Problems of Voice Mail

Many companies now use voice mail to such an extent that it can be difficult for sales staff to talk to a prospect. The problem is that people use voice mail to screen calls and if they do not know you, or perceive they do not want to talk to you, they will not call you back.

Once you have established telephone contact with a prospect your objective will be to build a good relationship with them so they will be pleased to return your calls in the future. But how can you overcome this initial hurdle?

Once an enquiry has been received by your company you probably follow this up by sending literature or telephoning them. One of the advantages of sending literature is in the fact that if the literature is good, and the covering letter prepares the prospect for your telephone call, they are more likely to want to return your call. The way you follow an enquiry up can have a big influence on your success rate.

As an example, suppose you enquired about my services and I wrote to you enclosing literature and offering you £100 if you accept my telephone call, to talk to me about your needs. Would you receive my call? Yes you would. However, if I sent you poor quality literature, with a dull letter, and neither addressed your needs, you would not.

To get through to prospects it is vitally important that the preliminary information and covering letter are designed to achieve specific objectives. Your literature should be bright and airy to read, full of interest and with lots of benefits. The more specific the literature and letter are to the prospects needs, and the higher the quality of the communication, the more credible your company, products, prices and staff. The higher your credibility, the lower the cost of the selling process and the higher the price and gross profit margin that can be attained.

However good the literature and covering letter are, the problem still remains that the first time your prospect hears your voice, it will be on his voice mail!

The objective of your message must be to get the prospect to call you back and this objective is different from the objective of the call if you get through. Your message must be sufficiently attractive to get the prospect to call you back. Whilst it is difficult to make a call attractive, it is not impossible, and certainly you can avoid some pitfalls.

Strange to say people will either want to talk to you, or not, as the case may be, not based on what you have to say, but on the way that you say it. What is important is the tone of your voice. You may be selling a serious system but if your message sounds serious or dull, prospects are less likely to return your call.

Prospects, like anyone else, are wary of salesmen, especially heavy ones! So the reason for your call must not require commitment of time or effort and must not be in any way perceived as possibly intimidating. The only way you can achieve this (we’re talking prospect perceptions here!) is by specifically stating the opposite.

“Hi - my name's Chris Robinson, the company is Communicating, 01703-282366 and I’m calling to make sure you received the information you requested on our marketing services. Please call me back to let me know you have received the information or to let me know if I can do anything else for you - Thanks, Chris Robinson, Communicating, 01703-282366”. Keep it light and keep it bright.

This message has a number of attributes. Firstly, even if the prospect does not call me back he can plainly hear I’m a nice, friendly, pleasant guy and that my call is perfectly reasonable - therefore when I phone next, he is more likely to receive my call or return it, if I leave another message.

Secondly, I am opening the door to further discussion in a very pleasant and non committal way. Thirdly, because I have repeated my name and number (slowly!) twice, he is more likely to write my number down correctly, first time!

By asking one or two specific (but light and non committal) questions the door is open for the prospect to call me.

If I am not available they can leave a message with my staff, or on my voice mail. Whilst this would seem to miss the objective, and is less than ideal, every interaction helps build credibility and establish a relationship. Some beautiful relationships have started with voice mail messages. Whilst patience is required some big orders have started this way!

Rules for voice mail:

  • Do not be put off by voice mail
  • Keep the message bright and non committal
  • Keep the content and objective simple
  • Repeat name and number twice and slowly
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