Breaking the Voice Mail Barrier

Article by C.J. HaydenHow many times this week did you reach a live person when you placed a sales call? Even if you never make cold calls, you still have to contact people by phone. That prospect who was so interested last month never called you back, and now you must call her. You call once, twice, three times, but you can’t get her in person.

How can you manage to close a sale if all you ever get is voice mail?

Doing business in the voice mail age can be a frustrating proposition. Everyone you call is busy, and often overloaded with communications already. It seems that some people send all their calls to voice mail, whether they are in or not.

If you can’t get a prospect to pick up the phone during business hours, try calling at other times. Some people will answer their phone if it rings before 8:30 AM or after 5:30 PM, thinking it might be urgent or personal. You may also find people at their desks during the lunch hour or even on weekends, trying to catch up.

When you do reach voice mail, should you just keep calling or leave a message? Actually, you should do both. Leave a message, but assume that most people will never call you back, and keep right on calling them.

Josiane Feigon, principal of the telesales training and coaching company, Telesmart Communications, suggests that when you get voice mail, try pressing “0” or “0#” to transfer to the receptionist. That way you may be able to verify that the person you are trying to reach is the right one in the company to talk to, and find out when they are expected to be in.

Whether you reach your prospects or not, never make them wrong for not returning your calls. Rather than saying, “I haven’t heard from you,” let them know you are eager to speak with them, and wanted to try again while you were in your office. Feigon recommends, “As a rule, try not to leave any more than three voice mail messages over a ten-day period of time and then lay off for a month.”

Speaker and trainer Melinda Henning, in her “Doing Business by Phone” seminars, recommends that the way to deal with voice mail is to use it as an advertising medium. In other words, leave a voice mail commercial. Especially if you are cold calling, Melinda suggests that you compose a series of different commercials, each one revealing some new and interesting fact about your business, and another reason for someone to speak with you.

Whenever you leave a message, include some incentive for the person you are calling to have a live conversation. “I would like to introduce myself” is not a reason for prospects to talk to you. Why should they care? Tell them what it is you think you can do for them in their own unique situation. And do it in 30 seconds — no one likes long voice mails from strangers, and the delete key is at their fingertips.

Look for some connection between you and the person you are calling that you could refer to in your message. A mutual acquaintance, membership in the same association, or having attended the same conference are all worth mentioning. If you have seen your prospects speak somewhere, or read about them in the news, compliment them on it. Be warm, friendly, and upbeat, so your message is a pleasure to listen to.

If you have called, left messages, and still can’t get through to the person you want, alternate your phone calls with personal e-mail messages. Some people will quickly respond to e-mail because it is easy. If you can interest them in what you have to offer, they may be willing to set up a phone appointment with you to find out more. When you don’t have the prospect’s e-mail address, try finding it on the company’s web site or asking the receptionist.

Should you ever stop calling? That depends on the ultimate value of the potential sale. A $1,000 sale might only be worth two or three calls to you, but a $10,000 sale would certainly pay for many more. Every successful salesperson has a story about a client who finally said yes after the 17th phone call, so if the eventual result seems worth it, don’t quit.

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