The way we communicate in the business world has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. Prior to the late 70’s there was no such thing as Voicemail. Voicemail systems were developed in the late 70s by Voice Message Exchange (VMX). They became popular in the early 80s when they were made available on PC-based boards. In September of 2012 a report from USA Today and Vonage claimed that Voice mail was in decline. The report said that the number of voicemail messages declined 8 percent compared to 2011 due to the rise in text messaging and other forms of communication. Checking one’s voice mail seems to be considered an even a bigger chore than leaving a voice message. Retrieved voice mail fell 14% among Vonage users in the same period.
Fewer and fewer companies even have a live human being answering the phone at their main number. More often than not you will hear an automated attendant that will give you the opportunity to dial into various departments with a particular number or be able to dial an extension or dial by a persons first or last name. Once you dial the last name you are sent 98 percent of the time to another automated voice message personalized with a happy greeting asking to leave a message and they will return you call. Of course anyone that makes outgoing phone calls to secure meetings with new or existing customers sort of chuckles with an eye roll because you know they aren’t talking to ‘YOU’.
There are a few tips and tricks to getting around the corporate voice messaging systems. First of all, if you are dialing up an important target that you would really like to get in front of for sales, it is best to try the prospect a few times at different times of day first before even leaving a voice message. Slightly before or after the start of the day or possibly just at the end or just past the end of the typical work day for your type of prospect. For example, a VP of Information Technology is most likely a very early or late worker, or both. By dialing them directly, or typing in their name to be transferred to them directly, the odds are at a much higher percentage of having them pick up the phone because their administrative assistant may have left for the day or has yet to show up to screen your call.
If you have tried a number of random times during the day and decided to leave a voice message, leave a short to the point message and state clearly your name and phone number and you will follow it up with an email. You have provided a business case for sending that follow up email and do it right away. This will give you the ability to follow up again later on your initial action. An excellent tool at this point is to follow up in a few days and when you get the same voice message, hit zero. Many times a person at that level will have an administrative assistant who you will be transferred to. Tell him or her the purpose of your follow up specifically and be certain to get their name and keep good notes. Many times you can work directly with this person to get on Mr/Ms VP’s calendar. If you get an operator instead, ask for if the VP has an administrative assistant and see if you can speak with them. If you are still unable to get a ‘live’ human on the phone, many times you can call back, hit zero for the main operator. Explain that you are following up and could you speak with someone in the general department you are targeting. With this example that would be the Information Technology department. Many times if you are diligent you can get a human being in the right department and possibly directed to someone on the VP’s team who is more directly involved in the specific area you need to be in order to start your sales process.
Leaving a voice message should be no longer than 20-30 seconds. As stated earlier you should clearly and slowly speak your name, the company name, the purpose for the call- if possible, and this is a huge help to you – who referred you to them, and slowly speak your phone number and that you will follow up with an email. 1 percent of the people you call will have a need or interest and will call you back. 99% will not. So clearly you should never expect a call back. If you make a mistake on your voice message and just completely mess it up, remember the rules of voicemail. Almost all of them allow you to start over and delete the message and record a new one before you hang up and allow you to listen to it prior to sending. By hitting the # key once you realize that probably sounded horrible, you will be given a menu of “would you like to send this message now, delete and re-record, mark urgent” etc. There is no guarantee they will even listen to it but in the case where they do, at least you are comforted that you left the best one you were able to leave.
As more forms of communication continue to evolve such as text messaging, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media which allow you to connect with business people, voice messages may decline and you will find even more creative ways to reach your prospect. This article should give you some new ideas on how to stand out when calling into companies and trying to reach your target audience. Good luck and good selling!