Do/Don’t Leave a Voice Mail

By Bill Farquharson, Sales Coach/Author/Presenter at The Sales Vault

If you asked a politician or Two Face, one of Batman’s rivals, whether or not to leave voice mail during a prospecting call, the answer would be either a resounding yes-no or an equally convincing no-yes. Voice mail is equal parts problem and opportunity, nuisance and last resort, “Don’t bother” and “Better than nothing.” People typically have strong opinions one way or the other. If you can make both arguments, you are not alone (plus, you’d make an excellent Consultant!).

Voicemail became popular in the early 80s as an added service (read: added cost) along with Caller ID and Call Forwarding. It eliminated the need for an answering machine and gave us access to messages 24/7 from anywhere in the world. Voicemail was the first in a long line of “technology services” that tethered us all to work. Prior to this point, unanswered phones rang incessantly and callers learned to simply try again later. Ah, the good old days.

But what was once a convenience for both caller and recipient became a Black Hole for Sales effort and a place where persistency goes to die. If that is the case, is there still a reason to leave a message at all?

Let’s examine both arguments…

OMG, yes! Leave Voice Mail. Are you nuts?

You are seriously considering not leaving a voicemail message? What record will there be of your desire to speak to someone? Not leaving a voicemail message is like not making a sales call and hoping that business comes to you. Granted, you should not expect a return phone call, but thats no longer what voicemail is for. 

The number one reason why someone buys from you is your raw sales ability. Voice mail is an audition. It’s a chance for you to demonstrate your personality, attitude, and diligence. It’s the “Tag. You’re it!” part of sales. As Wayne Gretzky’s Dad said to him, “You miss 100% of the shots that you never take.” By leaving a clear, concise, and professional voicemail message, you build your brand. The value goes beyond the words you use. Combining strong and valuable words with diligence leaves the impression that you are knowledgeable, different, fun, positive, and someone that everyone wants to do business with.

Consider this scenario: You call on a prospective customer. She looks over at the Caller ID and sees your name but does not pick up. You choose not to leave voicemail but you have still left a message. You have told the prospect that you have nothing of value to say, that perhaps she is just a name on a list that you bought, and that you are just another sales rep. The next time you call and she sees your name on her screen, she will remember all of these negative messages. Is that really what you wanted to say? Is that really the impression you want to leave?

OMG, no! Dont leave Voice Mail. Are you nuts?

You are seriously considering leaving a voicemail message? Really? Why bother? Your odds of getting a call back are just slightly better than a teenager saying, “Let’s do something tonight that the whole family can enjoy,” or the same number of socks coming out of the dryer that go in. It’s a waste of time and energy and there is absolutely no benefit whatsoever.

Ever heard of Caller ID? They know that it’s you. They know that you’ve called. If someone wants to call you back, they will, especially if you are calling someone under 30. Caller ID already records all the information necessary. Nothing that you say in a voicemail message is going to yield the desired response. Is it truly your expectation that a prospect will be so motivated and inspired so as to pick up the phone and call you back? Hang up and try again later. What matters is diligence, not some babbling message about how much money you’re going to save them.

Consider this scenario: You call on prospective customer. She looks over at the Caller ID and sees your name but does not pick up. You choose not to leave a voicemail but you have still left a message. You have told the prospect that you wish to make contact with him or her, that you will not waste anyone’s time by forcing them to listen to a message that you both now will be deleted anyway. You have accomplished the goal of demonstrating your diligence. Leave it at that. Period.

Whos right? Whos wrong?

This is one of those times when there is no right or wrong. It’s just one opinion versus another. But here’s the thing…

A good voicemail message can deliver value and exhibit professionalism. You can be memorable and remarkable. Sure, you can also be deleted faster than one of Dr. Evil’s henchmen, but if you consider voicemail to be an audition, at least you have the chance to make a good impression.

Perhaps this is a generational issue. Many twentysomethings will tell you that they have no time or interest in voicemail messages, either leaving them or listening to them. It’s not uncommon to get a return phone call from a family member in that age group who asks, “I saw that you called. What do you want?” despite the fact that you left a message. Grrrr.

Given the fact that that diligence is the most important factor in sales success and a voicemail message is clear evidence of said diligence, why wouldn’t you leave a voicemail message? But then, if 99.9% of the voicemail messages left go unrecognized and unreturned, why would you?

The argument goes on past this column without resolution (although I am solidly on the “do” side). Voicemail will continue to be another tool in the toolbox. When combined with emails and letters and personal visits, an effective prospecting process can be created.

The only certainty is that voicemail allows creative people to have some fun: Years ago, a print sales rep, having already left numerous voicemail messages, decided to use the technology to his advantage. As a spur of the moment idea, he left a message where he pretended that the Buyer picked up the phone and imitated his voice, congratulating the sales rep for his diligence and rewarding him with an appointment. Thirty minutes later, the Buyer actually returns a call, laughing hysterically, and adding, “You win. Let’s get together.” Don’t you just love a happy ending?

Need sales? Seminars and webinars provide temporary motivation and ideas. In a week, it’s all gone. The Sales Vault delivers continuous sales growth. Learn more at or call Bill Farquharson at 781-934-7036.

If you have any questions or need further assistance, contact Tim Freeman at or (716) 691-3211.

Tim Freeman, President
Print & Graphic Communications Association
office: (716) 691-3211
cell: (716) 983-3826


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