I’ve previously posted an easy exercise to improve your voicemails – have reps leave voicemails on your phone and allow reps to hear them back as well as transcribe them to demonstrate flaws and share best practices. Here’s more detail about how to use the results to coach reps to improved technique.

When conducting this challenge in the past, the most surprising thing I learned in this exercise was that my reps’ articulation was lacking. It’s essential to talk slowly and clearly in a voice mail. I listened to each call up to 10 times to be able to transcribe it word for word. A customer wouldn’t need every single word, but it shows that even when you are really trying hard to catch information, you can miss it. I found myself appreciating:

  • Repeating the phone number
  • Spelling name and/or email address including things like “S as in Sam”
  • Telling me what the purpose of the call was and then referring back to it at end of message
  • Saying “watch for my email today where I’ll give you all this information again.” Now the listener can relax and know they don’t have to decode every word.

Moving on to scripting, let me break down a voice mail forensically to see if we can find the four things we want in a good voice mail:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do for schools or more specifically, educators with my job title?
  3. What is something of value that you can do for me?
  4. What should I do next?

Now you get to grade a sample voicemail giving one point for each of those key ingredients. I’m not usually this lucky, but the most recent time I ran this sales exercise, right in the middle of my messages from the reps, came a voice mail from a salesman named (not making this up) Hunter. What a gift. I mean, if I was writing a fake story about a prospector, I would absolutely name him Hunter (as opposed to Farmer). I listened to his call once and wrote down what I caught. I changed his company name to protect the poorly trained.

Hey Julie it’s Hunter speaking over at Sales CRM. I know that actually you were in contact with Jordan Something?… in the past. I’ve recently taken over his responsibilities and would love to connect with you for five minutes on Monday. 312-something something – too fast. Thanks Julie, you and I can go from there.

Did you give him a score of 1 out of four? I did. Let’s play that back with my comments:

Hey Julie it’s Hunter speaking over at Sales CRM. (Ok I got the Hunter and the Sales CRM – one point for name and company.)

I know that actually you were in contact with Jordan Something?… in the past. (Jordan who did he say? I don’t handle our Sales CRM account. I don’t know a Jordan at Sales CRM so I’m already thinking this call isn’t for me.)

I’ve recently taken over his responsibilities (Sounds like he was fired which is a negative vibe.)

and would love to connect with you for five minutes on Monday. (Why would I do that? What’s in it for me?)

312-something something – too fast. (I registered are code 312 which is Chicago and then stopped writing thinking why bother, I’m not calling him.)

Thanks Julie, you and I can go from there.  (Unusual closing, a little forward.)

Of the four essential email ingredients, Hunter accomplished one successfully – who he is. But not saying his title is a faux pas. It would hint at the reason for the call. He missed these other three:

What we do for people like me– There is no focus. Is he helping me with training or renewal for our CRM? No idea whatsoever which means “delete.” Although a reference is normally good, mentioning “Jordan” failed because I have never talked to him. Surely they keep good CRM data that would indicate that? If he didn’t have a good connection to mention, he could have innocently name dropped a competing publisher they work with and said he’s helping them to improve their lead conversion.

What’s in it for me – This message was about him – “I’d like to connect for five minutes.” There’s no “you” in there – just “I.” If he had continued with something I care about such as, “I’d like to connect with you for five minutes on Monday to show you how to reduce your CRM costs next year,” I would have probably been more interested in talking to him.

What should I do next – He wanted me to call but was really quick with the phone number–one shot. I could dig through my phone log but I wasn’t interested enough to work that hard. I would have appreciated a follow up email with his information and purpose for wanting to talk, but didn’t get one.

And can anyone guess if he called me a second time to clarify all this, solve the mystery, or get me to “go from there?” No, of course he never called again. He is a typical sales person. Moral to the story: Be a hunter, not a “Hunter!”

Here is a great sample sales voicemail left during this training by one of my real life reps:

Hi Julie, this is Susie Sales, your local rep from Excellent Publishing, you might know us from our  Adventures reading series. (Who she is, nicely specific!)

I was just meeting with Eleanor Arnold at the district (Excellent name drop that will prick up their ears.)

and we were talking about how a lot of the on level kids right now are NOT going to be on level next year for Common Core, and we were reviewing materials that can help with that, (Perfect example of what she does for people like me)

and I thought you TOO might like to review our sample products. (What’s in it for me. A specific one with value for the prospect. Perhaps add a time constraint to increase the sense of urgency. I capitalized a word she emphasized which punctuated the offer, and added life to the message. Sales shouldn’t be monotone!)

So if you could give me a call and tell me what subject areas and grade levels are most critical for you, I’ll put together a nice little package for you and drop it by your school. All right that’s Susie Sales, Excellent Publishing, 555-444-1234. 555-444-1234. Thanks very much, look forward to hearing from you. (Call to action, what to do next. Also it helps to have the double mention of phone number.)

To add to the success of this voicemail, this rep has a terrific calm, clear voice that “smiles” through the phone. That’s an old trick by the way, smiling when you talk actually sounds like you are smiling when you talk. Many reps hang mirrors near their phones which inspires better projection, smiling while doing phone work, and safely consuming the poppy seed bagels.

I hope you enjoy running this exercise with your teams as much as I have. If done as a workshop, hand out their transcripts and a rubric of the four main ingredients for a good voicemail. Let the reps grade them, and rewrite them to make sure every call script your team is working with is a 4 for 4.

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