Friday, June 13, 2008

Prison Break: Escaping from Voicemail Jail

All modern technology has its good aspects and its bad aspects - and none more than voicemail. Just ask the harried CEO with 34 messages after lunch, the inside sales rep who never gets to talk with anyone, or sales trainer Colleen Francis.

"We love voicemail because it lets us ignore calls we don't want to take, or prepare for calls we'd rather not take right now," says Francis. "We also hate it because it lets our prospects do the exact same thing - including ignoring calls from us! Like all business tools, voicemail can be a double-edged sword. If you know how to manage it, you'll never again have to blame voicemail for not closing enough business."

Here are Francis' tips to get out of voicemail jail free!

Never leave a voicemail message for someone who doesn't know you.
To the prospect, you're an anonymous caller. The chances of this stranger ever returning your call are, at best, about one or two percent! The only time you should ever leave a voicemail for a prospect is when you have been referred to them.

Voicemail should only be used as a last resort.
Too often, we give up as soon as voicemail kicks in on a call, either leaving a message (bad idea) or hanging up (better, but not great).

When in doubt, hit zero.
You owe it to yourself to try everything you can to either locate them, or at least find out something about them. One way to do this is to hit zero when a voicemail message kicks in. You'll likely get bounced to a receptionist, an executive assistant or a co-worker. Try asking the following question:

"I was hoping you could help me. I'm trying to reach Jane Smith, and her voicemail picked up. Do you know if she's in a meeting, or out for the rest of the day?"

Depending on the response you receive, you can then try one of the following strategies:

Strategy one:
Them: "She's in a meeting."
You: "Thanks for your help. Do you happen to know when she'll be available? Maybe it's best to call back then?"

Strategy two:
Them: "She's away today."
You: "Thanks for your help. Do you know if she will be back tomorrow?"

Strategy three:
If you speak to your prospect's personal assistant, ask if it's better to schedule a call in advance, and then have them set up a fifteen-minute appointment.

You can't make a sale if you don't talk to your prospect! Give these strategies a try, and let us know how you break out of voicemail jail.

Colleen Francis is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions. Sales and Marketing Management has ranked her one of the "5 most effective sales trainers in the market today." Subscribe to her online newsletter Engaging Ideas and you'll also receive 10 weeks of free sales tips.

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