Voice Mail Hell
compiled by Martien Eerhart
Voice mail has developed into a most frustrating experience in the new
economy and the old economy as well. Where there was once no "tall grass
to hide in" it seems voice mail has created a "hidden economy"
where it takes new skills and creative enterprise to break through. Here are
two pieces that offer a few tips on how to cut through the nonsense and get
to the source. (ed.)
Voice Mail Hell!
by Shamus Brown
How many times have you heard that you gotta get past the gatekeeper
and get to the decision-maker to make the sale? Countless books and sales
trainers have talked about this for years. Much of this advice was written
for a world without voicemail.
Today's flatter organization has fewer administrative assistants
for management, which means fewer live gatekeepers to screen our phone calls.
The delegation of authority has also resulted in decision-makers being found
at lower levels in the business than ever before. More and more decision-
makers now use voicemail as their primary or even exclusive gatekeeping and
Today I am going to discuss a few techniques for getting through to your
target in the world of voicemail hell. The first rule as always in sales is
to be prepared, so you should have ready two or three major pains and visions
that your product solves or enables. Make sure you have prepared at least
one strong pain that your prospect is likely to identify with (pain elimination
is a stronger motivator for most people than vision creation.)
Tip#1 - Call at weird hours
People who screen their calls normally during the 8am to 6pm business hours
will often pickup the phone if a call comes in at 6am or 8:30pm and they are
working at their desk. With some of the insane hours people work these days,
this can be very effective. They will pick-up the phone generally thinking
that the only person who would call at 8:30pm at night is their spouse or
a friend. Who could possibly know that they are at the office at that sick
hour? Try calling anytime after 6pm, and up until 8pm or 9pm when you really
need to reach this person. If they are that important to the business, and
that hard to reach, chances are that they work very late, very early, or both.
Getting the direct extension number of a Director or VP in a medium to large
size company can seem like an impossible task. Some top people will have a
direct extension that the receptionists won't give out. Instead, the best
you get is a general department extension like 555-2000 (where there actually
is a gatekeeper). Other times you get only the gatekeeper's voicemail (now
you are really stuck in voicemail hell).
Tip #2 - The wrong extension trick
Call another extension at the company randomly, say 555-2198 and ask for your
target. You more than likely will get a person who is not experienced in taking
outside phone calls. When the receiver of your call says you got the wrong
extension, tell them that you have been getting passed around to the wrong
extensions, the wrong people, the wrong voicemails, and that you are really
frustrated - sound really distraught. Tell them you must return this call,
but that you lost the direct number or that it was garbled on your voicemail.
Ask them if they can tell you the direct number to dial so that you don't
get passed around by receptionists into the wrong voicemails anymore. The
key here is to sound distraught. You want them to feel a little sorry for
you, so that they will want to help you. People like to help others in need.
Armed with the direct extension number for your decision-maker, see Tip #1.
Tip #3 - Prepare a commercial
You may decide that the best use of your time is to leave a message. If you
want any chance of getting your call returned, you better make it good. My
favorite approach is to tell a brief story to get the prospect's attention
before they have a chance to realize that this is a voicemail from a salesperson
and hit delete. Your story should contain a customer who had pain that your
product solved. Start your story by saying "Hi Greg, Shamus Brown here. You
know, XYZ company was experiencing an extreme ..." Do not identify yourself as a salesperson
or identify your company at the beginning of the commercial. Make the pain
sound real bad - talk about the serious consequences of it. Then finish your
commercial by saying "Greg, to find out how my company, ABC company, helped
XYZ company eliminate this problem, give me a call at (415) 460-6566."
To leave or not leave a message depends a lot on the nature of what you
are selling and the prospect base that you are selling to. If you are selling
to a small group of companies, then I would not leave a message until after
being very persistent with the first two approaches. If you have a high number
of potential prospects to call on, you could use the commercial approach on
everyone. Be flexible and persist and you'll eventually make contact.
On a final note, the best way to get to a decision-maker is to get introduced
to the person. Partnering with another company that already has an existing
relationship with the prospect is very effective for leveraging in at a higher
level. Selling someone else below first takes more time, but is often the
way that business is done in the real world. These tips above will come in
handy when you are at a loss for how to get a referral introduction.
Voice Mail Messages That Get Returned
by Jeff and Marc Slutsky
Voice Mail can be one of the most frustrating developments for sales people
because it makes it almost impossible to get through to your prospect. However,
according to Orval Ray Wilson, coauthor of Guerrilla TeleSelling, there are
some creative ways you can entice your prospect to return your voice mail
message. We find that when we leave a standard message on voice mail that
we'll get half of our messages returned.
The Insomnia Message
Since most voice mail has a time stamp, you can leave messages at odd hours
to make a strong impression. "Hi, it's Mitchell Austin calling. It's 3:30
in the morning and I was just thinking about your account with us, and I couldn't
sleep, so I decided to leave you this message . . ."
The Mile-High Message
Next time you're on a plane, use the onboard phone call people that you wish
to reach. "Hi, it's Amanda Justin. I'm calling from 37,000 feet on my way
to Chicago. I was thinking about you and just had to call." According to Orval
Ray, it's well worth the high price to leave an impression. If they're in
the office, tell the secretary that you're calling from the plane, and you'll
probably put right through.
The Stock Holder's Message
Buy a few shares of your prospect's stock. Then leave a message introducing
yourself as a concerned stockholder.
The "Who You're NOT" Message
"Hi. I'm not with the IRS, I'm not selling insurance, I'm not looking for
a job or donation, I don't want to borrow money, but I do want to talk to
you about . . ."
The Disregard That Message Message
The first message you leave is, "Hi Char. Please disregard that last message.
If you need anything else, please call me at . . . " Last message? What last
The File A Missing Person Report Message
"Hello Ron. Your staff doesn't seem to know where you are and frankly I'm
concerned. I just wanted to let you know that I've filed a missing person
The Persistent or Pest Message
Larry Winget, a motivational speaker based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma uses this
one: "There's a fine line between being persistent and being a pest. I want
to serve you well, yet never be a pest. Will you please call and tell me how
best to serve you?"
The Kiddy Call Message
Have your kids make a call. "My daddy is going crazy waiting for you to call
him back. Would you please call? As soon as you do, he can take me for ice
BizSmart Action Plan
- This week, each time you get voice mail, try a different message form
- Be sure to write down which message you left for each voice mail contact.
- Track the number of returned phone calls you get for each type of message
- Once you start to see a particular message working, start using it more
- When you think of your own creative message to use, give it a try and
track the results.
- Caution: there's a fine line between creativity and deception. Don't
risk making your prospect angry. Use some common sense.
Drs. Martien Eerhart is president of Global Gateway, a sales and management
training company. Contact Martien at www.developmoresales.com
or call (800) 860-3547.
Shamus Brown can be contacted by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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