How To Nail Your Sales Voicemail Routine [Voicemail Isn’t Dead]

Connect even when they can't pick up.

All this talk about sales techniques dying every six months is a bit draining.

Quick, here’s the answer. Sales voicemail is not dead. Nothing is dead, for that matter. Everything that died—cold email, cold call, outside sales, and the long long list in sales technique cemetery—aren’t really dead.

So, voicemails. What gives?

Sales representatives are wary of leaving voicemails to prospects because (1) they don’t believe voicemails work, and (2) they think the prospect will view them as a pest if they left a message.

Some people also argue that voicemails have been entirely replaced by more technologically advanced means of communication: email and IM through LinkedIn and other social media networks.

But, tell me, don’t you believe that one channel unused is one channel wasted?

Sure, the sales climate is so much different today, but voicemail still offers unique value as a channel precisely because not a lot of people are using it. You’ll be separated from pack.

It’s true. You can come off as a pesky telemarketer if you have no idea what you’re doing. It’s not a throw all things and see what sticks kind of situation.

There are best practices, and that’s what we’re going to talk about in this post.

Don’t go in unprepared

You prepare extensively for that moment you actually get the prospect on the phone—but often, you neglect getting ready and knowing what to say when you get put to voicemail. This is a gross mistake and you are probably losing big opportunities because of unpreparedness.

Whether you’re prospecting or doing a first touch on a qualified lead, preparation cannot be overstated.

Here’s a checklist of what you should know about your prospect/lead before making that call:

☎ Professional background: how many years has the contact been with the company, educational background, field of expertise, professional achievements and citations
☎ Any mutual connections: relationship with existing clients, professional contacts
☎ Job description and responsibilities: scope of work, day to day tasks at current company, history with current company
☎ Recent professional activity: promotions, commendations, new hires
☎ Other info: pain points, hobbies, interests

☎ Industry news, recent funding, partnerships, announcements, new products
☎ Story and organizational make-up
☎ Competitors
☎ Most profitable services and products
☎ Investors
☎ Open positions

These are obtainable through online research and prospecting software.

Why are these important to know?

Well, in the first place, you should thoroughly prepare for each call since you don’t know when the prospect will pick up. Knowing all this is important so you can maintain confidence when put through a voicemail.

It may sound weird but to many salespeople, recording a message through an answering machine is more daunting than talking to a live person. There’s no buildup, no one to build rapport from and you’re given a very limited amount of time.

This is also the reason why you have to create loose voicemail scripts and practice them.

Keep your sales voicemail length between 20 and 30 seconds

Leave a message that’s straight to the point.

The objective is to make a message that’s worthwhile to listen to. If it’s too short, you might come across as unserious or can’t be bothered. The prospect might also think that you’re just going through daily motions and don’t really mean to be in contact with them. On the other hand, you don’t want to leave a voice message that will waste your prospect’s time.

Mobile phones and handsets usually display the voice messages’ length even before they’re played. This means prospects can just delete your message without listening to them just by judging the length.

Don’t start with the usual
“I’m [Your Name] from [Your Company]”

People are generally unwelcoming of cold calls, much more cold sales calls.

If you start with your name and company, what’s the incentive for the prospect? Why would they continue listening to the message? When you begin this way, you “out” the motive of the call without showing first that you actually have something valuable to say.

Don’t waste the first few seconds by saying something that actually works against you.

Here are some alternative ideas:

1. Congratulate them for a news mention or some update within their business.

“Hello Bob! Congratulations on your recent mention in the news!”

2. Flatter them with a (supported) compliment.

“Hi Bob! Great work on [Company name]’s recent growth numbers!”

3. Go straight to the reason. It is a sales call but make sure the intro is solid and strong.

“Hi Bob. What would it mean if you could grow [Company name]’s revenue by X in Y years?”

Personalize your sales voicemails

Address your prospect using their first name. Don’t be afraid to get comfortable.

Your prospects receive a lot of voicemails but it’s not often that they get someone from the other side that actually speaks to them instead of speaking at them.

Know how you can personalize your voicemails further?

Provide context for your call. Reference something they did or something in their company, much like the recent news intro. Use a similar approach and build on that.If you got their contact through a different channel like your company blog or a request for information, by all means, say that.

Don’t leave a voicemail identical to emails you send

You’re contacting the same prospects across different channels, but you should never have the same exact message for them on each one. If you’re sending an email to a prospect and also calling them, make sure that you note the sequence and reference the previous one when making the latest contact.

Doing this puts a human element in your outreach. This helps to not make your prospect think their number and email are just fed into a program, and that the calls and emails are automatically dished out.

Project energy but don’t sell

Sales reps are often on sales mode 24/7, and that kind of energy is really more of an asset than anything else. For voicemails, however, taking the entirety of a message and making it into a pitch is typically a mistake. Assuming it’s your first touch, no matter how much research you’ve done on a prospect, you can’t possibly pin down what your prospect exactly needs yet.

Save your pitch for the real call. What you have to do at the moment is to double up on benefits and value. That’s what they need and want to hear. Not a pitch.

Of course, your energy is heard through your voice. Your vocal “disposition” reflects on your company and can make you shine amongst many sales reps. Project a winner’s attitude and make the prospect want to call you back or take another call.

If you’re a bit out of it, take a break and pump yourself up before leaving more voicemails. It’s very important that you’re in a positive mood when you make these calls as it can be frustrating.


Don’t worry, if you mess up a call, you always have the option of waiting out the full recording and prompt. At the end of the prompt, just press the pound sign (#). That allows you to re-record your message. The downside to this is if the prospect is just there not picking up but listening to messages through speakerphone, they will hear all your “takes.” Better practice before calling—script, energy and all!

Time your calls well

Ideally, you’re getting prospects on the phone more than you get put to voicemail. When you’ve figured out which times are best for calling, plan around that.

However, getting all prospects on the phone is nearly impossible. There will be people who are busy doing something else or can’t come to the phone the moment you dialed out. Here are some good timing tips for voicemails from Mark Hunter:

☎ No voicemails at odd hours of the night.
☎ The best hours to leave voicemail messages are from 6:45 AM to 8:00 AM and from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM.
☎ Voicemails recorded in on a Friday are least likely to be returned.
☎ Mondays are reserved for their high-priority calls and appointments.

Looking at these tips, it seems like you need to find the balance between choosing a time that prospects are engaged in work and are in “taking calls mode” while not being too busy. Tuesdays and Wednesday are great for calls.

Provide one contact point for responses

If you’re prompting the prospect to contact you, provide only one channel and make sure you leave the details clear. If you choose to be contacted by phone, state your number slowly. Same applies with email and other means. Don’t forget to repeat the information.

This centers the action in one direction and makes it likelier for your prospect to return your call.

Create a reason for them to contact you back

It’s silly to expect a callback just because you called them. You’re not friends and there’s no incentive to them upfront. To get around this situation, make sure you prompt them to call you back because they have a reason to. Hook them in with a juicy benefit that they won’t be able to resist.

Leave a voicemail

Most important of all is to actually leave a voice message. There are a lot of sales professionals who just hangup when put through a recording. Know what’s the problem with this? All phones have caller IDs.

Sure, if you hangup once, you might be off the hook. The prospect won’t notice that someone called and didn’t leave a message.

What happens if the prospect is still unavailable the next time you call?

You guessed it. They will identify you as someone who really doesn’t have anything urgent or important to say. When you leave a voice message, there is urgency. There is effort. Something prospects appreciate when handled correctly.

Ready to nail your voicemails? Have tips you want to share? Comment below!

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Dan Sincavage

Dan is a Co-Founder of Tenfold and currently serves as the Chief Strategy Officer. Dan oversees the Tenfold sales organization, manages strategic partner relationships and works with key enterprise accounts to ensure their success with the Tenfold platform.

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