In many recent trainings, the subject of voicemails is coming up as a challenge. Seems many sales professionals are quite conflicted on whether leaving voicemails is a good idea. After opening a few posts on the subject on social media and seeing the responses and comments, I think it is time to restate the proper approach on voicemails.

Firstly, to clarify, I differentiate two types of voicemails. There are prospecting voicemails, and there is everything else.

If you are NOT in a cold prospecting scenario, then I really think it comes down to personal preference if you leave voicemails or not. Current clients, past clients, warm referrals, introductions, service and post sale follow up etc. Leave voicemails to your heart’s desire (as long as you leave a good voicemail).

When it comes to cold prospecting, I recommend the following two rules in regards to leaving voicemails.

Rule 1: Don’t leave voicemails

Rule 2: See rule 1

I DO NOT leave voicemails to anyone whom I don’t already know. Not only is the call return pathetically low, but on top of that the sales psychology is completely wrong.

Here’s what I mean:
– When someone leaves me a voicemail, it usually ends with some form “here’s my number, call me back”- The caller just added an item to my already full todo list, and I don’t even know them. This makes me feel obligated (bad energy)
– Most likely, since I don’t know them I don’t call back. This makes me feel like I’m not doing something, which they added to my todo list, and again, I don’t know them. (more bad energy)
– Then when they call me again and by any luck reach me, I’m now feeling guilty about not doing something, that THEY added to my todo list, and again, I DON’T KNOW THEM. (a bad energy cherry on top on bad energy)

That’s a lot of bad energy to overcome in order to gain trust, which they need to make a sale or even get an appointment. Do I really want to embrace something with such a downside, that has a very low upside potential?

Now, when I discuss this in a sales training, I always get the person(s) who state, “actually, I leave voicemails and people call me back all the time!” Then I ask if those are existing customers or cold calling prospects, and what inevitably comes back is:

– These are past or existing clients, not cold calls

– “call me back all the time” actually means 1/100 or 1/1000 times

– There was some element of deception/confusion in the voicemail

– The client has done business with another department in the company and thinks the call has to do with that

Recent studies and even the comments I got on my posts reveal that many people don’t even check, must less respond to voicemails anymore. Unless you’re giving away free money (in which case you work in distribution not sales) the cold hard truth is that voicemail DOES NOT convert, but every time you leave one, you give away information that makes it easier to screen you out. That’s a terrible ROI. Why would you do that to yourself?

About 10 years ago, I was doing heavy cold calling work and I decided to really test out this idea. I developed 13 different voicemail scripts and had my team leave those scripts on thousands of occasions over a one year period.

12 of the 13 scripts converted at the same pathetically low rate (about 1/10th of 1% valid return calls). THAT WAS 10 YEARS AGO!!! Does anyone think voicemail use has gone up in 10 years?

The 13th script converted slightly better (2/10th of 1%), but still really low overall. And to boot it was a highly deceptive and manipulative.
Hey Rob, this is Julien. My cell is ________.  The reason I really need to hear back from you is….<hang up>”. Not really an ideal way to start a conversation. About a third of the call backs thought it had to do with an emergency (stolen CC number of kid at school). I avoid deception and lying as a way to open a business relationship.

Again, I expect many might disagree with me on this, but no one had ever been able to show me numbers that back the idea of leaving voicemails to cold prospects. Data set after data set backs my approach. Call back, call more often, call at different times of day. Stop putting yourself in voicemail jail. Shawshank your way out of that.