Hi, you’ve reached the Terminator. Please leave a message…I’ll Be Back…
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Hi, you’ve reached the Terminator. Please leave a message…I’ll Be Back…

You can’t reason with it. You can’t schmooze it. You can’t send it candy or flowers. Even if you were the President of the United States, it wouldn’t put your call through.

Voice mail is the Terminator of gatekeepers – a mechanical sentry that won’t step aside for anybody – and it continues to be the No. 1 irritant for salespeople.

If you can’t communicate with customers, you can’t connect with them. If you can’t connect, you can’t identify their needs or grasp their buying motives. And if you can’t do that, you sure can’t sell to them.

Surrender? Never!
So what are you going to do? Surrender to the Terminator and let Skynet destroy humanity?

Heck no. You are The Resistance!

Consider these techniques from voice mail guru Dave Kahle to level the playing field between you and the Machine:

Expect it, plan for it
Voice mail is one of the most likely outcomes of your telephone call. Yet too many salespeople still seem to be at a loss when they encounter it.

Being unprepared for voice mail is just as deadly as being unprepared for a prospect – and just as unforgivable. Expect to get voice mail and have a game plan.

Create your ‘commercial’
You know how expensive it is to get a commercial on the air.

So why should you view voice mail as an obstacle? Think of it as an opportunity to leave a 30-second radio commercial, beamed directly to your prospect or customer.

Don’t waste your air time. Make the most of your commercial. What should be in it? What’s in any compelling sales presentation: An identification of a potential problem, a solution that delivers lots of benefits and a call to action.

Sell the call, not the product
However, a voice-mail message isn’t the time to sell your product or service.

Instead, sell the return call. Offer the recipient a compelling reason to call you back.

One way, for example, might be to leave something out of your message. If you provide too much information, the customer or prospect has no reason to call you back.

Don’t be misleading, but do leave them wanting more.

For example: “Ms. Jones, I understand that you’re opening a new facility next year. We just worked with another company on a similar project and we did something unusual that reduced their costs by 17%.”

“If you call me, I’d like to discuss it with you.”

Notice that you didn’t mention what the something was.

Or how about this:

“Ms. Jones, I was speaking to one of your colleagues who suggested I give you a call. She told me that you’re doing some amazing things with the new facility you’re designing, and I’d like to run an idea past you.”

Of course Ms. Jones wants to know which of her colleagues said such nice things about her. So she’ll be motivated to call you back.

Precondition the call
Think about how you can precondition the customer or prospect to return your call.

Be creative. There are many voice mail messages out there, and yours has to stand out.

One company, for example, sent qualified prospects a small box, wrapped in plain brown paper with a hand-written address. In the box was a sugar cube with a small printed message saying, “Keep it sweet.”

The second week, another box arrived with a lemon. “Don’t let it go sour,” the enclosed note said.

The third package contained tinsel and a note that said, “Make it sparkle.”

The fourth box had the salesperson’s business card. “I’ll be calling you for an appointment,” the note said.

Hokey? Maybe. But 100% of the prospects set an appointment. Even Skynet couldn’t manage that kind of success rate.

Adapted from “Take Your Sales Up-a-Notch” self-published by Dave Kahle.

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