To Leave or Not to Leave (a Voicemail Message)

The debate about whether to leave a voicemail message on a cold call is as old as voicemail itself. You all know that leaving a voicemail rarely results in a callback, no matter how great your technique. Statistics found on various sales web sites show a range of five- to ten-percent of voicemails are returned. So even if you are spectacular at your VMs, you might top out at 25-percent call backs. So is it really worth it?


I say yes. Definitely. You just need to change your reason and expectations for leaving that message. Instead of expecting a callback, use the voicemail as a friendly, personal, targeted billboard. If you do it right, the next time the person sees or hears your name, they’ll have some kind of positive brand recognition.


1) Short is best. Ten to twenty seconds is plenty. And you still need to capture attention in the very first seconds. This is even more important with a voicemail because people are more quick to hang up than in person.

2) Gather intelligence. Listen to the target and make note of their cadence, their level of formality, the pronunciation of their name, and any other details you might be able to pick up.

3) Take detailed notes. Not just of what message you are leaving, but also of the information you gather about the prospect. Being organized will save you time, duplication and even embarrassment on future calls.

4) Give them a reason to trust you. Instead of asking for a return call, let them know that you will call them at a specific time that week. Then, use your detailed organization to make sure you call at that exact time. Leave another short message, even just to show you are someone they can count on.

5) Be friendly and confident, without sounding arrogant. This is your chance to make a personal impression on your prospect. Know enough about your subject, which you need to do anyway, so that you can pique their interest with a common friend or a researched fact about their needs. A voicemail shouldn’t be your elevator pitch. It should be a quick, natural-sounding, personal billboard. It also can be used to present an email.


Change your expectations for the purpose of your voicemails and you will change the outcome of your voicemails. And in the end, you might even be one of the five- to ten-percent who gets a callback.


Incite: to stir up or provoke to action