Voice-mail #35: Now what should I say?
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Voice-mail #35: Now what should I say?

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Adrian Miller, owner of Adrian Miller Sales Training in Port Washington, NY, offers some terrific insights on how to stay connected with buyers even when you can’t get past their voice mail.

I’d identified a solid prospect: a good-sized company with healthy budgets and a problem I could help solve.

I provide sales training, and I’d learned that this company desperately needed help with sales and service. I identified the key decision maker – let’s call him Joe – and dialed his direct number.

That was call #1.

I can’t take your call…
I didn’t get Joe; I got his voice mail. So I left a message explaining who I was and why I was calling. I promised to follow up and left my number.

After several follow-up calls also went to Joe’s voice mail, I looked for another way into the company. I spoke to the receptionist, assistants, other execs. They all told me I had to talk to Joe.

After several more weeks of calling, Joe still hadn’t picked up.

Now, there comes a time when you have to decide whether a prospect is still worth pursuing. In this case, I stuck with it because Joe remained a high-value prospect. But after so many calls, it was challenging to find new things to say. It was like having a conversation with someone who’s not listening.

The last thing I wanted was to leave a string of annoying “just touching base” messages that would make Joe reach for the delete button. Each message had to be unique, timely and valuable.

The three I’s
I use an approach to voice mail I call the three “I’s” – information, invitations and introductions.

Sometimes I’d leave a message passing along some information I’d learned about Joe’s company or his industry – news about his competitors, or an industry trend highlighted in a trade article.

Other times I’d invite him to an event I thought he might find interesting. “There’s a terrific speaker at next week’s trade show in the Javits Center,” I’d say. “Let me know if you’d like to attend.”

Still other times, I’d offer to introduce Joe to people who I thought it would be worthwhile for him to know – potential customers, for example.

36th time’s the charm
Over the next few months, I left Joe 35 voice mails. On the 36th call, he picked up the phone.

I was surprised. But he acted like this conversation was the most natural thing in the world. “I got your messages,” Joe said. “I just haven’t had a chance to call you back. Why don’t you come in next week and we’ll talk?”

It really was that easy. When we met, he told me how much he admired my persistence. “Teach my people how to do that,” he said.

It took discipline and effort to keep after Joe. But it didn’t take as much time as it seemed. In all, I probably spent nine or ten hours over several months. That turned out to be a solid investment: Joe became one of my biggest clients for years, until the company he worked for was sold.

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