Voicemail is your friend

It often occurs that salespeople are trained to never leave a voicemail. The conventional wisdom is just to keep calling until your target decision-maker picks up the phone. ‘You have to get them on the phone to close them,’ or ‘Their voicemail can’t make a decision,’ or something similar is usually the logic behind this mistake (yes, MISTAKE), and so it is that the determined sales rep keeps on pounding the phone. Now, this approach CAN work, but it’s still a mistake.

First, if you’re getting voicemail often or even all the time this is a good indicator that your prospect is (and prepare to be shocked, here) busy. Yes, we all know that key decision makers are always busy, because they’ve got businesses and departments to run, meetings to go attend, people to manage, and personal lives that sometimes creep their way into the office despite their best efforts to keep that from happening, or even because of it. So, let’s consider this for a moment. IF you do manage to get them on the phone while they’re SO busy, how likely is it that they will see your sales call as a delightful change of pace rather than an intrusion into their busy day? In most cases, it’s not very likely.

Yes, it’s possible to quickly build rapport, or to engage them in the middle of it all, and you might even be really good at doing so. If that’s working, great. However, I’d like to submit for your consideration that for most of us in the noble profession of sales, this isn’t the case, and even when it is, there’s still a fairly large chance that, most of the time, you’ll be seen as an interruption and not an enhancement. Even if you’re great at getting over that particular hurdle, guess what? Odds are they’ve spoken to other salespeople who are also good at doing that, and unless you’re the greatest salesman in the world, the end result is that, for good or bad, you’ve still interrupted their workflow, and a decision on what you have to offer may be set on the back burner or not given the attention it deserves.
This is to say nothing of the considerable likelihood that your repeated calls may become an annoyance to the gatekeeper, and the fact that the ‘break through the wall’ approach isn’t really the most productive way to approach the hard-to-reach prospect. Following the 80/20 rule, it’s very likely that about 80% of the time you’re probably wasting your efforts by repeatedly trying to get the prospect on the phone now, and this in turn means that you’re running up a significant opportunity cost by letting that approach use up so much of your time.

How then, can voicemail be your friend? Consider this: When a key prospect sits down to check his voicemail, he or she will usually set aside specific time to do so. During this time you have a significant chance of having his or her undivided attention, and if you make it count, and don’t sound like the twenty other sales reps who left voicemails, you have a pretty high likelihood of being called back, assuming that your product is a good fit for them and you were able to engage their curiosity. Doing so is also a bit easier because in a voicemail, no one can interrupt you, hang up on you, or tune you out because they’re in the middle of something more important than a sales call.
This is a HUGE advantage, because when they call you, their day isn’t being interrupted. They’re calling now because they intrigued, and they want to talk to you. Now you’re not an interruption- you’re an opportunity, and you are far more likely to be perceived as more professional, more competent, and more credible than others salespeople.

For example, when I consulted for a firm in the recruiting solution industry, I devised a sort of template for voicemails, I first made sure to be friendly and engaging with the gatekeeper (and there’s a whole different article on that subject). If they said to me ‘He’s away from his desk/in a meeting/Do you want me to page him?’ I’d respond with ‘Oh, no, it’s no hurry. Voicemail is fine for now.’ In more than a few cases, I’d actually hear a sigh of relief. Remember, gatekeepers are people, too, and more often than not they lead a harried and overworked business life, so the cold-caller who doesn’t make them work more is less likely to be seen as an annoyance. Is this effective? My callback rate was more than 80%, my voicemail inbox was always full, and more than a few were eager to speak with me. Those clients were some of the easiest closes I’ve ever had in my sales career, and all because I recognized voicemail as an opportunity instead of a dead end.

So, remember: Voicemail is your friend.

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