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Leave a Better Voice Mail Message

By Scott T. Love
Posted Monday, January 31, 2005

Yesterday I received a call from a financial planner named Richard doing a cold call. My policy is to always return those calls which help me to understand why I would personally benefit from doing business with a sales person. This one didn’t, so it ended up getting deleted.

This is what he said.

“Hello, Scott. My name is Richard ______ and I’m with ABC Financial in Phoenix, Arizona. We do 401K’s for employers. My number is 480-555-1212. Please call me back.”

That was it. Nothing compelling. No benefit for me in there somewhere. Nothing to incite me to return the call.

The next time you are making a cold call and leaving a message for a prospect, consider these four steps in the call.

First, state your name and your phone number first. The prospect usually has a pen in his or her hand when checking voice mail, so if you start with your phone number at least you’ll get on the list of people whose calls might get returned.

Second, tell him what is unique about your firm. This sales person could have said something like “Our business takes the headache out of financial management for companies by being the sole outsource provider of employee investment programs. In other words, we do all the work, and make you look like a hero with your employees.” Within your unique selling proposition, or elevator speech, there must be a personal benefit for the end user. For example, when I leave a message for a sales manager for my sales training, I say “I improve sales performance of organizations by showing sales reps how to become more disciplined, more focused, and how to sell from the heart.” The focus of my USP is on them, not me. I start with their benefit, and then tell them how I do it. The personal benefit of your features is more important than your features, and nobody cares what you do, only how that benefits them.

Third, drop a name or two. Use Robert Cialdini’s principle of social proof in getting your calls returned. In his book Influence: Science and Practice, Dr. Cialdini explains the six reasons why people are influenced and puts them in the form of malleable principles. (For a free special report outlining those six principles, email me at and I’ll send you the executive summary). “We work with organizations such as Pineapple Computers…” If you work with a competitor of your prospect, state that name in your voice mail. Remember that trust is a byproduct of rapport, and rapport is a byproduct of common areas of interest. By establishing a common bond with someone you have never even talked with before, you are leveraging the principles of social proof and rapport to increase the likelihood of a call back.

Fourth, give them a time to call back, such as between three and five o’clock. This makes you sound busy, and if you are busy you are important.

Bonus tip: Tell them that if you don’t hear from them by Wednesday (assuming it’s a Monday), then tell them that you will put another call in to them on that day. This keeps you from appearing desperate and increases the likelihood of a call back because that person knows that you are serious about talking with them.

And if you every run across a guy named Richard in Phoenix who does financial planning, please forward this article to him.

Copyright © 2004 Scott Love

About the Author
Scott Love improves employee performance by showing managers how to put meaning back into work, how to build authentic employee motivation, and how to lead. To have him speak at your annual franchise, association, or corporate meeting, call him at 828-225-7700. To access his leadership resources and archive of leadership articles, visit (


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