Are You Leaving Voice Mail Messages that Lose Business?

Lee Polevoi by Lee Polevoi on June 11, 2012
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Think about all the voice mail messages you receive from people who mumble or speak too quickly or never get to the point. Some even forget to leave a number for returning their call. What’s worse is the impression they leave of the caller — that he or she is disorganized, sloppy, even unprofessional. Not someone you’d like to do business with, right?

So, what impressions do your voice mails leave? Whether your message is meant for an employee, a business associate, or a potential customer, follow these basic principles to ensure that you’re projecting the right image:

  1. Write it down. The best salespeople use scripts, and this tactic works well for small-business owners, too. Your script should include the reason for your call, the problem your customer is dealing with, and the solution your business offers. If your solution has helped others in a similar industry, you can mention that, too. Make it about them, not you. Rehearse what you’d like to say a couple of times, omitting all unnecessary words. Avoid leaving spontaneous messages full of “ums” and “uhs,” repetitive details, and a lack of purpose — all of which are ideal reasons for someone to delete your voice mail before hearing it out.
  2. Keep it short and simple. One topic per voice mail is sufficient. Although the jury is still out on the most effective length of a voice mail, everyone seems to agree that less than 30 seconds is ideal and 60 seconds is the max.
  3. Provide contact information. Give your name and telephone number at the beginning of the message and repeat your number at the end. If your name, business, or product involves difficult or unusual wording, spell things out.
  4. Check your tone. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Salespeople and others who work phones for a living smile when they’re talking and strive to be enthusiastic at all times. (Tip: Try standing up while you talk, rather than sitting at a desk.) Leave yourself a voice mail message and listen carefully to how you sound. Do you sound bored or upbeat? Make adjustments, if needed.
  5. Give thanks. Remember to say “thank you” before ending your message with your phone number. (See #3.)
  6. Update your outgoing voice mail recording. While you’re at it, check the tone and content of your own voice mail greeting. Make sure it includes your name and the name of your business. Politely ask for the caller’s name, message, and call-back number. If you’re going to be out of the office for a prolonged period of time, add the phone number of an assistant or another employee. You might offer the option of skipping your greeting altogether; many voice mail systems allow callers to press a particular key to go straight to voice mail.

The messages you leave for customers and others say a lot about who you are. Never overlook an opportunity to make a good impression!

Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.

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