A voicemail greeting is a first impression – one which can either set you up for future opportunities or shut the door before it’s even open all the way.
Last week, I spent a little time calling clients and customers out of the blue to see how they were doing. I was already prepared to get voicemail messages since so many of us are in small businesses that can’t afford to constantly man the phones, but what I didn’t expect was so many people to not have a voicemail greeting at all.
Maybe I’m missing something related to privacy or avoiding telemarketers, but not having a voicemail greeting setup is a huge mistake from a business point of view. It results in lost opportunities.
Imagine if I were a prospect interested in working with you and got no voicemail greeting. Sure, you may want me to email as that’s you’re preferred method of contact, but not having a voicemail message sends a flag to me that you’re not professional enough to take the time to set it up.
Or perhaps I was a sponsor interested in advertising on your site. Or from a speaker’s bureau trying to get in contact with you about a speaking opportunity. Or an associate that that’s interested in collaborating with you on a new project.
As much as you might like to deal with things like this via email, many people still call first. And you’d be surprised how many of the people you want to interact with now prefer to call and talk instead of get trapped in email.
Nearly every day, I work with or hear people who feel like good opportunities are so far away or hard to make, especially when they’re in the earlier stages of business. There’s a lot we can do to set the conditions for luck and opportunities, but doing all of that work only to be thwarted by something so trivial as a voicemail is folly. Three months of work really can be squandered in 15 seconds of tone and silence.
Don’t let this happen to you. Here’s what to do:
- If you haven’t checked your voicemail greeting in the last two months, call and listen to it. Does it sound both professional and like you?
- If you haven’t set it, write out what you’d like to say. Make sure you tell the person calling what information you’d like them to leave. Rehearse it a few times so it’s natural to you and you get the flow of words and breathing right. (Not too fast, not too slow – don’t rush your listener.)
- Do a trial run so you can test the process and aren’t surprised by an unexpected prompt or don’t forget to stop recording and have one of those awkward voicemail greetings where you can tell the person is having tech woes.
- Spend a minute or two thinking about something that makes you smile and feel at peace. It’ll alter your voice and tone for the better.
- Record your greeting as rehearsed.
- Call in from a cell phone and listen to your greeting. Many people will be calling from cell phones so you want to hear what they hear.
- If it’s good, keep it. If not, do it again. It’s worth the 5 minutes of effort to get it right.
First impressions make or break opportunities. Don’t let your first impression be a lack of a professional voicemail greeting.
You have some excellent tips here for a topic we don’t hear about enough. It IS basic, but it’s so basic we often forget about it. I put it off for a really long time, and when I finally set mine up, it was hard to not speak too quickly. I’m thinking I might try it again while following your tips. I should write a little script for myself first =)
Thanks for the great post! =D
I’ve always heard that people can “hear” a smile. I’ve found it makes a difference in the overall energy of the greeting if you actually smile while you’re recording it!
People always comment that my voicemail greeting amuses them. ‘Hi, this is Kirsten and I’m not attached to my cell phone at the moment…’
Russ Henneberry says
Good point Charlie. My VM message stinks. I’m on it!
Archan Mehta says
Thank you. You have a good habit of coming up with the brightest ideas.
Recently, I had to discontinue my phone service–hopefully, only temporarily–because I felt harassed by telemarketers. Everybody from the avon lady to the tampon girl wants a piece of me. This is strange considering the fact that I belong to a different gender, but I have been told that my speaking voice sounds like Celine Dione: I can’t stand Celine Dione.
I have had crazy experiences of people leaving strange voice messages on their answering machine, so I found it difficult to do business with such people–how unprofessional.
“You have reached the residence of spiderman. Spiderman is not home right now and trust me you don’t wanna know where he is. Okay, he is in rehab and his therapist is in a state of shock. Spiderman is not planning on returning home anytime soon, but feel free to leave a message at your own risk. Spiderman will return your call upon return from the asylum.”
And this is just one example. It seems there are a lot of pranksters out there. Reminds me of some of the escapades of your good friend and one of my favorite writers, Johnny Truant. Oh well, there is hope yet. I am working on leaving a sane voice message on my answering machine, that is, as soon as I re-establish my connection. Have a good one. Cheerio.
Haven’t encountered spider-man, but did run into Captain Kirk on an answer phone once – it did give me a giggle (yay!) but didn’t include any business related information at all (boo!).
For the past 3 weeks I’ve been recording a new message at the beginning of each week. I greet callers and let them know when I will be in the office on the week starting [X] and that I will get back to them within 24 hours if they leave a message when I’m out of the office or sooner when I’m in the office. I also let them know my cellphone number and email.
Seems to be working quite well, and actually cutting down on the number of cellphone calls I’m getting as people understand that I’m an all day meeting on Wednesday [or whatever] and am unlikely to answer any of my phones.
Daniel M. Wood says
A first impression is often hard to change. I think it is a great point that even your voice mail is sometimes a first impression.
You want it to make the right impression.
Al Pittampalli says
This is a good tip. A lot of us live in a world, where we wish voice mail would go away, but it’s not going anywhere! We need to make sure we’re making the right impressions. It’s amazing how much you can glean from someone’s voice.
Peter W says
First impressions indeed can make or break opportunities. If you’re in serious business or just wanting to keep within reach, setting up a professional voicemail for your customer or client can mean that you’re always putting your best foot forward. I’m surprised to know that many people still misses this great opportunity.
i completely agree. i think for businesses, the default choice for voicemail greetings should be professionally recorded. does a great deal in keeping customers and attracting new ones!
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