Phone tag is frustrating between friends. If you’re a salesperson leaving messages for a prospect, it can feel like you’re the only one playing the game.
Successful sales people know that to get your voicemail listened to and returned, you need to make it stand out. Here is a look at how to get your potential customers to answer your calls.
Why Your Calls Aren’t Returned
Time during the workday is at a premium. Your prospects are bombarded with emails, social media, personal appointments, committee meetings and, of course, your calls. That’s a lot of communication trying to fit into a single day or week.
Your message may be perceived as just one more telemarketing or blatant advertising call, and be simply deleted. Your challenge is to stand out as a genuine business opportunity.
Your prospects are probably too busy to even return all the phone calls they intended to, let alone another sales call. For many managers, voicemail is a great way to filter contacts, meaning that yours is probably not going to make the cut.
In many companies, if an employee quits or is fired, the voicemail is forgotten and left in place. So the voicemail you leave may simply drift in space, unconnected to an actual person.
That’s why you’re not hearing back. And here are 8 ways to make the most of this voicemail challenge.
#1. Be clear and friendly.
Make it easy for your contact to get back in touch. Leave a voicemail that is friendly in tone. Make it sound like you are enthusiastic about making contact.
Speak up and enunciate. This is the most common frustration listed by recipients of voicemail, that the message was not easy to understand. Repeat your phone number twice, at the beginning and at the end, so they don’t have to listen to the message a second time.
Don’t give your entire sales message. The biggest reason you’re getting voicemail instead of a person is because she is busy. Keep it short. Structure your message efficiently. Give your contact information, give her one or two major points, then add contact information again.
Leave one or two voicemails maximum. If these aren’t returned, you will need to move on to other ways of communication. You’ll simply be regarded as a pest if you keep calling, thus ruining your chances.
#2. Follow-up with other channels of communication.
Voicemail is just one way to contact prospects. After you leave your message, follow it up with an email in a day or a week. Make the next contact via social media, like LinkedIn or a comment on his or her blog.
Never discount old-fashioned notes or business letters. A short voicemail followed by a letter a day or two later is a very professional approach. Especially for franchise marketing, it is appreciated because people like to read about your business and offer. It gives them the leisure to see if they like what you are selling.
#3. Give them an incentive to return your call.
Before you contact your prospect in the first place, you need to research their business and its needs.
Come up with a reward for calling you back and mention it in your voicemail. Do you have a report that would help them out? Is your company offering a free sample? Add a deadline. For example, I need to hear before noon, Thursday because this is a limited time offer.
Better yet, let your prospect know about the incentive in an email before you make the first call. This plants the idea in the mind of your contact that picking up the call or returning it has a benefit for her personally. It makes your message stand out from all the other sales calls she gets.
#4. Make sure this is an active voicemail.
If you’ve contacted the prospect with voicemail and email and not heard back, call one more time. Ask if they are still with the company. Or if it is the owner, ask if he is still in business. State that you’ve been trying to reach them for a month, two months or however long it is.
Managers don’t like the idea that people in the business don’t think they are no longer employed at the company. This type of message will often get a response even when others fail.
This is a very practical approach, not just a tactical one. Big companies especially can overlook a single voicemail box when someone retires or quits. It is wise to make sure the voicemail you keep contacting is an active one.
#5. Give them choices.
In your message, suggest the recipient contact you on LinkedIn or another social media channel. This gives your prospect control of the contact and lets them see you, on your profile, as a real human being, not just one of the many anonymous voices demanding attention.
Check out their Twitter channel. Retweet their messages to get their attention. Mention the company in one of your own tweets.
#6. Make use of the gateway person.
In this age of digital phone systems, this can be difficult. But if you get a receptionist of administrative assistant, make them a part of your contact method.
Ask for their help by saying you don’t know the right person who you need to talk to. Describe the type of person and their function. The receptionist will respond to a friendly request by helping you out. She will usually connect you with an employee who works in the right area.
When you reach that person, go through the routine again. Say you were referred here by the receptionist, but you’re not sure if he is the one to talk to. By requesting help, you are seen not as an aggressor storming the gates but as a fellow business person trying to accomplish a task. You’re much more likely to get their help and end up with a friendly phone conversation.
#7. Ask for your sales materials back.
Did you make a presentation to your prospect or mail him an envelope full of sales materials? Use this to your advantage. Ask him for their return if you haven’t been able to make follow-up contact over several months.
When you ask for the return of these materials, you are making a very reasonable request. And it makes these materials seem much more valuable suddenly to the recipient. If they want to keep them, they will call you back. And probably apologize for not getting back to you sooner, which puts you in a good position to make additional moves for a sale.
If your prospects aren’t returning your messages, don’t despair. First make sure your messages are coming across as friendly and clear. Then make sure your contact still works for the company. After that, experiment with different tactics and use multiple channels for your communication. With perseverance and creativity, you are get an answer to your message.