Are You Making This Embarrassing, Costly Voicemail Mistake?

Before your read the rest of this article, borrow someone’s cell phone and call your own.  Let it go to voicemail. What does your greeting sound like?

Salespeople should check their voice mail

Photo by Daniele DePascale

What you just heard is what your customers hear.

  • Is your name mentioned on the greeting?
  • Is your voice on the greeting?
  • Can callers leave a message?

If you cannot answer an unqualified “yes” to all three of these questions, it’s time to change your voicemail greeting.

In every market I visit, there is at least one Account Executive (and the occasional Sales Manager) whose greeting, delivered by a robot, sounds like this:

You’ve reached five, oh, three, four, seven, seven, four, nine, three, three. Please leave a message after the tone.”

A Dale Carnegie trainer once told me that at its core, working in sales is like having a series of job interviews, every single day.

The line stuck with me — every single day, we are trying to get local business people to hire us and our companies to solve their marketing problems.

How do the “hiring managers” — your clients — react to a robot voicemail greeting?

Here’s a hint from Lora Poepping, a recruiter and job search consultant in Seattle:

I will hang up when your voicemail doesn’t give your name.

Please, please have your name mentioned in your outgoing message. Why? Because I don’t want to leave a message about wanting to speak with you about a potential new job if I don’t even know if I’ve reached the right person. If you don’t want to record something, just default to using your name. You may have missed your chance to be considered for a position.

If R2D2 is answering your phone, you may have missed the opportunity to be considered for a buy.

At the bare minimum, your name should be on the greeting. Spoken by you, not the robot.

Not long ago I needed to reach an Account Executive with a question about a proposal we were developing. Her cell phone went to voicemail.

The robot recited a string of numbers (“You’ve reached five, oh, three, four, seven, seven, four, nine, three, three.”), invited me to leave a message for “the person you are calling”. It then informed me that the mailbox was full, and suggested that I call back later.

Not only did I not know if I was calling the right person — I couldn’t leave a message even if I wanted to.

Because her station was paying me a lot of money to work with her, I sent her a text. Eventually we connected.

Your customers will not go to the extra effort. They will hang up and call a competitor.

Sales Trainer Pat Bryson recommends using your outgoing message as an opportunity to make an impact:

Make your voice mail messages SELLING messages for you. Stress what you can do for the client. Make them bigger than life. You only have one chance to make a first impression!

(h/t Radio Sales Cafe)

The best example of “phone greeting selling” I’ve encountered came from J.R. Langlois, who owned The Safer Floor Store in Portland.

I met with Mr. Langlois in 2009 during my radio sales days, and had a question for him after our meeting. When I called, I got this message:

Hi, this is J.R. at the Safer Floor Store. I can’t come to the phone because I’m helping my customers prevent injuries and avoid lawsuits. Please leave a message and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.

Two lessons here:

1. J.R. knew that he wasn’t in the floor supply business — he was in the injury-and-lawsuit-prevention business.

2. He recognized that voice mail represents an opportunity — even when he was away from the phone, he could deliver his sales message to anyone who called.

When customers try to call you, do they know they got the right number? Can they hear your voice? Can they leave a message if they want to?

If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, you are making an embarrassing, costly mistake.

It’s time to fix it.


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