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Reaching Voicemail Isn't a Sales Dead End

Chances are that salespeople trying to reach a potential client on the phone won’t end up speaking to a live person, but rather an automated voice. But leaving a message can lead to a return call, and even a sale, if the process is handled correctly.

Blogger Geoffrey James identifies six specific steps that salespeople can take to turn their cold calls into profit.

First, avoid squandering the initial opportunity: When a sales professional knows he or she will end up talking to voicemail, he/she either asks to be transferred to someone else, who also won’t likely pick up the phone, refuses to leave a message or leaves an incoherent message.

Second, prepare a script: If the sales pro has a prepared script, then leaving a message will be a simple task.

James says callers should first identify themselves, then explain why they’re calling and then provide proof that they can deliver what they’re selling. Speaking clearly and slowly gives the recipient a chance to write down the information without having to replay the message. The caller’s name, firm and telephone number should be given at the top of the message.

He then suggests callers give a one-sentence statement that includes a quantifiable financial impact that’s meaningful to the customer. And lastly, the caller should have three brief success stories handy about a similar company with whom they have worked and were able to help. At the end of the message, says James, callers should be sure to again leave their name, firm and phone number.

“If you want your scripts to convert more consistently, tie one or more of them to events that influence the prospect’s likelihood to buy, such as personnel changes, new customers, a merger or some other significant “trigger” event,” James says.

Third, rehearse: Since it takes practice to work with a script, James recommends callers leave themselves messages in their own voicemails. After leaving several, callers should play the messages back to hear whether the callers sound as if they are reading from a prepared statement. If so, keep practicing.

Fourth, follow up: If sales pros must leave a message, they should follow up with another call in three to five business days.

“If the prospect calls you back, fabulous.  You’re on your way,” James says. “Cancel your scheduled recall and get selling. However, if the prospect does NOT call back, then when the scheduled time comes, leave another message, using a different…success story. Once again, schedule another call in three to five business days. Repeat this process one more time.”

By leaving different messages, each reinforcing the initial message, callers are showing persistence and exposing the prospect to positive aspects of buying. If they’re a real prospect, he says, there’s a good chance of getting a return call.

Fifth, take a break: On the likely chance that a potential client doesn’t return a phone call after several messages, James suggests callers try once more, by leaving a message with the same beginning and ending as the previous messages, but with a different middle.

"In this message, let the prospect know that you understand that they are busy. Tell them that you assume that it is not a good time for them to have a discussion with you, so you will NOT be calling again for a while,” James says. Specify a time frame.

Sometimes, he says, telling a potential client that one won’t be calling back will encourage the client to reach out.

Sixth, measure and fine-tune:  Sellers should measure and then, if necessary, fine-tune the process to make cold-calling and selling by voicemail even more successful. Don't "keep doing the same things over and over without really seeing what’s working and what’s not,” James says.

“Figure out how many prospects are calling you back. Track the conversion rates of the prospects that call you back. Map those conversions into revenue, so that you know whether or not selling by voicemail is worth the effort.”

James is the author of seven books and a featured writer for several national publications,

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