When you reach out to a prospective client, you have no idea if they will pick up or if you’ll be sent to voicemail. (Spoiler: usually, it’s voicemail). The best agency new business pros are ready for either scenario. But if you’re not, this post will help.
Below, we’ll explore some best practices for impactful voicemail messages that are more likely to get callbacks. We will also look at how voicemails fit into your overall new business strategy and why they matter. If you’ve been treating voicemails like an afterthought—or skipping them altogether, this post will change the way you look at voicemail messages.
Why leave a voicemail?
When your new business outreach program is rooted in solid strategy, you have a legitimate reason for contacting your prospect. You are offering something of value. If it's worth a call, then it's worth a voicemail. And if it's worth a voicemail, leave a good one!
5 reasons not to skip the voicemail:
- When response rates are low and “noise” is high, each voicemail creates another opportunity to break through at the right time with the right message.
- If your message isn't heard, it may be read (via auto-translation from voice to text on a smartphone). Not taking advantage of this “twofer” is a missed opportunity.
- Each voicemail is another brick to help you build a compelling story for your agency's brand and reinforce your outreach message.
- Voicemails can help encourage a response to your overall efforts by personalizing you and supporting your name recognition (instead of just being a random stranger who keeps emailing them).
What is the goal?
One of the most important things to remember when leaving a voicemail message is that your immediate goal is not to close new business, so you should not be selling. Your number one priority is getting a callback. That’s your only immediate goal.
Beyond that, your goals should be to have a conversation, provide information, determine whether there is an opportunity, and work to build a relationship. The opportunity to close new business may be pretty far down the line. There shouldn't be any pressure.
Where does voicemail fit into your new business strategy?
Many prospects prefer to follow-up by email rather than phone, particularly with sales calls—and particularly from unknown parties. They may want more information to review and determine their interest before committing to even 5-10 minutes spent on a call. That’s why emails, calls, and voicemails should build off each other and be designed with coordinated message points.
The information in your emails and voicemails should work together but not be identical. Breaking your message into bite-sized talking points to be spoon-fed to the target at each touchpoint also helps you keep things concise and digestible.
Joseph Holladay, TDP’s Director of Client Engagement, recommends emailing first before calling so that you can reference your email in the voicemail. Another recommended strategy is to send an email immediately following the voicemail. Either way, you are providing the prospect with additional options to respond. Using buildable touches that contain new and different information also means you don't have to rush to say everything in the voicemail message.
Numbers game vs. strategy
New business outreach is not strictly a numbers game in the sense that “more is more.” For our purposes, less (in the sense of fewer targets and a more concise message) is usually more. That means putting together carefully curated targeted lists and meaningful strategies to offer something genuinely useful to the prospect. You don’t want to waste someone’s time if there’s no “meat on the bone.” It will only hurt your agency’s credibility for future efforts.
That said, creating multiple touchpoints for a prospect stacks your chances for a better outcome. Having more touchpoints, each designed for maximum impact, provides incremental increases in your response rates. Many people give up on a prospect too soon and miss opportunities to connect. We typically like to make 8-10 touches spread between emails, calls, and voicemails before deprioritizing a prospect. If you continue reaching out to someone who is unresponsive after 8-10 touches, your efforts may be better spent elsewhere.
Technical considerations for voicemails
Create a script
Pre-written scripts will help you avoid the dreaded “voicemail ramble.” We recommend creating multiple voicemail scripts that can be used in sequence and in coordination with your email outreach messaging. You should also track which scripts you’ve previously used for each prospect to avoid leaving redundant messages. Donato Diorio of Data Z recommends working from a bullet list of talking points to keep the voicemail from sounding overly scripted and practicing in advance to keep the delivery on-point (Hubspot).
You can find many examples and ideas for voicemail scripts online (some of which might be customized for agency purposes), such as these from Zoominfo and Hubspot (via Jeff Hoffman). Keep in mind that many published voicemail templates are meant for sales at lower price points and different business models than agency new business, so veer towards those more appropriate for consultative, professional sales.
Practice is a core component of effective voicemail messages, so don’t skip it! Here are a few considerations and tips to keep in mind:
- Speak clearly, slowly, and enunciate. Many smartphones will automatically transcribe your voicemail, “which means that your first impression via cold call could actually be made in text” (Zendesk Sell). If your message is too fast or unclear, the text won’t make much sense.
- Pay attention to tone, cadence, and pitch. In terms of cadence, slow it down, and don’t be afraid to use a purposeful pause for emphasis. For pitch, make sure you are at a normal tone of voice, veering lower instead of higher. According to Jeff Hoffman, a higher pitch can signal discomfort or repetition, while a lower tone “implies that you're at ease making the call, and also that the call is unusual” (via Hubspot).
- Leave some voicemail messages for yourself to hear how you sound on the recordings. Do you come across as personable, positive, confident, relaxed, and natural? If so, you’ve nailed the tone. If you sound robotic, desperate, monotone, phony, overenthusiastic, or aggressive, continue practicing your delivery. As TDP’s Joseph Holladay notes, “no one wants to buy from a sad, mediocre-sounding rep.”
“You aren’t just making calls, you are building relationships. Put some personality into it. The more you put into it, the greater the opportunity to provide insight into who you are as a person and to create a genuine and emotional connection.”
—Joseph Holladay, Director of Client Engagement, TDP
Be concise. According to The Center for Sales Strategy, “many voicemail systems only give you 30 seconds to leave a message.” Agedleadstore recommends trying to keep it closer to 15 seconds. Experiment with some different lengths in your voicemail scripts and see which ones get a better response. But you probably won’t want to go over 30-40 seconds at most. Scripting and practice will help you make the greatest impact with a brief message.
What should your voicemail message include? Here are some general guidelines around basic voicemail elements, the “meat” or “why?” of your message, and how you should close.
Every voicemail should include the prospect’s first name, as well as an introduction to who you are and what agency you represent. Most people agree that you should state your name and company right away. If you want to experiment with a hook, you might try leading with a question first that addresses a pain point or potential value—but you still need to transition into your introduction as quickly as possible.
Don’t bother trying to list everything your agency does. Beyond the agency’s name, the only thing that matters about your agency is how it solves a prospect’s specific problem. (For example: “We’ve helped some of your competitors like Pantene and Garnier ramp up their presence on D2C eCommerce platforms like Amazon and Walmart, increasing their market share by 350% in the last half of 2020. Would you be interested in learning more about how we can do something like that for [prospect’s brand]?”)
Before you call, do you have enough information to personalize your message? Always be sure that your message is relevant to your prospect’s job function and organization. Taking a quick look at their LinkedIn profile can often provide you with one or two small details to help convey that you know them and aren’t merely on a “smile and dial” exercise.
Your message should convey why you are calling, why they should care (a.k.a. “what’s in it for them?”), and why they should respond. Your “why” might speak to a current industry pain point and how your agency has helped “Client X” overcome those challenges. What impact could you have on their business? Is there a time-sensitive or urgent aspect they should be aware of?
Wrapping it up
What are the next steps? What action do you want them to take? Don’t over-complicate it unnecessarily, but you want to be clear about how they can respond. Slowly state your phone number. If texts are okay, let them know. If there are best times to reach you, consider letting them know. If you will send a follow-up email (or are following up on an email you just sent), let them know to look for that, too.
There are many different opinions on how one should end a voicemail message. One common school of thought is to close with your contact phone number. Another idea is to end with a specific question (Agedleadstore suggests using a qualifying question for a problem that your agency is well-versed at solving). What works best for you will vary based on where you are at with the prospect, previous conversations, and good old trial and error.
Common voicemail mistakes
What can go wrong? When leaving a voicemail, apparently a lot… Here’s a list of some common voicemail missteps to watch out for.
- Not waiting for a second after the beep (which causes an awkward, cut-off start to your recorded message).
- Trying to sell. Remember, your goal is just to get them to call you back.
- Downplaying the importance or urgency. If you tell them there’s no rush to get back to you, then it must not be that important. And if it’s not that important, again, what is the point of calling?
- Overstating the urgency. In this business, relationships are important, and you never want to come across as tricky, dishonest, or somehow not on the up-and-up. Don’t tell someone they have to respond by a certain date if there is no basis for it.
- Not following up or building enough touchpoints.
- Not being prospect-centric. Nobody will care about you until you make them understand what you can do for them. What is your value proposition? How can you solve their problem?
- Not personalizing your message.
- Using jargon and buzzwords. Those come at the expense of being clear and concise.
- Coming across as pushy or desperate: According to Jeff Hoffman (via Hubspot), Phrases like, "Please call me back when you get this," "I'm really looking forward to hearing from you," and "Call me at your earliest convenience," are pushy, aggressive, and borderline desperate. Instead, he says, try, "Talk to you soon," "Thanks for your time," or a good old-fashioned, "Have a great day."
Voicemails are a piece of your agency's "new business machine," and they present an opportunity to extract better results from your new business efforts. You can test many variables in your voicemail efforts, including different scripts and best days of the week, and times of day to call. Trial and error (and tracking) are keys to making ongoing improvements to increase your voicemail messages' effectiveness over time.
A single voicemail may have little impact, but incorporating strategic voicemails into your new business efforts across the board can amplify your success. Take the time to make them count, and use the recommendations in this post to elevate your messages for better response.
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