First-time sales outreach response is plummeting. According to Jill Konrath, 97% of all business calls now go to voicemail.
It’s never been more important for salespeople to be good at leaving voicemails. Not only that, but voicemail can — and should — be measured, coached, and improved. First, let’s review general voicemail etiquette.
1. Keep your greeting up-to-date.
Before we tackle appropriate voicemail etiquette for outbound messages, let’s first discuss proper etiquette for setting up your own voicemail system. As a professional, make sure you are regularly updating your voicemail greeting with information most relevant to those calling you.
For example, if you are planning to go on vacation for two weeks, make sure you update your voicemail greeting stating how long you’ll be out of the office when you’ll be back — and who can be contacted in your absence.
2. Let callers know when they can anticipate a response.
While you’re updating your voicemail greeting, make sure you let callers know when they can expect to receive a call back from you or from someone else from your company. Most professionals opt for a 24-hour callback window. Clearly state this in your voicemail greeting to set expectations with your callers.
Now, let’s discuss voicemail etiquette for outbound messages.
3. Share your name and company affiliation.
If you are calling an individual you haven’t spoken with before, clearly state your name and company affiliation. Sharing a brief introduction provides some helpful context for the individual you’re calling.
4. State the intention of your message.
Get to why you’re calling. Did you have a question you couldn’t find the answer to online? Are you inquiring about future business? Are you weighing your options about a purchase between a few different companies? State it clearly so the recipient of the call knows how to proceed.
5. Include your contact information at the beginning and end of the message.
While it is a best practice to end your message with your contact information, that is only valuable when the recipient listens to your message until the end. By stating your name and phone number earlier in the message and repeating it at the end, you’ll be able to pass your information along to those who may not initially hear the message in its entirety.
6. Be concise.
If you can, try to keep your message 20 to 30 seconds long — max. This is the sweet spot for sharing just enough information without going overboard, potentially getting cut off by the recipient’s voice mailbox system, or having the listener hang up early because your message was simply too long. Speak clearly, avoid rambling, and get straight to the point.
7. Share your availability.
Similar to sharing your 24-hour response time on your own voicemail message, let contacts know if there’s a good time to reach you when requesting they call you back.
For example, when leaving a voicemail you could say, “You can give me a call back at XYZ-1234. I am typically available Monday through Friday from 9 am to 3 pm. I look forward to hearing from you.” This lets your contact know exactly when they can reach you to continue the conversation.
Through personal experience and research, I’ve been able to identify the most effective voicemail script — along with the keys to implementing it — so you leave voicemails that generate an incredible response every time.
Protect your script from becoming wooden with repetition. Instead, use bullet points to stay on track while keeping your tone and delivery casual.
The key to making a bullet-pointed script work is to practice. You can’t read it line-for-line, so it’s important to work out the kinks before you place your call.
Here are my effective voicemail script bullets:
- Your name
- Reason for calling
- Benefit of calling you back
- Your contact information
- Promise of a follow-up email
To see these script bullets in action, I’ve outlined a scenario below:
“Hello, Amy. This is Don with Marketers Plus.
I’m calling because you downloaded our guide to building successful holiday marketing campaigns, and I have a case study you might find valuable. It’s all about how Company B raised holiday email open rates by 25% and saw a 10% increase in revenue using Marketers Plus.
If you’d like to learn more, my number is 123-456-7890. I’ll also follow up with an email containing the case study. I look forward to hearing what you think. Have a great day.”
This voicemail is simple, packed with value, and straightforward. It also sets the tone for what doing business with you is like. But delivery is everything. So, take a look at these tips for implementing your voicemail script like a pro.
How to Leave a Voicemail: 6 Tips for Business
If you want to improve your voicemail performance, get deliberate in your practice. This means creating a highly structured practice routine that offers ample opportunity for repetition and immediate feedback.
This sales voicemail practice consists of three phases: before, during, and after.
- Before you dial: Before you make any calls, start with setting a goal for your voicemails that day. Will you be working on your tone? Your passion? The length of the message? Whatever it is, decide how to accomplish that goal by developing specific, technique-oriented plans.
- While leaving the message: During voicemails, focus on execution in the moment. This process, called metacognition, enables you to mentally observe your own process from the outside. Develop this skill and you will be able to react to changing conditions quickly, in addition to improving your voicemail skills.
- After you hang up: After each voicemail, evaluate your performance. Most voicemail systems provide the option of listening to the voicemail you just left. Listen to the recording — it will not lie. The recording gives you the most specific feedback for improvement. Doing this as much as possible will improve your voicemail performance more than anything else.
Approach voicemails with a scientific outlook, and score each one. Create a score sheet with a rating system that addresses the following:
- Would you save that voicemail?
- Would you return that call?
- Would you return that call right away?
- Are you missing the basics (alternative phone number, optimal ways to get in touch, a fallback person to call)?
- Did you craft it or wing it?
Save the highest-rated voicemails. And be honest about which ones you would delete. Those are the ones that need your attention. Separate those elements that need help, and focus on one at a time until perfect voicemails become second nature.
Continue to test voicemails as you score your results. For example, RingDNA finds the best times to call are 6:45 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The worst times are Monday mornings from 6:00 a.m. to noon and Friday afternoons. Try different call times and see what works for you.
Remember, you need real-world situations to prepare for the sales game. Roleplay with colleagues and friends to get honest feedback on your voicemails.
2. Be personable and straightforward.
As you practice and score your sales voicemails, you’ll start to determine some best practices. Write these down, and use them as an outline for future calls. Here are a few of my best practices.
- Leave your telephone number twice: This ensures understanding and helps the prospect write it down accurately. However, don’t repeat yourself — say the same thing in a different way. For example: “Call me back at 8-7-7-9-7-7-8-0-8-0. Again, that is 8-7-7-9-77-80-80.”
- Use the prospect’s name often: People pay attention when their name is mentioned. After all, they have been conditioned to pay attention to their name their whole life. If you want to get someone’s attention, use their name.
- Include a credible example: Who have you helped? If you don’t speak with authority, borrow it.
- Keep it to 17 seconds or less: Too many reps are the inside sales equivalent of chatty grandmas — pitching solutions, discussing features, and offering value propositions over a voicemail. Long voicemails are not going to get you responses. Quite the contrary. Voicemails should be 17 seconds or less. They should merely pique a prospect’s interest. Save your real pitch for an actual sales call.
- Always provide context: Whether it’s your last encounter or a recent ebook download, have a relevant reason for calling in order to get the prospect’s attention.
- Offer clear value: State upfront how you can help the prospect. Are you saving them time or money, or helping them get promoted? Let them know the benefit.
- Ask for what you want: Clearly state your purpose and the next steps. Whether it’s a demo, an appointment, or the best contact to talk to, simply ask for it.
3. Research your prospect.
The difference between a cold voicemail and a warm voicemail is research. Research creates a distinction compelling a prospect to return your call over the countless others in their voice mailbox.
Visit the prospect’s website and investigate their solutions. Use tools and technology that collect more information about the prospect, such as their social profiles, their past experience, their connections, and so on.
Find a piece of connective tissue, such as an alma mater, a favorite sports team, or a common pet (I’m a dog lover, personally). This opens the conversation and shows that you’ve done your research.
Your research should include finding other people in the prospect’s organization. Selecting the right people, such as the prospect’s manager or department head, facilitates the ability to build rapport and adds a sense of urgency when you mention them in the voicemail.
When you build rapport, you’ve got more influence and you’ll get more callbacks.
4. Be positive.
If you want your prospects to get back to you, you better sound exciting. If you have a monotone voice or sound generally unenthusiastic on a voicemail, you are almost certainly not going to get a response.
Remember, the idea is for prospects to want to talk to you. Your tone can make or break the voicemail. So, remember, you’re not bothering them — you’re enlightening them. If you have a purpose for calling, you’re never going to trouble them.
A positive attitude extends to your voice and how you’re speaking. At the same time, if the prospect can’t hear or understand you, all of your work is wasted. Follow the four Cs:
- Be Clear: Drink water, clear your throat, invest in resources like a good headset and phone. Be as mindful as possible about speaking clearly.
- Be Concise: Keep it short and simple.
- Use a good Cadence: Don’t be afraid of strategic pauses, and vary the speed of your delivery.
- Be Compelling: Speak with authority.
Perhaps the biggest mistake in a sales voicemail is pitching too aggressively. If you sound like a smarmy used car salesperson, your prospects are going to delete your voicemails faster than you can say “lowest price guaranteed!”
Avoid sales speak and buzzwords. It’s okay if your prospect knows you’re a sales rep. Qualified prospects don’t mind hearing from sales reps. They just want to speak to reps that are helpful, knowledgeable, and possess integrity.
Most importantly, have fun with it. If you don’t enjoy leaving a voicemail, you might not be in the right job.
5. Provide value.
A good voicemail should be more about the prospect than the salesperson. Especially when cold calling, you want to provide as much value as possible to incentivize your prospect to return your call.
If you can, try to mention a tangible benefit the prospect can gain by working with you. Whether you quickly state understanding of a challenge they are facing (that you learned of during the research phase) or can share a brief statistic related to an area of interest for them.
This tells the prospect that they will benefit from calling you back and hearing what you have to say.
6. Leave a call-to-action.
After a prospect finishes listening to your email, they should be very clear on what the next step of the sales process is. Whether you ended the voicemail asking a question they are prompted to answer, left your contact information instructing them to call you back, or told them to look out for a follow-up email, the message recipient should know exactly what’s coming next, and how to behave accordingly if they are interested in the deal.
To keep the sale moving, be as specific as possible about next steps.
Voicemails can add value, whether or not a prospect calls you back right away. Even if a voicemail triggers an email response or call-back six months down the line, it’s valuable. The better your voicemails, the more likely you’ll get a response.
1. Concise and Focused
I touched on this earlier, but it’s worth repeating. Keep your voicemails short and sweet. Very few — if any — of your prospects are interested in spending multiple minutes listening to you make small talk or rattle off your offering’s features and benefits.
Make sure your speech is both air-tight and thoughtful. That doesn’t mean you have to rush, but it does mean you have to know your point and get to it quickly.
2. Backed by Preparation
This point is more or less an extension of the point above. If you want to avoid sounding awkward and long-winded, you need to know what you’re going to say — every good sales voicemail is conducted with confidence and definitive intention. The key to delivering on both is having well-prepared, personalized voicemail messaging at your disposal.
At its core, sales is a people-oriented practice — so naturally, if you want to leave an effective sales voicemail, you need to sound like a person. If you sound too rigid or robotic, your message might come off as imposing or impersonal.
You also don’t want to confuse them with too much technical jargon and complex vocab. Keep things on the lighter side and approach your voicemails conversationally.
Now, this might seem like I’m reneging on what I just said, but you can easily reconcile this point with the one above. While you should keep your tone conversational, you can’t get carried away.
If you sound too relaxed or overly familiar, you’re going to undermine both your and your company’s credibility. People want to buy from an expert — not someone trying too hard to sound cool. So avoid coming off as too laid back and using too much slang, “um’s,” and “yeah’s.”
A compelling sales voicemail won’t be particularly effective if your prospect has no idea how they should respond. You can’t just rattle off what they stand to gain from leveraging your product or service and then hang up. Always offer some next steps or insight on what they should expect next — like another phone call or a follow-up email.
Like almost any other sales communication, sales voicemails need to revolve around the concrete benefits your prospect can expect to see if they leverage your solution — not your product or service’s suite of features.
Make sure your sales voicemails convey the hard results customers see more than they relay how those results are achieved. Your first priority is grabbing your prospect’s attention — you can dig into the nitty-gritty aspects of a sale as your relationship progresses.
7. Proactive but Not Aggressive
A sales voicemail can only get so far if its content is too passive and your delivery is unsure or mousy. Remember, people want to buy from someone who knows what they’re doing. If you give them too much of a “ball is in your court; feel free to get back to me or don’t” feeling, they’ll have a hard time trusting your expertise and dedication.
That being said, you want to stop short of coming off as aggressive. Remember to keep your tone conversational, and try not to badger prospects with too many voicemails. There’s a middle ground between being pushy and being a pushover — try to strike that balance.
Prospecting Voicemail Mistakes
1. Winging It
Stuttering, rambling, or repeating yourself all make for less-than-stellar sales voicemails that prospects will be less inclined to respond to. That’s why you can’t try to figure out what you want to say as you’re leaving the message.
Avoid piecing your voicemail together on the fly — as I mentioned earlier, a good one is backed by preparation. So prepare, prepare, and prepare some more.
2. Being Too Pushy
A solid sales voicemail can’t be too intrusive or read like a list of demands. At no point should you say something like, “You need to call me back,” or sound frustrated by the fact that they haven’t gotten in touch with you.
Sound sales efforts are consultative and customer-centric, and sales voicemails are no different. They should revolve around helping your prospect — not forcing them along your pipeline.
3. Overly Technical
A sales voicemail is no time to lock into the technical specs of your product or service. You can’t take it as an opportunity to describe the nuances of how all of its features work — complete with confusing, technical jargon and long-winded detail.
You only have so much time to make a meaningful impression on your prospect. Stick to talking about the tangible benefits you can offer, and keep your language straightforward and accessible.
4. Being All Over the Place
I’ve stressed it throughout this article, and I’ll stress it again — your sales voicemails have to be concise and airtight. That requires being locked in on exactly what you’re trying to get across. You can’t go off on a series of tangents that may or may not apply to your prospect’s situation. Keep your messaging as focused as possible.
5. Not Finishing on an Open-Ended Note
A sales voicemail can’t do too much for you if there’s no room for any sort of progression. If you just give an explanation of your offering’s benefits without establishing what that prospect should do or can expect next, you might close the door on a sale — straight off the bat.
Voicemails can add value, whether or not a prospect calls you back right away. Even if a voicemail triggers an email response or call back six months down the line, it’s valuable. The better your voicemails, the more likely you’ll get a response.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.