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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Voicemail is an inevitable part of cold calling.

In the US it's got to ridiculous levels of 80% - 90% of calls ending in voicemail (after you've worked your way through the labyrinth of dial-by-name options).

Fortunately, in the UK, it's still less than 50% for most campaigns.

Of course, it's highly dependent on the level of decision maker you are calling. Generally, when you are at board level you are dealing with PA's rather than voicemail, which needs a completely different strategy.

But, at 50% of all calls ending in voicemail you'd think that telesales was pretty much impossible, right?

Well, it all depends on your outlook.

You can either take the old-school sales view which is to "never leave a message", in which case it's a waste of time.

Or, you can learn to love the voicemail and find a way of using it to your advantage.

When we run a lead generation campaign for a client we always have a strategy for dealing with voicemail. From the message that we leave through to how we integrate it with other contact channels (such as emails) our view is that each call that ends in a voicemail is an opportunity to make contact.

Now, of course, we're not talking about leaving a message and expecting them to call you back. Sure, there are some "tricks" that you can use to get people to phone you back. And depending on the campaign you might want to use these. But they all come with a health warning and potential for blowback.

For me, this approach is more likely to burn a contact.

It's better to use the voicemail as a bridge to your next contact (which could be an email) rather than to see it as a one time deal to get them to call you back.

Our approach is about leaving a brief message that positions your business and why we're calling them, tell them what we're doing next (ie: sending an email, calling back tomorrow, etc) and then follow through and do it. Sure, leave a number for them to call, but be clear about what you're doing next.

Why do we do this?

Firstly, we're using the voicemail as a "touch". Everyone in sales and marketing knows that to some degree it's a numbers game. You need so many touches before you get anywhere. So let's get one in now.

It takes us less than 30 seconds to leave a voicemail and ping a pre-prepared email.

If we make 100 calls a day and 40 are voicemail that's 40 extra touches we've had compared with someone from the "never leave a voicemail" camp. They do add up.

Also, we're looking to bridge from a completely unexpected cold call to something a little warmer. Why? Because half the battle of a cold call is to get over the knee-jerk reaction that people hate cold calls.

This second point divides a lot of sales people. Many still want to launch a surprise attack as they think the prospect will be defenceless to their superior sales skills. In my experience, hitting them completely cold guarantees that their defences will be up.

Why do so many companies send out a sales letter before a cold call? To warm them up. Well, think of voicemail as your opportunity to communicate one-to-one with the prospect before you call them.

Everyone checks their voicemails.

So, think of voicemail as an opportunity to improve strike rate and engage with your target market. Done correctly it can significantly improve the ROI of your telesales campaign.

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Posted by: David Regler @ 3:03 pm |   | Links to this post  

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