Escaping Voicemail, the Sales Professional’s Jail

Anyone who has ever been in sales, whether it is products or services, knows the trials and tribulations of sales as a “numbers” game. In order to be successful at the sales game, the common theory is: the more people you contact, the better your chances of closing the business, and getting the sale.

It is often the initial contact that is the most challenging and often frustrating aspect of sales especially during “cold calling”. Let’s face it, technology, as much as it has helped streamline communications, has made sales an increasingly difficult profession. Sales professionals are forced to think creatively or as many sales managers advise, “think out of the box” to be able to attract an audience to sell their product or service. You may have the best product or service in the world, or be the best negotiator or “closer” the sales industry has ever seen, but if you cannot establish the initial appointment with your potential client, you may never get a chance to deliver your pitch.

Voicemail has become the new “gatekeeper”, often complimenting and even replacing the mean and nasty receptionist, whose job it is to prevent solicitors from meeting with potential clients. It is very easy for a potential buyer of goods or services to screen calls or to hide behind their voicemail, thus hindering an outside salesperson’s ability to close the deal. Penetrating or escaping voicemail and actually getting that first appointment can be one of the biggest challenges toward making enough contacts to make the sales numbers game work for you. Fortunately, there are some creative techniques that I have utilized during a successful 10 yr. career in both sales and sales management, that can help you reach a live voice, often the decision maker, instead of getting caught in “voicemail jail”:

1) Deliver your voicemail pitch-This is often your best opportunity to sell yourself and/or your company. Write down a sales pitch about 30 seconds total. Anything longer will often be deleted. Think of it as a 30 second commercial about you, which is the reason why people buy from you in the first place. You can read it like a script, but make sure it sounds sincere and not rehearsed. Also be sure to utilize a strong attention getter or an appeal to your prospective client’s business. Perhaps start with a question that hooks them like “What would it mean to you if you were able to reduce your budget expenses by over X % (percentage) in the next year” or “What if I told you I could increase your profits by $ Y (dollar amount) during the next quarter?” Just be sure that your product and service can do what it says, or it could come back to haunt you later.

2) Opt out of voicemail and have them paged-Just like your client, your time is valuable also. After all, you are a sales professional, someone who has something truly great that is going to help your client and make their life easier. Many times you can hit 0 to reach an operator to have the person you seek paged.

3) Confirm a follow-up call-Inform them via voicemail that you will be calling back at a specific time. Give them a choice of times but try to call them both of those times. Make sure that they are both different times of the day so they are not confined to a particular time (ie: “I will try calling you back on Wednesday at 10:30 AM or Thursday at 2:30 PM to learn more about your challenges and how XYZ Company can help you resolve them”). Try not to call early Monday mornings or on Friday afternoons as these are often times when potential clients are either in meetings, catching up on weekends, or getting ready to go home.

4) Hang up and call back-This is effective especially with less sophisticated voicemail systems. Some times, the call goes into a queue and then the 2nd call can often get through to the person you are trying to reach.

5) Make a voicemail appointment-A risky but occasionally effective technique, especially for a potential client that is too busy or repeatedly elusive. You actually set and confirm an appointment with them on their voicemail with the intention of meeting with them. Similar to #3 but letting them know you will be stopping by their office on either one of those days. Leave them your number to give them a chance to call you back if it doesn’t work out with their busy schedule. Tell them you will be in the area making a call with another client and that you will stop by specifically at 11:00 AM or 2:30 PM on such and such day. One of several things will happen in this case: A) They will find you obnoxious and refuse to meet with you, thus letting the previously mentioned mean and nasty “gatekeeper” to instruct you to leave your information at the front desk or to go away. B) They will be curious and actually meet with you to discuss your proposal. C) They will call you back or come up to talk to you when you stop by, giving you the opportunity to schedule a mutually convenient appointment time at a later date. On many occasions, I have had people apologize to me for not being able to make the appointment that I set. The latter response will generally increase your chances to close the deal.

6) Be persistent-Try to call them periodically at different times a day. If you have tried mostly in afternoons, try catching them in the morning and vice versa. Try them during their lunch hour just in case they are not able to get out. Don’t leave a voicemail everytime you call but alternate perhaps on every 2 or 3 calls. It lets them know that you are trying to reach them, that you have something important for them, and that you care about them and their business.

The important thing to remember is that there is no formula for success for securing sales appointments, as it is definitely a numbers game. But there are ways to circumvent obstacles like voicemail and those “mean & nasty” gatekeepers that prevent you from becoming successful. The absolute key factor to any of the aforementioned techniques to work is to exude confidence in yourself and what you sell. Practice, rehearse, and vary your routine so that you find what methods work and those that don’t work. Sometimes you will find that what may not work for one person, may often work for someone else. Don’t allow voicemail jail to prevent you from getting the sale. Remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

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