By: Jeff Hoffman
The hang-up artist, the rambler, the rapid-fire caller – chances are you know a salesperson using these voicemail techniques. Maybe you are one of these salespeople.
I’m here today, on behalf of prospects everywhere, to ask you to stop.
Voicemail is a crucial part of moving deals forward, but there are three deadly voicemail mistakes I see reps make repeatedly. These bad voicemails can weaken your relationship with the prospect and derail your deal.
Here are the three most common mistakes I see reps make with voicemails and tips on how to avoid them. Follow these strategies and you might see a 30% increase in call-backs, just like my team did.
3 Voicemail Mistakes
1) The Rambling Voicemail
It’s important to be clear, concise, and direct over voicemail. In other words: Don’t ramble.
The sweet spot for voicemail length is under a minute, and ideally between 25 to 40 seconds. Under 25 seconds looks like you dialed and hung up. Over 40 seconds looks too long. And believe me, if you’re calling their cell, your prospect is paying attention to the length of your voicemail.
How exactly do I prevent rambling, you may ask? Here are three tips to avoid rambling:
Remember phones transcribe voicemails. Why? Because if you speak too quickly or call from the road, the text of your voicemail will be more difficult for the phone to transcribe, and there’s a higher chance the text will be scrambled. You know the kind – you open up your voicemail and read the transcribed message:
“Hello Blurb, I wanted to butter up on that demo we gave yesteryear. Game me call beck when you have timmy.“
Even if prospects know mistakes are the phone’s fault, those mistakes still impact their perception of you. With this in mind, practice leaving clear voicemails.
Every person’s voice will transcribe differently, so understand what the quirks are in your voice, how fast you should be speaking, and when you need to enunciate.
Always call from a cell phone. Calling a prospect from your cell generates a sense of urgency that’s missing when you’re reclining at your desk with a headset on. Get up, walk around, and use your cell phone to keep things quick and casual. This also ensures caller ID will show the same number every time.
When you call a prospect from your desk phone, you risk appearing as an unknown number or as a different number each time. The more familiar the prospect is with your number, the more likely they are to answer.
End the voicemail with your phone number. This is your cue to wrap up. Your number is always the last thing the prospect should hear on the voicemail. It keeps you from rambling and gives the prospect a clear call to action at the end of your message: Call me back.
When your prospect looks at the transcript, your number will stand out at the end of your message — and most phones will link that number automatically. When a prospect wants to return your call, all they have to do is press the number you provided in the voicemail transcription.
2) The Annoyingly Fast Follow-Up Voicemail
Another common mistake I see reps make is leaving voicemails too closely together. Instill a sense of urgency in your prospects — but don’t confuse their urgency with your own.
Leaving a string of voicemails within a few days of your initial email or phone call will almost always annoy your prospect. Or worse, you’ll leave them with a feeling of shame for not getting in touch sooner. Here are two things to avoid rapid-fire voicemails and their fallout:
Accelerate voicemail cadence. When I started coaching my team to use this method, our call-back rate increased 30%. It’s simple: After the initial voicemail, wait two weeks to call back. If you still haven’t heard from them, call back one week later. Call the prospect two days later, then one day, and finally, the same day.
Too often, salespeople reverse this model, and as their call cadence decreases, so does the prospect’s sense of urgency. When you call too often after leaving the initial message, it causes annoyance. When you accelerate call cadence, it shows this issue is becoming more important.
Never reference the call back. Don’t ever start your voicemail with “Hey, I haven’t heard back from you on X,” or “I’ve tried you a couple of times now.” This equates to finger pointing and detracts from the real issue at hand.
Let your tone, not your words, indicate it’s important your prospect return your call. The more voicemails you leave, the shorter they should be. For example:
First voicemail: “Hey Laura, Jeff Hoffman here with ABC Company. I had a question about item nine on the list of requirements you emailed yesterday. Did you mean you would like to increase the amount of customer service hours your company receives annually, or that you would like to increase customer service hours only during onboarding? I want to make sure we’re on the same page before moving forward with the contract. You can reach me at 123-456-7890.” (approximately 30 seconds)
Second voicemail (Two weeks later): “Hello Laura. This is Jeff Hoffman and I’ve got a question about item nine on the list of requirements you shared with me a few weeks ago. Would you like to increase customer service hours annually, or just during onboarding? I’m available at 123-456-7890. (approximately 16 seconds)
Third voicemail (One week later): “Hi Laura, Jeff here. I’m wondering if you can answer a question for me regarding item nine on your list of requirements. You can reach me at 123-456-7890.” (approximately 10 seconds)
Fourth voicemail (Two days later): Laura, this is Jeff. I’ve got a question about your list of requirements. You can reach me at 123-456-7890.” (approximately 8 seconds)
Fifth voicemail (One day later): Laura, it’s Jeff. I’ve got a question for you. Give me a call at 123-456-7890. (approximately 5 seconds)
3) The “Just Following Up” Voicemail
Every voicemail should end with a close. Saying, “Give me a call back” or “Just following up” doesn’t create a sense of purpose or urgency in your prospect.
To make your voicemails actionable, always ask a question – before ending with my phone number, as mentioned above.
By posing a question like, “I don’t understand X feedback you left on page five of the contract, can you explain what you mean there?” I’ve asked the prospect a question only they can answer. This entices them to return my call and makes it a timelier request.
It’s important to note that you NEVER try to close over voicemail. Don’t use messages to advance a deal. Use voicemail to advance your conversation with the prospect. You’ll enjoy a higher success rate with this approach – both in call-backs and closed deals.
Bonus tip – the worst advice I’ve heard a manager give is “If a prospect doesn’t answer, don’t leave a voicemail.” If you hang up before leaving a message, your prospect can still see you called. If you don’t leave a voicemail, you’ve set the precedent your messages aren’t important to listen or respond to.
Be smart about the length, cadence, and close of your voicemails, and you’ll foster a healthier relationship with your prospects.
This blog originally appeared on Jeff’s Hubspot Blog in 2017.