Short or Long Voicemails

Recently I was reading a blog by Jim Citrin on crafting the “perfect” voicemail. Jim had several tips on leaving voicemails and then he provided some examples. What I found surprising were the number of comments that were, shall we say, less than supporting.

I found all of his tips were spot on and helpful. Here is a quick recap:

  1. Be clear about the goal of the message. This goes without saying in any of our communication
  2. Be authoritative yet upbeat in your tone. Who wants to hear somebody whining on the other end? I’ve got enough on my end to whine about. I don’t need any more drama.
  3. Find a bridge to the person you’re calling. This goes back to the reason you are calling and being clear about the goal. It also pays to do your homework as well.
  4. Be brief. I think we’ve all been guilty of leaving voicemails that stretch into a 5-minute speech (myself included). I think we’ve also been the recipient of voicemails that have been to long. How many of us hit the delete key after 45 seconds? People are busy. Show some respect for their time.
  5. Be specific in your request. Again, this goes back to knowing your goal or outcome.
  6. Leave your contact information slowly and clearly. Another no brainer.

The comments in the blog made the case for Jim to be a not-so-nice guy. That he was a jerk. That he was breaking tradition of returning a call promptly. That he was a bum.

I think that sometimes we confuse being nice, with being effective. We can be nice, we can be effective, and there are times when we can be nice and effective. However, the two are not equivalent.

I had the pleasure of spending some time working in a call center. I also cut my teeth in an engineering lab and grew up applying the scientific method of analysis. After spending 6 months in the center, the one thing I noticed was that shorter phone messages consistently got more return calls. Longer messages were rarely returned. So, from my perspective, and my experiments, shorter voicemails yielded better returns.

About two years ago, I attended a Dale Carnegie regional sales meeting in Pittsburgh. There were a number of high-level executives from some of the larger national clients participating in a panel discussion. They were there providing insights into what top-level executives wanted from the sales reps calling on them. A number of thoughts were offered up but the suggestions I remember the most came from the executive from Iron Mountain.

He said that as an executive, he wanted a sales person to be clear, direct and results oriented. The person had to have done their homework and had to be offering a solution that addressed a problem. Then as he was wrapping up, he added, “…and no lengthy voicemails. Twenty seconds is long enough to make your point.”

So, in Jim’s defense, I have found his points to be very relevant when compared against my own experiences. The examples, however, are another matter. After looking at all three voicemail samples, I concluded that I would not return any of them. In every sample, the speaker talks about themselves and something that they wanted. There was nothing of interest to me. As I have said before, I’ve got enough drama in my life and plenty to do. I really don’t need an unknown caller bringing me more challenges to solve.

Every person listens to their favorite radio station, WII FM (or What’s In It For Me). If you can’t leave a voicemail that operates on this frequency, expect poor reception.

What has been your experience with voicemails? Leave a comment below.

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