The Sales Voicemail Playbook for SDRs

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The sales voicemail can be a powerful touch point in the sales process. Unfortunately, many sales professionals misuse it or skip the script altogether. Why?

Here’s where I think part of the problem lies. Leaving voicemails for prospects is a repetitive task, so some salespeople get bored with doing it. As the day progresses, the voicemails can become hasty or monotone. I get it. When you’re doing it time after time, every single workday, it gets a little tedious.

However, that’s no reason to do a crummy job of it.

A voicemail can create familiarity. Maybe the contact will call you back if your voicemail was well executed. If you left a terrible voicemail, well that doesn’t help you or the prospect. When you call that individual again or reach the person via email, do you want that prospect to remember you as, “ugh, this joker who left me the most monotone voicemail last week”? Probably not.

Every touch point a prospect has with your company shapes their overall perception. Every email, voicemail, brochure, web page, and sales interaction is cataloged away in the prospect’s mind and shapes what that prospect thinks about you, your company, and ultimately your product or service.

When cold calling, the sales voicemail is often the first impression you make with a decision maker. Even with web-generated leads, you are likely to get someone’s voicemail on the first attempt at a call. Your voicemail can either:

  • reinforce the prospect’s decision to return your call or accept your next outreach
  • discourage them from looking any further into your solution

In this post, we are going to cover some tried-and-true methods to help you increase your voicemail call return rate and improve sales with effective voicemails.

Define Your Sales Voicemail Goals

A good sales development rep (SDR) knows the goal of each call he or she makes before getting on the line with the prospect. However, something seems to fall apart for some SDRs when that call goes to voicemail. Maybe it’s psychological — no immediate gratification. Regardless of the reason, it’s time to step up your voicemail efforts.

📞 A good sales development rep (SDR) knows the goal of each call he or she makes before getting on the line with the prospect. #SDRs #Prospecting Click To Tweet

Think about it: what is a voicemail? When you strip it down to its essence, a voicemail is a form of public speaking. If you were giving a speech where there would be no time for questions, would you deliver it any less enthusiastically and passionately? Of course not.

What should your voicemail goal be?

MYTH. The goal when leaving a voicemail is to get your call returned.

TRUTH: The goal is the same as if you had spoken to the person directly: advance the person along the sales process.

At the sound of the tone, get your game face on. You aren’t here just to rattle off your name, company, and telephone number. You are here to pave the way toward a sale.

Map Your Voicemail Strategy

Voicemails are part of the relationship building process between you and your target prospect. Think about mapping your voicemails to the rise and fall of a romance.

#Voicemails are part of the relationship building process between you and your target 🎯 prospect. Think about mapping your voicemails to the rise and fall of a romance. 💞 Click To Tweet

sales voicemailInitial Voicemails: the first date

Remember one of your best first dates? I bet that date was filled with excitement, energy, and full of promise for “what could happen.” Approach your first calls — and first voicemails — with that same level of enthusiasm.

Follow Up Voicemails: we need to talk

Maybe your prospect didn’t show up for the demo. Perhaps, she called at the last minute to cancel. Maybe he never returns your calls. You may feel confused, disappointed, worried. It’s OK to sound concerned or express your desire to connect. Don’t leave the standard, “Hi, it’s John Doe from ABC Co. I’m just following up . . . .” voicemail. Let’s face it: you need to talk about your relationship.

“Hi, Jane. It’s John Doe from ABC Co. I am checking in with you about our last conversation regarding your widget order. I know you have some concerns about specs, so let’s try to work it out.”

Final Voicemail: the breakup

If your contact stood you up for that planned call or just altogether ghosted you, you need to cut them loose after you’ve made the appropriate number of follow-up attempts. But, hey, you can still be friends. When you leave that final voicemail, don’t burn any bridges. Let the prospect know that your company is always there to pick up the relationship again when the timing is right.

Develop Your Voicemail Approach

As I mentioned a little earlier, voicemail is a stripped down version of public speaking. Do you think Abraham Lincoln winged it on the “Gettysburg Address”? Of course not. While your voicemail will probably never have the historical and cultural importance of a Lincoln speech, you should still take a few tips from great orators past and present. Think about your tone of voice, rhythm, and content each time you leave a message.

Here are a few tips for getting your tone, rhythm, and content right.

  • You’re a human being (probably, who knows what AI is up to these days?). People have emotions; that doesn’t change just because you are a salesperson. Be professional and speak with authority, but also allow yourself to express the appropriate emotion in your voicemail messages.
  • As we established above, you are probably a human being, so sound like one when you leave a voicemail. Don’t read your sales voicemail script. Don’t sound like you are a bad infomercial actor reciting a script either.
  • You may get bored leaving the same or similar message every time. Keep your boredom to yourself. It may be boring to you, but you don’t want it to sound boring to the person with whom you want to connect.
  • Provide context to the call. Did the person download something or join a webinar? Remind the prospect of that interaction. Did you read something about the contact’s company in the news? Use that information if it’s relevant to how you might be able to help with your solution.
  • Deliver a brief version of your value proposition. Brief — around five-seconds brief. “VanillaSoft helps sales development reps connect more, engage more and sell more.”
  • Be clear about what you want. “I’d like to schedule [X minutes] of your time for a brief demo. Does Thursday at 3:00 pm work for you?”
  • Nothing is more annoying than having to listen to a message again just for a name and number, and most prospects won’t. Slowly and clearly state your name, company, and phone number twice.
  • Finally, keep it short and sweet. Don’t ramble on and on to the point of losing your prospect’s attention. Introduce yourself, provide context, give a value statement, ask for what you want, give your contact information twice, then move on.

sales playbookVoicemail Should Be Only One Part of Your Cadence

Voicemail is often the forgotten hero of selling, but it works better with a sidekick. You wouldn’t want Han Solo without Chewbacca. Nobody likes Shrek without Donkey. We don’t want Wallace without Gromit, and you shouldn’t leave a sales voicemail without a well-paired sidekick either.

As part of your sales cadence, follow up a voicemail with an email or social media message to your prospect. You also have the option of going “old school” with a postcard, letter, or another direct mail piece. Make every touch consistent and purposeful in moving your prospect to return your call so you can qualify the lead and guide him or her toward a decision in the sales process.

Automate for Efficiency and Consistency

Let’s take a moment and consider how much of your day you spend leaving voicemails when making prospecting calls.

Let’s say that most phones ring for an average of 15 seconds before going to voicemail. Maybe the average greeting is 15 seconds, and your voicemail should only be 30 seconds. That’s a total of 1 minute per voicemail.

If you or your sales reps leave 75 voicemails in a day, that’s over an hour per day per rep. That’s 25 hours per month per salesperson spent leaving voicemails.

Automating your voicemails, an option available in sales engagement solutions that include voicemail drop, allows you or your sales team to record the perfect message once for each situation. Voicemail drop helps SDRs leave a terrific voicemail on every call.

Beyond helping to improve the quality of voicemails, voicemail drop:

  1. Reduces the time spent leaving voicemails. With the ability to drop a prerecorded message when the voicemail greeting picks up, you can save 20 or more hours per month per rep.
  2. Tracks voicemail performance. When you have a sales engagement solution that allows you to leave pre-recorded voicemails, you can start testing variations of different messages. Learn what messaging performs the best when it comes to return calls from prospects. You could even link variations of voicemails to downstream successes to help you understand if a certain voicemail seems to influence whether or not a rep eventually connects with prospects.

All Hail the Voicemail

Whew! You made it to the end. There was a lot to say about a message that should only last 30 seconds, huh?  It’s often the small things in life that require the most preparation.

To learn more about how you can implement voicemail automation with your sales team, contact us by email, phone (866-763-8826), or by filling out our Contact Us form. One of our team members will reach out to you – and maybe even leave you a quality voicemail.


Scott Amerson

As Vice President of Sales, Scott is responsible for leading our global sales team. He is a results-driven professional who brings more than 25 years of sales and executive-management experience to VanillaSoft. He is a proven veteran at building scalable infrastructure for inside sales and call center teams by defining key performance indicators, sales process, and training programs. In his previous role as Director of Sales at BenefitMall, Scott built and launched their inside sales team. In this position, he created and delivered policies and procedures, strategic planning, and technology integration leading to a 42% decrease in their sales cycle, and 30% increase in revenue per sale. Scott has also held prestigious positions at multi-million-dollar companies, including Capital One, where he overhauled the entire sales and training processes to drive goal-surpassing revenue from $300 million to $900 million. Scott holds a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Marketing from Nicholls State University.

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