1. Start with yourself. Think back to the last time you returned from vacation and ten voicemails were waiting for you. QUESTION: Whom did you call back first? What made you want to – or not want to – call certain people back? And which of the ten voicemails did you delete within two seconds of the message starting? 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. Punch employers 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. Unbelievable. 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 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 employers 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?
3. 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’s, getting my iPhone fixed or calling tech support.
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 approached, 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. And I’m challenging you to use this phrase on the phone as often as possible. It works. Whom are you asking for help?
4. 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 a 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?
5. 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 potential employers 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?
6. 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 crappy 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?
7. Honesty gets called back. Make sure your voicemail message ACTUALLY has something to do with why you called. Give employers a valid reason for your persistence. Don’t leave 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.
Otherwise 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?