Going Down the Voicemail Abyss

The Situation

Joanne is a salesperson who does business from time to time with Martina. Joanne’s company is running some sales specials that she thinks will interest Martina. The trouble is, Martina screens her phone calls by letting them go to voicemail — not an uncommon practice these days. Apparently, she never picks up.


Joanne has been leaving voicemails like this: “Hi Martina, it’s Joanne Roberts from Bigelow Industries. I called Tuesday, but didn’t hear back from you. I just don’t want you to miss out on something special that I’d like to tell you about. So, please get back to me at (number).”

So far, Martina hasn’t called back. Joanne has also sent Martina several e-mails, all without a response. Joanne feels frustrated that Martina doesn’t call back, since it’s in her best interest. Joanne wants to be Q4 proactive in her sales approach, but she isn’t sure how to handle being sidelined by Martina’s phone tactics. How should she manage the voicemail wall?

Today’s Sales Environment

As you know, it’s a fact of business life that people use voicemail to screen calls. Don’t take it personally. Customers or prospects may view this practice as a way to manage their time — they determine when to have the conversation — or whether to have it at all!


Let Them Hear Benefits

The Q4 needs-based concept that Joanne should keep in mind is benefits, benefits, benefits to the customer. Her voicemail messages should be carefully worked out to put specific, irresistible benefits in Martina’s ear. First, she should skip any reminders to Martina that she hasn’t returned the call yet (“I called Tuesday but didn’t hear back from you.”) That won’t accomplish anything, and it’s not a benefit to the listener.


Also, Joanne should not tease the benefit for Martina to call back by vaguely mentioning “something special” for her. She should lay it out: “Martina, I hope we can talk very soon. For a limited time, my company has a special that would save you thirty percent on the items you ordered from us last quarter. Thirty percent! But you have to let me know by Friday.”


This benefit is specific, obvious, and personalized to appeal to Martina. It has urgency, too. Of course, the penalty for not acting has to be true if you want to maintain Q4 trust.


Make sure your voicemails are short, or the recipient may not stick around for the entire message. But what if Joanne has three or four great sale items that could serve as benefits? If Martina doesn’t respond to the first message, Joanne should call back again with a different specific benefit, and so on.


Worth Doing?

Joanne has concerns that it feels unprofessional to “chase after” Martina, who isn’t calling back. Obviously, at a certain point, Joanne will have to move on. The amount of time she spends should be measured partly by what it’s worth if she succeeds with this person. Is this a major player in her industry? Think of how much trouble you would go to in order to land a meeting with a key prospect. You don’t have to grovel — just plan out your personalized benefits and mention them in a compelling way. Persistence pays off.