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Dealing with Voice Mail
By Mark Sanford, PhD

Many Telesales professsionals see the glass half empty and view voice mail as a real source of frustration. I see it half full and voicemail as a valuable tool in phone work.

I will share some tactics, perspectives, and a strategy or two that will maximize the chances for a response when you reach the prospects voicemail!

Last week, I was consulting with a financial planner who wanted to know who he could call during the day, since most consumers were at not at home then. He had tried to call on businesses, but could never get through. I advised him that he would always get through, eventually. Let me explain---

In my experience, you always will get through." When calling on corporate clients, my average was about 7 to 10 dials before making a connection. When I reached voicemail, I would leave a message that varied by benefit each time. Then when I finally did connect with the prospect, I had significantly warmed up the call.

Steve Shiffman, in his book, Cold Calling Techniques, 4th. Edition," (which I highly recommend) suggests two strategies to maximize response:

One is the I'm going to be in the neighborhood call in which you indicate you would like to stop by on a certain date since you will be on another appointment close by. Try it, as this strategy really works!

The second strategy Shiffman proposes is a variation on the curiosity approach. In your voice mail message you make reference to one of the prospects competitors that has definitely benefited from the purchase of your product or service. I'm calling with reference to one of your competitors, the XYZ company. Please give me a call. Then, when the prospect calls back, you can launch into your pitch about how you have helped the XYZ company and can do the same for the prospect's company as well.. Here are some other tactics I've recommended in the past:

Find a bridge to the person you are calling. This could be someone who suggested you call, a referring person or organization, or a member of an organization the membership of which you share with the prospect--- university alumni, industry group, chamber of commerce, business group, etc.

Be very specific in your request. Prospects are more likely to return your call if you promise a brief conversation about a limited topic about which you want their advice.

Leave your return number twice, once at the beginning of the message, once at the end.

Offer an email option as a way to return your message. Some people have call reluctance, but will correspond by email.

Do not wait for people to call you back. Take the initiative and call them even if they have not responded. You never know for sure why they didn't call back--- it doesn't necessarily mean they aren't interested. And let the callee know you will be calling again in your message.

Do not stop calling back until you have a decision or people ask you not to call again. Telephone selling is a numbers game. The more calls you make the closer you are to the next sale!

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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