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Most sales people have to deal with a common barrier on the phone between them and decision makers.  This road block is voice mail.  What was originally intended to help people communicate has largely become a tool for hindering communication.  It is a convenient way to screen and prioritize calls.  Who hasn’t done that?  We get word that someone we don’t know, or don’t feel like speaking with, is on the phone and we have them dumped into the voice mail abyss.  For sales people this is an even more common occurrence.  We try to get in touch with the decision maker and get stuck in voice mail limbo.  There are many questions and strategies offered to diffuse this obstacle.  Some are useful and get us out of limbo.  Others only ensure that we will remain there.  With practice and a plan, a strategy can be developed to use voice mail as an advantage instead of a stumbling block.

Many people suggest you don’t leave a message.  Generally, there are two reasons given.  Reason #1: No one will call back.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that you will never get a call back.  There are people in the world, and indeed in your industry, that leave voice mail messages and get called back.  If they can do it, so can you.  If you get voice mail and don’t leave a message, there is a zero percent chance of getting a call back.  At least take a shot at it.  It should only take a few extra seconds.  Reason #2: Leaving messages requires too much information, which will either paralyze the prospect or have them screen your call in the future.  This is valid only if you leave long rambling messages.  The solution for this is not to do it.  Your voice mail message should be short, scripted, and to the point.  If you do this it will prevent someone from getting confused or thinking they know everything you have to offer.  So the secret to voice mail is to leave a message that is effective.

So what is an effective message?  We already touched on the first characteristic.  It has to be short.  Don’t ramble on about you, your company, or what you do.  You can think of a voice mail as a mini-commercial.  State who you are, a brief explanation of why you called, and a number where you can be reached.  Make sure you speak slowly and are clear about what action you would like them to take.  If you keep it simple like this, you will get callbacks.  If you are clear and concise and still get no call backs, it is a tonality issue.  Tonality is the most important aspect of your message.  If you sound too excited, scared, threatening, or disingenuous, people will not return the call.  The only way to improve tonality is to practice.  Be confident and state your message.  There is no way to get everyone to return your voice mail.  The goal should be to increase the number of callbacks you get.  If you have good tonality with a simple message you will increase the callbacks you receive and begin to see results instead of floating in limbo.

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