quits on a prospect. Bonus points if you can connect your voicemail messages so they tell a coherent story and pique the prospect’s interest even more!
Just because you have it memorized, doesn’t mean it’s easy to memorize! If your prospect is really interested, they’re listening closely. Don’t make them listen twice to get the number written down. Say it twice, nice and slow.
A high-speed voicemail can also make it sound like you’re part of a “smile and dial” call center. The impression you want to leave them with is that you called them. Not that you called them while you were calling hundreds of others (even if that’s true).
8. Not being conscious of the tone of voice.
If you’re making a lot of dials it can be easy to fall into monotone mode, which makes you sound bored. If you start to feel a slump, take a break! Stand up. Do some squats. Feel alive and happy, then get back to dialing.
Pretend it’s your cool Aunt who sends you money on the other end of the line. Smile while you record it!
This one is related to the “selling over voicemail” mistake. I sometimes hear reps go so far as to assume their prospect has no interest, and try to make up for it with big offers, or overblown claims.
They end up sounding completely desperate, just because they were too assumptive to begin with!
Take this example of a bad script:
“Max! LB here with Factor 8, Sales Training Designed by Sales Leaders. We are going to have a consultant in your area next week and I’d love to get the chance to come in and show you what we’re all about. We’re running a special right now and…”
Feedback: This is basically an ad, right? Remember, the whole concept of sales conversations is to get folks interested. There’s no opportunity to have a real conversation in a voicemail, so don’t assume your counterpart has any specific thoughts. Instant delete.
1o. Making it all about you.
I’m sorry, but no one cares. Especially in a voicemail. Tell us all about you and your goals and you’re guaranteeing no call back.
Here’s another example of a poor voicemail script, where the focus is on the caller:
“Hey Max! LB here with Factor 8. We’re the Nation’s leading sales training company for phone sellers working with companies like Allergan, Microsoft, Infor and more. . .”
Feedback: this screams sales call and no one likes to be sold – especially when they can opt out guilt free with the delete key.
11. Forgetting the goal of the voicemail.
Voicemails are like resumes. The resume gets you the interview. The interview is where you sell yourself. If you put everything in the resume then it’s 10 pages long and no one wants to interview you. Right? Voicemails should intrigue. Entice.
Ugly voicemails are ugly because they have forgotten the goal of the message:
What did I miss? Tell me in the comments.
A lever is a bit of information that shows you know what you’re talking about and convinces them this isn’t a cold call. The best levers are people that work at the company you’re calling into, but a shared history or any relevant info about the prospect or their company can work too.
Basically, you’re trying to NOT sound like a cold sales call here.
“Hi Max. Lauren with Factor 8. I’ve been working with you and the team at Outreach for the past 3 years and need to chat with you briefly. Please reach me at [phone number]. Again, Lauren with Factor 8 at [phone number]. Thanks!”
Here’s another example of a lever script, where the lever isn’t a person, but a prior conversation:
“Hi David. This is Cindy from [company]. We spoke on [date] regarding a quote for [product/service]. I wanted to see if you got the pricing from us, and I was hoping we could help you with your purchase. So if you could reach me at [phone number]. Again, it’s Cindy at [company] – [phone number].”
A mysterious voicemail leaves the listener wondering what the call is about and plays to our fear of loss and FOMO. What if something’s wrong w/ my account? What if this is a business lead? What if I’m the only jerk who didn’t call back? Sample Script:
“Hi Max. It’s Lauren at [phone number]. Again, I’m at [phone number].”
These are effective, but also think about how many of those nice, short voicemails you could leave in an hour!
Only your mom will call you back for something you want. Everyone else wants to know what it’s worth their time. At Factor 8 we like the term, SWIIFT ℠ So, What’s In It for Them?
Adding value in a voicemail message could be about an offer to save them time or money, make something easier for them, or answer a question that’s been nagging them forever.
The value script can run the risk of being pitchy, so I like to save it mostly for existing accounts and relationships.
“Hey Shelley, this is Evan Fleming calling from [phone number]. I thought of you because I’m working with an active footwear brand that’s seen about a 20% increase in reorders, and I think that I could help your brand do the same, but I’m not exactly sure. So if you could give me a call back at [phone number]. Again, this is Evan. Thanks!”
Execution is also important for the value script, so here’s a sample recording you can listen to:
Feedback: OK, I could tell it was a sales call, but it didn’t billboard the entire offer or try to pitch. The aim was clearly to show the listener that Evan had provided value to others like them, and could potentially do the same for them. The prospects problems, Evan’s solutions, and nothing about Evan’s company in there at all!
When we ratchet up the urgency by adding a timeline (and even a little mystery), we astronomically increase our odds of someone dialing us immediately after getting the message.
Here’s an example of a voicemail script that creates a sense of urgency:
“Hello Bob. Lauren calling with Factor 8. I’m trying like crazy to reach you by end of day. Please call me at [phone number]. Again, Lauren trying to get you before the expiration. Call me back quickly please at [phone number].”
You can be a little creative here and invent some urgency. But the urgency you invent has to become real at some point. Don’t tell a prospect their account is expiring if it isn’t. That’s super annoying.
Once you’ve gotten the basics of those last four scripts, you can combine examples to get even more creative. For example, this script combines a sense of mystery with urgency.
“Bob? Lauren with Factor 8. We need to talk today about your account. Please return my call at your earliest convenience at [phone number]. That’s [phone number]. Talk soon.”?
Keep going! And keep track of which script you use and which are most likely to get prospects to call you back.
Here’s another example script you can test that combines mystery and urgency (my favorite combination):
“Sharon, it’s Lauren at Factor 8. I just saw a report that I need to talk to you about right away. You can return my call at [phone number]? Again, it’s Lauren at [phone number].”
Plan ahead here! You need to know what report you’re talking about to make the conversation a good one when they call back to ask about it.
Let’s give these puppies a whirl! Here are a few steps and tips to make your process data-driven, and scalable:
Note: Find a way for your messages to not only be true, but to relate to each other so you can eventually leave multiple types of messages for each contact. Obviously if your urgency message number one mentions an imminent expiration, it would be awkward for you to then call back offering some value. Get me?
Even better, prep a starter that can work for any message! It could be as simple as you being really excited to talk to them about your potential fit, noticing some happenings about their company, or wanting to talk before XYZ event.
Voicemail isn’t rocket science. But it does take the right approach and some diligence to make a huge difference in the amount of sales conversations you have. Just think of how much fatter your pipeline could be if all the voicemails you left resulted in 10% callbacks… or 30%!
The key is consistency and practice. If you want to make voicemail an effective part of your sales process, you need to train on the tips and tricks in this article. Set up regular workshops, share successful examples frequently, and keep a record of which reps get the most callbacks. That way, you can give them some recognition for their work.
By simply avoiding the big mistakes, nailing execution, and testing a variety of voicemail strategies, you’ll be doing better than 80% of your competitors!