Part 1: Experts estimate that as much as 75% of business calls end up in voice mail. Learning good voice mail techniques is a must if your small business is to succeed.
Two technology advancements have changed business forever. The Internet and voice mail have permanently altered the way we work. Internet tools, techniques and technology are constantly progressing. Voice mail is a relatively static technology and an ever-present friend or foe. Good voice mail technique is a required business skill.
This is the first in a series of articles concerning proven voice mail techniques. Voice mail can be a powerful business tool. Business voice mail is nothing but a glorified personal answering machine. The purpose of voice mail is to screen callers and record messages. Voice mail should be a 30 second “elevator pitch” which inspires the listener to call back. Unfortunately, many experts estimate that as much as 75% of all business calls end up in voice mail. Are you willing to have no success opportunity with 3 of 4 telephone calls each day?
The utilization of technique(s) within this series of articles can significantly alter your voice mail return call response rate. Obtaining a 40% voice mail response rate is a learned skill. Like it or not, voice mail is here to stay.
THE LAST WORDS THEY HEAR. Voice mail to be effective must be personal. Psychologists tell us that people remember better when their name is used with an action request. People like to be appreciated. Thank the person for listening.
Typical: “I look forward to hearing from you”. Hang-up
Better: “I look forward to your return call. Thank you, John” Hang-up
THE ONE-SECOND PAUSE. Most people rush their speech while leaving a voice mail. The reasons for this habit are numerous: the length of the caller message is unknown, a planned and concise message is seldom practiced, callers generally view voice mail as an inconvenience and the “review your message” playback is generally not a stellar public speaking effort. Have you ever received a voice mail and not been able to get the telephone number because the person talked to fast? The one-second pause is important at several points during your voice mail. Some critical points include: immediately following the introduction and identification of you as the caller, before and after your telephone number, immediately before the “last words” and wherever emphasis is needed.
Typical: “My telephone is 412-795-5700 Extension 2. I look forward to hearing from you”. Hang-up
Better: “My telephone number is (Pause) 412-795-5700 (Pause) Extension 2. I look forward to your return call. (Pause) Thank you, John” Hang-up
THE FIRST WORDS THEY HEAR. Your professionalism and delivery in the first sentences determines whether you will be in the deleted messages mailbox. Studies indicate a significant portion of all voice mails are deleted in the first 20 seconds or about half way through the message. Courtesy and professionalism are most important. Business etiquette indicates a greeting followed by the person’s first name. Business etiquette is also to identify yourself and your company immediately after the greeting. You are always from a company not with a company as you are “with” the other person on the telephone.
Poor: “George, this is Tom calling to follow-up on that shipment last week.”
Typical: “Hello, George. This is Tom Hand with Infrastructure calling to follow-up on that shipment last week.”
Better: “Hello, George. (Pause) This is Thomas Hand from Infrastructure Support Services in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.” (Pause)
A nicely paced, professional and courteous delivery in the first two sentences allows the listener to mentally shift gears from daily tasks to listening to your message. You cannot win if they do not listen!
WOULD NEXT _____ AT _____ BE OKAY? The point of voice mail is to get your story across in 30 seconds and give the listener a reason to call back. A fuzzy logic voice mail does not require a response because the listener does not have a necessary decision to make. Voice mail success requires a simple message requiring a reply from the listener. The primary purpose of leaving a voice mail is to get an opportunity to speak a decision maker.
Poor: “ABC Inc is a respected provider of …. I’m calling you now and just wanted to know if you might be interested in learning more about us.”
Typical: “When I called a while back, you told me that business was poor and it was not a good time to talk. I’m calling you now and just wanted to know if you might be interested in learning more about us.”
Better: “When we spoke last month, you suggested that I call you after the first of the year for an appointment. (Pause) Would next Tuesday at 3 PM be okay?” (Pause).
WARM UP YOUR VOICE. Just like athletes who warm up before they play, professionals warm up their voices before the dialing begins. Drink water constantly between calls. A dry throat is not an attractive voice. Hum a favorite song or two before beginning your calls. Throat clearing is a pre-call activity. Face the wall and stick your tongue out rolling it for about 15 seconds. Jiggle your jaw and then let it go slack. It never ceases to amaze me that millions of voice mails are left each day by people who are just not ready to start speaking.
Thomas N. Hand is the CEO on Infrastructure Support Services Inc. a software vendor and consulting practice focusing upon raising individual, sales team and corporate productivity and profitability using behavior modification, performance monitoring and quality metrics. One client said it nicely, “Your products are like a good diet, and I hate admitting the truth about the current situation, bad habits change slowly, but with diligence the results are worth it”.