Over the years, I have worked in many different positions including sales, processing, operations, management, and even consulting. While all of these positions require somewhat different skillets, one common task is that each of these positions require some use of the telephone.
Generally, we think of the telephone as a basic skill that everyone has. The reality is, however, that some are more skilled than others.
A Bad Message Won't Get a Call Back
This week, I received a lengthy phone message that left me frustrated. The biggest frustration was that I actually had to play it through two full times to record the number and I still didn't know if I had it correct.
The message when something like this:
"Oh, hi Adam. This is so and so with a super long last name that you can write down quick enough from a company you can’t remember because I am talking so fast and you are still trying to write down my name. The reason I am calling you is quite complex so here is the five minute explanation that I really haven't thought through and I am not providing a background on so you really can't put it in context. Please give me a call back at a phone number I said so fast you barely got the first two digits written down."
And I get calls like this all of the time.
Calls I can’t understand, that aren’t to the point, and where I have to replay the entire message to confirm the phone number they said too quickly.
I have even had messages I didn't return because I couldn't understand their phone number, even after listening to the message a half dozen times.
The Importance of Leaving a Good Message
One of the most important tasks in business is connecting with people. The problem is, however, that we can't always meet everyone in person to connect with them. While e-mail or text messaging works okay for sorting out logistics, such as setting up a lunch appointment, e-mail and text messages don't help to connect with people.
Therefore, we often pick up the phone instead of just sending an e-mail or text message. This helps to build rapport and connect with people.
But if we can't get ahold of someone when we call, we have two options: to try back later or to leave a message.
In the day of caller ID, most of us avoid calling back over and over until we get ahold of the person we are trying to reach. So we often just leave the message and move on with our day.
The challenge with leaving a message is that you only get one chance. If your call is a sales call or important in any matter, this means that your messages need to be fantastic every time.
10 Characteristics of a Good Message
If you do have to leave a message, it is important to leave it in a way that ensures you get a call back. Here are 10 tips that will help ensure you get a call back when you leave a phone message:
- Plan Each Call. I have been guilty more than once of making a call before I was prepared to talk to the person on the other end. One of the keys to leaving a good message is to be prepared. In preparing your call, plan the call two ways: plan to be able to talk with the person you are calling and also be prepared to leave a message.
- Clearly State Your Name. This may seem rudimentary, but I can't tell you how many times I have received a message where I cannot understand the name of the person calling because they have become complacent in saying it, so they mumble their name in a message. Slow down and make sure that someone who doesn't know you personally can easily understand your name.
- Give Your Phone Number Early. State your phone number right after your name in the beginning of the message. By providing your number early in the message, this will ensure that your listener doesn't have to re-listen to your entire message if they didn't get it written down the first time.
- Be Engaged. A good message will engage the listener. One way to sound more engaging is to smile while you leave the message. A smile helps you to relax and connects better with the listener than just leaving a monotone, serious message.
- Be Direct. A good message will be direct and to the point. Make sure you explain the goal you want to accomplish and directly ask for a returned call, meeting, or response.
- Keep it Short. A good message will also be short. An ideal message will be sixty seconds or less.
- Don't Make Demands. Unless you are their boss, your listener doesn't owe you anything. If you try to make demands, there is a good chance that you won't get a return call. Being appreciative and grateful go much further in phone messages than making demands of a listener.
- Build Rapport. If you are calling someone you have never talked to before, it is important that you leave them a reason to call you back. Whether you mention a mutual friend, colleague, or competitor, it is important to build rapport with your listener.
- Be Easily Accessible. Make sure you make it easy for the listener to get ahold of you, on their own time. If you tell the caller you will only be in your office this week from 10:00 to Noon on Thursday, you may not get a call back. Consider leaving your mobile phone number, a number to an assistant, or provide an e-mail address they can reach you at.
- Conclude With Your Phone Number. As you are concluding your message, re-state your phone number. This strategy helps the listener to double check the number they wrote down at the beginning of the message, which helps to ensure they have the right number to call back.
The best way to ensure you leave a fantastic message is to try to put yourself in the recipient of your message’s shoes.
Two [Bonus] Shady Tactics That Get Calls Back
While I don't necessarily recommend utilizing the following, somewhat questionable tactics, I have heard that these can work well in getting a return call:
- Hang Up In the Middle. There is a natural tendency for us to want to make complete decisions. If we are listening to a message and the caller gets cut off in the middle of the message, before we know what they wanted, we have a natural intrigue as to what the call is about. I have heard of a few sales companies that intentionally implement this tactic - and they have had good results in getting a call back.
- Reference Another Company. While I definitely don't recommend this approach, I have heard of a few companies reference a Linked-In account (or another online directory) and only provide a name and number to call back - essentially implying that they are calling from those companies.
A Question For You
What tips have you used to get a call back when leaving a phone message?