How to leave a professional voicemail – 10 Easy steps

by Jeremy Powers on October 7, 2010

"Mickey Mouse telephone" "voicemail" "old telephone"

“You didn’t get the job because of your phone message!?” she asked.

She spun in my direction, “Jeremy, have you ever heard of such a thing?  I mean, what kind of a jerk decides not to work with you based on a voicemail?”

The wife of this husband and wife team was upset.  After weeks of trying to get the call, they had not been in the office when it came.  The husband had called back, and he got what he was afraid he would get:  voicemail.  He had stammered.  He had rambled.  He had apologized for rambling.  He had forgotten to leave a call back number. 

Two days later, he called the prospect again.  The prospect answered!  Success!  The prospect had contracted with another vendor.  Failure!  The husband’s spirits crashed.

“Look, you don’t have to tell me, but would you mind sharing why you went with ABC company?” the husband asked.

“I need a contractor I can communicate with.  When I got your voicemail, I realized I might want to look around for a more experienced installer.”

Your phone skills are part of your brand

I don’t know, for sure, if the rambling voicemail is why this businessman lost his chance.  I do know phone skills are part of your business’s brand.  A poorly left voicemail by the owner or top salesman will negatively impact how your company is perceived.

Can you admit you have left some poor voicemails?  If you have read this far into this article, I bet you have.  You are probably also willing to take the time necessary to improve. 

10 Easy steps to a professional voicemail

Here is how it is done.

1. Calm down – When you hear their voicemail, take a breath.  Relax.  You have your script right here. 

2. Listen – Some folks have special instructions in their recorded message.  If he wants you to leave your first and last name, make sure you do.  If she wants you to leave the date and time of your call, then do so.  Write down any specific instructions.

3. Start with a name – “This is John Smith.”  (Good start.)  Unless this message is for your spouse or one of your parents, always give both your first and last name.

4. Give an affiliation – Who are you with?  “This is John Smith, with ABC Company.”

5. Pause – Give the recipient time to absorb your name and company.  Just imagine if you were receiving the message, and trying to write it down.

6. Fulfill their special instructions – Remember, 10 seconds ago, when their recorded message asked you to leave the date and time.  You already forgot, didn’t you?  Now is the time for you to make sure you check that box.  “Today is July 2nd, and it is approximately 2pm eastern time.” 

7. Give a reason – Why are you calling?  Do not just ask them to call you back.  Nobody likes a mystery message.  “I am calling to answer your questions regarding our Acme whoopee cushion.”

8. Request a specific action – Are you going to try back later?  If so, tell them when you will be calling, and be specific.  Do you want them to call you?  You better give them at least one time that they can reach you.  Phone tag is frustrating.  “Please call me back today, July 2nd, before 5:30pm, or tomorrow July 3rd, between 9am and noon.”

9. S-L-O-W-L-Y Leave a number – If you actually want the other party to call you back, you had better make it possible.  They know who you are.  They know why you called.  They want to call you back.  Leave your phone number the same way you are accustomed to reading a phone number, in sections.  “I can be reached at 9, 9, 9.” PAUSE  “7,7,7.”  PAUSE  “1,2,3,4.” 

10. Repeat name and number – “Again, this is John Smith, with ABC Company.  My number is . . .” PAUSE “9, 9, 9 . . . 7, 7, 7 . . . 1, 2, 3, 4.”

I used to recommend thanking people for their time, but I do not do that anymore.  If the person’s time is important, then don’t waste it by thanking them for listening to your voicemail.

This is the entire message

“This is John Smith, with ABC Company.  PAUSE.  Today is July 2nd, and it is approximately 2pm eastern time.  PAUSE.  I am calling to answer your questions regarding our Acme whoopee cushion.  PAUSE.  Please call me back today, July 2nd, before 5:30pm, or tomorrow, July 3rd, between 9am and noon.  PAUSE.  I can be reached at 9, 9, 9 PAUSE.  7, 7, 7 PAUSE.  1, 2, 3, 4.  PAUSE. Again; this is John Smith, with ABC Company.  My number is 9, 9, 9 . . . 7, 7, 7 . . . 1, 2, 3, 4.”

Edit:  Thanks to the team at Duct Tape Marketing for the inspiration for today’s post.

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