1. Start with yourself. Think back to the last time you returned from vacation. Ten voicemails were waiting for you. QUESTION: Whom did you call back first? What made you want to – or not want to – call that person back? And which of the ten voicemails did you delete within two seconds of hearing the message? This baseline exercise is the perfect way to enter into the caller mindset. Plus it helps you pinpoint voicemail behaviors that turn even YOU off. What voicemails do it for you?
2. Don’t overlook the motivational ability of self-interest. It’s important to remember that the person you’re calling does NOT care about you. He cares about money, sex and happiness. That’s it. And if your voicemail doesn’t help him get more of any of those things – or less of the opposite – consider your message deleted. For that reason, you need to embrace a few truths about the person you’re calling. This will help you tailor your approach accordingly. Spend some time thinking about these self-interest questions as they pertain to your customers:
o What drives this person?
o What is this person’s success seed?
o What is the key to this person’s heart?
o Who does this person need to look good for?
o What does this person’s self-interest hinge upon?
o Who can hurt this person the most, and how can I address that?
o What could I say in my voicemail that would absolutely piss this person off more than anything?
Remember: Nobody cares about you. How do your voicemails appeal to the other person’s self-interest?
3. Punch people in the face with your purpose. I can’t begin to count the number of voicemails I receive every week from complete strangers who leave nothing but their name and number. Tragically, that’s their entire message. So, naturally, I delete their voicemails immediately. For one simple reason: No call to action = No call back. Period. And frankly, I feel kind of bad doing so. And I’m sure I’ve missed out on connecting with some great people. But I’m a busy guy. And if first-time callers aren’t respectful and intelligent enough to state their purpose within five seconds of leaving a message, they haven’t earned the right to be called back. So, the secret for YOUR voicemails is to have a purpose (not an agenda, but a purpose) … and to punch people in the face with that purpose gently and immediately. Otherwise people are going to think, “Next…!” Are you demonstrating a valid reason for your persistence?
4. Pamper their ego. It’s not enough to make people feel “valued” and “special” and “important.” Go one step further. Make them feel essential. As if you couldn’t live or make a move without them. Try Phrases That Payses like:
o “I need your opinion on this idea…”
o “You’re the first person I had to tell this story to…”
o “I quoted you on my blog today and got lots of comments!”
o “Dude, I’ve got a story that ONLY you would appreciate…”
o “I just gave you a referral – call me back and I’ll fill you in.”
o “Your ears must be ringing – I was talking about you yesterday!”
o “I’ve been thinking a lot about out conversation from last week, and I wrote out a list of five ways to make your problem go away. Gimme a holler when you can, or email me at…”
Your phone WILL ring. How are you making people feel essential?
5. Appeal to their inherent helpful nature. “I need your help.” Those four words are a simple, yet powerful motivator of human engagement and motivation. I use them every day right before I’m about to make ANY request, i.e., returning a shirt to Nordstrom, getting my iPhone fixed or calling tech support. Because in my experience, you’re almost ALWAYS guaranteed better service if you frame your request in this way. In addition to appealing to a human being’s helpful side, these four words also work because they’re: (1) positive, (2) honor the person you’ve reached out to, and (3) demonstrate your humility and vulnerability. Kind of hard to reject someone like that! Besides, what’s the other person gonna say? “You need MY help? Sorry pal. Ask someone who give a shit.” Unless you live in Philly, doubtful. So, I’m challenging you to use this phrase on the phone as often as possible. It works. Whom are you asking for help?
6. Help people maintain a sense of control. In the psychology manual, The Handbook of Competence and Motivation, the authors’ research proved on several occasions that human beings operate out of a model to feel autonomous and in control of their environment and actions. Thus: The feeling of being in control is a basic human need. It’s right up there with “Feeling Accepted,” “Feeling Secure” and “Watching American Idol.” So, your challenge is to leave a voicemail message that speaks to that need. For example, you could offer a few choices of good times to call you back. Or give additional options for contacting you besides the phone, i.e., fax, email or text. Another approach is to say, ”I need your approval on something…” or “I’ve got an awesome idea, and I wanted to get your permission before I made my move.” This not only makes them feel in control, but also makes them feel essential. How can I appeal to this person’s need to feel in control of her own life?
7. Deliver (and dangle) value. Write a list of fifty practical strategies your customer can use TODAY to grow his business. Next, every time you call, leave two of those strategies as your voicemail message. Then, here’s the best part: You tell the customer to call you back if she wants the third one. Not only will she call you back, she’ll play your message over the PA system for everyone in her office. Because you didn’t leave a voicemail – you delivered a twenty-second mini teleseminar. Wow. CAUTION: Make sure that the strategies on your list have nothing to do with you, your product or your company. You can’t just write, “#27: Hire me!” or “#41: Buy fifteen of my copiers!” as items on your list, smart guy. Does your message leave the impression of value or vanity in the mind of the customer?
8. Mix the medium. Not everyone prefers communicating over the phone. Especially people born after 1978. And since that Gen X/Y/Millennial population is slowly starting to saturate the workforce (and take over the world, I might add) it’s essential to be cognizant of the varying communication preferences of your customers. So, at the end of your voicemail, remind people that they can always reach you by email for a quicker response. This approach increases your accessibility and appeals to a wider audience – even older generations. What’s more, emailing is a low-pressure, non-threatening medium of communication that gives people more time to carefully craft their words. Try this approach and you’ll be amazed how many people will email back instead of calling back. How reachable are you?
9. Speak with Meaningful Concrete Immediacy (MCI). Here’s how: First, make sure your message appeals to the aforementioned self-interest of the caller (meaningful). That means no talking about you. That means no telling stories. Second, give people the meat (compactness). That means no sixty-second voicemail dissertations. That means no incessant rambling about how spotty your cell phone reception is. And finally, be actionable (immediacy). That means reach through the phone line, grab them by the lapel, and tell them exactly what you want them to do. How much MCI do your voicemails contain?
10. Honesty gets called back. Make sure your voicemail message ACTUALLY has something to do with why you called. Give people a valid reason for your persistence. Don’t use some manipulative persuasion technique disguised as a voicemail that you learned from that outdated book on cold calling you bought at the YMCA book fair for fifty cents. Customers will think your voicemail is just some cute trick to get them to call you back. Nobody like being bait and switched like that. “Press three to delete this message.” Click. How many calls are you missing because you’re not branding your honesty?