Anyone who reads business blogs and publications knows that on average, Americans are constantly trying to cram more and more into a "standard" workday, which means the people you need to reach are more and more likely to be unavailable when you call. It's time to take a look at how to leave effective messages when it seems like voicemail is taking over as the primary way in which we communicate over the phone.
Prepare before you call. This might sound strange, but you have to realize before you make a call that there is a likelihood, even if you have a scheduled call, that you will get voicemail. Take a quick second to prepare what you will say if you have to leave a message. This will help you avoid the embarrassment of leaving a rambling, incoherent voicemail that you wish you could erase.
Speak Slowly. Make sure that you speak slowly and clearly so that the recipient can understand (and take notes on) your message.
It doesn't have to feel like this!
Leave your name and company. You would think that this goes without saying, but I cannot tell you how many times I have received a voicemail that said “Hi, it’s me...” or “Hi, it’s John...”. Perhaps you think you have a distinct voice and people will recognize you, but don’t leave it to chance. Even if you have a unique name, it’s also best to leave your company name so you don't leave people guessing.
Leave your call back number twice. Even if you know the recipient has your number, make it easy for them and leave it in the message, this way they don’t have to take time to look it up. Make sure you speak a little slower when leaving your call back number, and give it twice. This ensures the recipient can write it down and double check it without having to replay your voicemail.
Keep it short. This is the most important rule to leaving effective voicemails. You should never try to leave a message that, when hand-written, would not fit on a sticky note. If you prepare ahead, you will be less likely to ramble on and on. If you have more than one or two items to discuss or confirm, it would be best to ask the recipient to call you back at their convenience or send an email. Your email can then begin “Per my recent voicemail...”
Don't leave a message. This also may seem strange, but you may not want to leave a message every time you get a voicemail. This is especially true for those of you in sales. If you have a feeling the message you leave will sound something like “Hello, it’s me again…” hang up and try again. If you are getting caught in a voicemail black hole with this person, it's best to try to catch them live.
Now that's more like it!
Getting voicemail all the time can be frustrating, but you can increase efficiency if you learn to leave better messages. Good luck and happy dialing!