"Using Voice Mail To Your Advantage"
Part Two

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The Chill Is Gone
by Joe Bonura, CSP


Part I encompassed principles of voice mail when calling people you know or who know of you. This article focuses on how to use voice mail to your advantage when making cold calls. Voice mail can be a disheartening obstacle for sales people cold calling for prospects. For our purposes, we will define a cold call as a person who does not know who we are, was not a referral, and was not expecting the call. Follow along as I take you through the anatomy of a cold call and overcoming the voice mail blues. Let's take the chill out of cold calling.


The Prospect Who Knew Too Much

If you get voice mail on your initial dial to a prospect, give the receiver only your name and company; do not leave your phone number. It is your responsibility to reach the prospect, and leaving your number will only frustrate your prospect, especially if you are difficult to reach.

If you leave your number on voice mail or with a secretary, you have relinquished control of the situation. When you call again, the secretary can tell you that he has your number and will return your call. As a general rule, people who do not know you will probably not return your call.

Try this approach if you are calling long distance: "This is Ann from Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc. calling long distance. Sorry we missed you this time. I will call back this afternoon. Please expect my call." You have raised the prospect's curiosity. When you call again, they will want to know who you are.

Take The Live Option

In Part One, I recommended taking the live option when warm calling. The same applies to cold calling, so I will repeat my recommendations. If you have the option of reaching a live person, take it. Usually dialing zero after the beep will get you to an assistant or receptionist. Ask for the assistant's name, and say, "Linda, I was in Bob's voice mail. What is the best time to reach him in person?"

Call back at the suggested time, and if you are unable to reach him, forward to the assistant again, asking for her by name, and say, "Linda, I was unable to reach Bob at the time you suggested. I would leave a message; however, I'm difficult to reach sometimes, and I am afraid we will play voice mail tag all day. How can I reach him now?" You will be amazed at how often you find your contact by simply asking this question.

Set A Telephone Appointment

If you still have not reached Bob, set a telephone appointment on his voice mail to reduce tag time and increase your chances of reaching him. Your message may sound something like this: "This is Ann calling from Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc., where we help organizations increase sales and improve service by providing top-notch training programs. I could not reach you the last few times that I called. I don't know you, Bob, and you don't know BBDG. I'm not sure I can help you until I know more about your company. I would like to set a five-minute telephone appointment to ask you a few questions. Please check your calendar for either 4pm tomorrow or 10am Wednesday morning. I will call your assistant this afternoon to confirm a time. You may call me toll-free at (give phone number) if you would like to confirm earlier."

The 800 Number Dilemma

Many sales people vacillate on whether to use a toll-free number in their message because they run the risk of positioning themselves as telemarketers. If you have presented yourself professionally and positively, using a toll-free number will not change your prospect's impression of you. Potential prospects are more likely to return a long distance call that is toll-free.

Faxing Past Voice Mail

If Bob continues to be unreachable, it is time for one last strategy: send a fax. Since you are prospecting for qualified leads, fax your prospect a fax back sheet that has all the questions that need answers to determine whether he is a viable prospect. Leave space for him to answer the questions and fax back a response.

Include questions such as:

  • Are you the decision maker for our product/service?
  • Who else would you involve in that decision?
  • Are you interested in knowing more about how we can help you?
  • Are you using a competitive product/service? If yes, which one?
  • What would you change about your current product/service?
  • Do you need more information about us?
  • What questions do you have for us?
  • Should we continue to call?
  • If yes, what's a good time to call?

We use this method in our office as a final effort. It helps us to treat prospects the way they want to be treated.

Know When To Give Up

If none of the methods work on the prospect, MOVE ON! About five calls to the same prospect, with no response, is a sign to pitch the lead. The secret to successful cold calling is to have an extensive prospect list. Spend your energy on a new lead, and you are more likely to get favorable results.

To Call Or Not To Call - That Is The Question

Whenever you pick up the phone, ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that can happen if I make this call?"

Next ask yourself, "What is the best thing that can happen if I make this call?"

Then, Make The Call!


© 1997 Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

To see Joe and hear one of his favorite selling tips, follow this link to a video he created to share with folks who are interested in making more sales, or finding a job:



Joe Bonura would be pleased for you to reprint the article text free of charge (non-exclusively), but asks that you include his name and contact information:

Joe Bonura
Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.
Website: www.bonura.com
407 Landis Lakes Court
Louisville, KY  40245

(502) 553-1746 phone

E-mail: joe@bonura.com

About Joe Bonura

His background is unique. Joe owned and operated a highly successful advertising agency for 18 years. During that time, he found his advertising campaigns were more effective when he educated his clients in the areas of sales and service. He conducted training seminars for his clients as added value. Word spread that Joe was a quality speaker and more and more people asked him to speak. The demand became so high that he sold the agency to three of his associates to start his own speaking and consulting company, Joe Bonura & Associates, Inc.

Joe is past President of the Kentucky Speakers Association and a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a prestigious designation earned by only 8% of the 3,600 member National Speakers Association. Joe presently serves on the board of directors of NSA.

He is author of the audio learning systems "Three-Dimensional Selling®" and "Turning Customer Satisfaction Into Customer Excitement®." He is author of the book Throw the Rabbit—The Ultimate Approach to Three-Dimensional Selling.




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