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Getting a Higher Voice Mail Response
By Mark Sanford, PhD

My job requires making many cold phone calls to high-level executives, sometimes with very little information on their company's operations. Do you have any phone tricks or voice mail advice that works?

I often encounter complaints like this about lack of return voice mail messages and a plea for some magic bullet that will compel the prospect to return your calls. So far I have not found that magic bullet, but there are voice mail strategies that at least will increase your chances of a response given what is known about human psychology and communication theory.

Experts claim that 75% of all calls end up in voice mail. In effect, many of you are faced with no success opportunities in 3 out every 4 calls a day.

In terms of what is known about what people like in general, it is a wise in your voice mail messages to make them personal (I favor first name). It is also known that people remember better when their name is used in a message.

And prospects will more likely take note when there is a request for action, with a time limit.

Finally, people like to be appreciated. Using these guidelines, a good message might go like this:

" Hi Jim, this is Mark calling from SA in San Francisco (I like a geographic location to help ground the call and reduce the anonymity of the contact). Sorry I missed you but I wanted to congratulate you on your recent promotion, third quarter results, third party endorsement, etc. Jim, I'm calling because we've developed the next step in xyz and I would like to set up a time to get together. Could you please get back to me by the end of the week to take advantage of a special offer, etc.

The time-delimited request is advisable because you need a way to interrupt the automatic response that so many prospects take, namely, to delete and forget about your call.

These so called "performative expressions" in which you request an action are key to your ability to intervene or interrupt this automatic behavior pattern.

A "performative expression" is when you invite, propose, urge, suggest, require or recommend a course of action. These expressions are meant to bring about some change in behavior

The request needs to be strengthened to earn a return call. It's best if you motivate that response with some kind of time limited, special offer or hook just as you would in your initial voice-to-voice communication or script.

Mark Sanford, of Sanford Associates, is a business development coach and trainer with 30+ years of business experience. More free articles and training materials on cold calling. Mark can be reached at 925.253.0646.

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