The Truth About Voice Mail

telephone sales training

“It ain’t what you know about telephone sales training that causes failure, it’s what you know that just ain’t so” to borrow and edit Mark Twain’s famous quote. Open almost any sales book today and you’ll find clever strategies and advice about voice mail and using the telephone for prospecting and lead generation. If these ideas worked why is it so hard to get prospects and even customers to call us back?  Here you’re going to learn the ugly truth about voice mail and how to use it successfully.

Before the average person is even fully awake they jump on their email. Then by the time they get to work they have 8 voice mails to return, a meeting that they’re late for, and 100 other things on their mind. The average person’s day is insanely busy – especially decision makers and buyers. They simply don’t have the time or the desire to return calls from strangers. Many people won’t return a call from someone they know unless there is a pressing problem or something that they need.

The delete button on emails and voice mails are people’s best friend. No clever strategy is going to solve that.

So let’s face the ugly truth: unless you’re the IRS people aren’t going to call you back. So what are salespeople going to do? Give up calling?

No way. Despite the difficulty of phone work the reality is that there isn’t a faster or more effective way of finding prospects and filling your pipeline. Paul DiModica, author and sales trainer, says,

Cold Calling is the fastest way to increase your sales pipeline, your company’s revenue, and your personal income…If you were to analyze the top income sales positions in the U.S. you would find that they all cold call.

Of course not getting calls returned isn’t only a problem in cold calling. Voice Mail is the universal call screener, replacing gatekeepers and assistants. Sometimes just navigating the Voice Mail system is a challenge.  However it doesn’t matter. Getting through on the phone is one of the critical selling skills that must be mastered. Another sales trainer, Bob Etherington tells us why,

Fact: in any market 85 percent of the available new business goes to the 5 percent of sales people who know the secret of successful cold calling.

Take out the words cold calling and I agree 100%. Replace that idea with phone communication and usage and you will be part of that 5 percent of people finding and winning new business.

If the truth is that people won’t return your calls how do you use Voice Mail Successfully?

Effective Telephone Sales Training Starts Below

First, change your goal. The purpose of leaving a Voice Mail isn’t about getting called back. If that happens you’ve won the day’s lottery. Most often it won’t happen. The purpose of leaving a message is to get remembered. A succinct powerfully worded voice mail puts you top of mind. It anchors your name and message in the prospects thinking. That way when you do get through a conversation is already in progress. You simply have to continue it.

Do not expect your Voice Mails to be returned.

Now that you have that clearly established for yourself you are ready to create effective Voice Mails that position you for follow up activities that will get your messages heard and allow you to get an audiance with your prospect, customer or buyer.

Here is a key idea: the first decision that a prospect makes is “should I work with this person.” Selling that decision is the first and most critical step in getting into any account. Leaving Voice Mails is only a part of process that gets that prospect sold on letting you into their world.

Telephone Sales Training Step 1: Preparation

Do you know what you are going to say if the person answers or if they don’t? Can you leave a message clearly without rambling on or having all kinds of “huhh” or “ahhs”? Will your message sound professional or will it be rushed? Knowing what you need to say and being prepared is your first task. As obvious as that sounds judging from the many Voice Mails I get every day this is not being done.

Telephone Sales Training Step 2: Cut out most of what you’ve been taught to say

By the time you’ve said “hello, this is…sorry I missed you” and all of the other preambles most callers leave on Voice Mail most people have hit the delete button. Remember people’s thoughts have only one radio station – WIIFM – What’s In It For Me. Start with a message that plays on that station. Here is an example of what not to do”

Hi, Steve, this is Jack Bower with Management Partners. I hope you enjoyed your vacation and I know you’re probably buried in tons of stuff right now. In talking with your assistant, Janice I understand that you’re in the process of realigning several corporate initiatives to find cost saving measures and improve productivity. Management Partners has successful been helping corporate clients since 2001 meet re-craft their priorities and overcome obstacles to profitable growth. I’d like to ask you a few questions and see if there is a fit between our two companies. I can be reached at 555-555-5555 at your convenience. Thanks and have a great day.”

When did you tune out? Did you get to the second line? Believe it or not that quote is eerily similar to many of the calls I get every day and is taught by several famous (and respected)  sales consultants. Problem is: it bores people to tears and gets deleted – not heard.

Telephone Sales Training Step 3: Create a “stop what you’re doing and listen up” message

What is your value proposition? What does the prospect or their business need? What keeps that person up at night? If you can’t answer that don’t call. Stop now and find out. Call your existing customers and contacts. Ask them. Ask them what message you would have to deliver in order to get their attention. Then make the call. More on this later.

Telephone Sales Training Step 4: Listen to the Voice Mail – completely

The old saying about having two ears and only one mouth can yield you powerful results if you listen before leaving a Voice Mail. Are they on vacation? Do they leave you a cell number? What is the tone of their voice? Do they leave an alternate contact or instructions for email? You can glean all kinds of great information if you’ll take the time to listen.

  • A cell phone number
  • Other Contacts with their extensions
  • Pronunciation of their name
  • When the best time to call is
  • The reason they are  not in the office

Instead of hanging up as soon as you get Voice Mail or thinking about what you are going to say, listen. You should already know what you’re going to say anyway. Listen carefully. Take notes. If you have to hang up and think about the message do that. Then call back and leave a more targeted and interesting Voice Mail.

Telephone Sales Training Step 5: Leave your message

Leave your attention grabbing message clearly in as few words as possible. Leave your contact information and a time that you will be calling them back. If the Voice Mail system allows you to replay your message do that. Don’t count on being able to change a poorly communicated message however.

Telephone Sales Training Step 6: Follow up

This is the step that most people simply don’t do – or at least seriously enough to get the job done. But let me be clear: follow up doesn’t mean stalking them on the phone. It means Multiple contacts through various methods that gets your name in front of them until the two of you connect. You do this by

  • Following up with emails
  • Sending them information that might interest them – white-papers, news clippings – not self serving brochures
  • Calling them back at different times of the day
  • Talking to their assistant and getting coached on how to reach your prospect
  • Changing your message keeping your voice mails fresh and interesting

The Power of The Message

According to Jill Konrath (and you’ll hear me preach this many times) in “Selling to Big Companies” the number one reason we don’t get access to new businesses is that we simply have weak value propositions. I can’t solve that for you. If you don’t have anything of value to sell or talk about no technique will get your Voice Mails returned or listened to. No amount of follow up will result in a genuine selling opportunity. However this is usually not the case. If someone else in your company is successfully selling your product or even someone in your industry is closing business, you can too!

The messages you leave on Voice Mail must have a compelling reason that is self-serving for the person to call you back  or want to take your call the next time you dial in. Is their competitor doing something that they need to know about? Is there an important issue that will impact their wallets or how they look to their boss? Getting your message right is the single most important element to Voice Mail success.

Don’t wing it. Don’t assume what motivates you will get their juices flowing. Most salespeople and the companies they represent are far more jazzed on their offerings than customers. Get yourself into the customer’s mindset, use their language. Craft a different message for an accountant than you would the purchasing manager. Remember their radio station – they are all tuned into  WIIFM but the music playing is all different. Play their tune and you’ll get a dance. I promise.

Proper telephone use is one of the most important skills you can develop. Breakout Selling is going to develop an entire section just on this skill. You can Click Here for all of the Telephone Sales Training Articles available.

Russ Emrick

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