You can’t make people return your calls.
All you can do is increase the probability that your phone will ring by becoming more “call-back-able.”
So, whether you’re leaving voicemails with customers, coworkers, prospects, potential dates, employees, superiors, suppliers, students, volunteers – even complete strangers – the same principles and practices still apply.
Here’s a list of nine ways to become more call-back-able:
1. Start with yourself. Think back to the last time you returned from vacation. Ten voicemails were waiting for you. QUESTION: Whom did you call back first? What made you want to – or not want to – call that person back? And which of the ten voicemails did you delete within two seconds of hearing the message?
This baseline exercise is the perfect way to enter into the caller mindset. Plus it helps you pinpoint voicemail behaviors that turn even YOU off. What voicemails do it for you?
2. Punch people in the face with your purpose. I can’t begin to count the number of voicemails I receive every week from complete strangers who leave nothing but their name and number. Tragically, that’s their entire message.
Naturally, I delete their voicemails immediately. For one simple reason: No call to action = No call back. Period. And frankly, I feel kind of bad doing so. And I’m sure I’ve missed out on connecting with some great people. But I’m a busy guy. And if first-time callers aren’t respectful and intelligent enough to state their purpose within five seconds of leaving a message, they haven’t earned the right to be called back.
The secret for YOUR voicemails is to have a purpose (not an agenda, but a purpose) … and to punch people in the face with that purpose gently and immediately. Otherwise people are going to think, “Next…!” Are you demonstrating a valid reason for your persistence?
3. Pamper their ego. It’s not enough to make people feel “valued” and “special” and “important.” Go one step further. Make them feel essential. As if you couldn’t live or make a move without them. Try Phrases That Payses like:
o “I need your opinion on this idea…”
o “You’re the first person I had to tell this story to…”
o “I quoted you on my blog today and got lots of comments!”
o “Dude, I’ve got a story that ONLY you would appreciate…”
o “I just gave you a referral – call me back and I’ll fill you in.”
o “Your ears must be ringing – I was talking about you yesterday!”
o “I’ve been thinking a lot about out conversation from last week, and I wrote out a list of five ways to make your problem go away. Gimme a holler when you can, or email me at…”
Your phone WILL ring. How are you making people feel essential?
4. Appeal to their inherent helpful nature. “I need your help.” Those four words are a simple, yet powerful motivator of human engagement and motivation. I use them every day right before I’m about to make ANY request, i.e., returning a shirt to Nordstrom, getting my iPhone fixed or calling tech support.
In my experience, you’re almost ALWAYS guaranteed better service if you frame your request in this way. In addition to appealing to a human being’s helpful side, these four words also work because they’re: (1) positive, (2) honor the person you’ve reached out to, and (3) demonstrate your humility and vulnerability.
Kind of hard to reject someone like that! Besides, what’s the other person gonna say? “You need MY help? Sorry pal. Ask someone who gives a crap!” Unless you live in Philly, doubtful. So, I’m challenging you to use this phrase on the phone as often as possible. It works. Whom are you asking for help?
5. Help people maintain a sense of control. In the psychology manual, The Handbook of Competence and Motivation, the authors’ research proved on several occasions that human beings operate out of a model to feel autonomous and in control of their environment and actions.
Thus: The feeling of being in control is a basic human need. It’s right up there with “Feeling Accepted,” “Feeling Secure” and “Watching American Idol.” So, your challenge is to leave a voicemail message that speaks to that need. For example, you could offer a few choices of good times to call you back. Or give additional options for contacting you besides the phone, i.e., fax, email or text.
Another approach is to say, ”I need your approval on something…” or “I’ve got an awesome idea, and I wanted to get your permission before I made my move.” This not only makes them feel in control, but also makes them feel essential. How can you appeal to this person’s need to feel in control of her own life?
6. Deliver (and dangle) value. Write a list of fifty practical strategies your customer can use TODAY to grow his business. Next, every time you call, leave two of those strategies as your voicemail message. Then, here’s the best part: You tell the customer to call you back if she wants the third one.
Not only will she call you back, she’ll play your message over the PA system for everyone in her office. Because you didn’t leave a voicemail – you delivered a twenty-second mini teleseminar. Wow.
CAUTION: Make sure that the strategies on your list have nothing to do with you, your product or your company. You can’t just write, “#27: Hire me!” or “#41: Buy fifteen of my copiers!” as items on your list, smart guy. Does your message leave the impression of value or vanity in the mind of the customer?
7. Mix the medium. Not everyone prefers communicating over the phone. Especially people born after 1978. And since that Gen X/Y/Millennial population is slowly starting to saturate the workforce (and take over the world, I might add) it’s essential to be cognizant of the varying communication preferences of your customers.
So, at the end of your voicemail, remind people that they can always reach you by email for a quicker response. This approach increases your accessibility and appeals to a wider audience – even older generations.
What’s more, emailing is a low-pressure, non-threatening medium of communication that gives people more time to carefully craft their words. Try this approach and you’ll be amazed how many people will email back instead of calling back. How reachable are you?
8. Three words: “You were right.” Of course, don’t actually tell people WHAT they were right about. Just tell them they were right, and when they call you back, you’ll explain why. This works because:
o “You were right” enters you into someone else’s reality. Which demonstrates empathy. Which shows you’ve listened.
o “You were right” increases someone’s pride. Which speaks to their self-esteem. Which makes them more confident about themselves.
o “You were right” shows an open mindedness to different opinions. Which sets a precedent for a non-judgmental atmosphere. Which lowers emotional reactivity. Which allows you to discover solutions together.
o “You were right” acknowledges someone’s unique point of view. Which makes them feel valued. “You were right” builds common ground on. a point of mutual agreement. Which reduces emotional distance and increases trust.
How could anyone resist? Who doesn’t love being right? And who wouldn’t want to learn about a recent situation in which they were right? Nobody. How are you making people feel right?
9. Ask Google. While writing this article, I spent a few minutes googling phrases like, “I didn’t call her back because…” and “I refuse to return his call because…” VERY powerful exercise.
Now, most of the comments came from blogs and message boards. And from the looks of it; people were venting, complaining or expressing anger about their friends, coworkers, vendors and the like – along with WHY they chose not to return those peoples’ calls.
So, for our last example, let me share a selection of statements from that list. And I’m challenging you to match these dialogues with the eleven attributes of being “call-back-able” you’ve already learned so far:
“I didn’t return the call because…”
“…All the negative things I’ve read about their company.”
“…He is obviously quite busy with work.”
“…He only wants to cause drama between us.”
“…He stood us up last time we worked together.”
“…He’ll be too “good” on the phone, and in his manipulative way, I’ll slip.”
“…He was known to be a incorrigible gambler.”
“…I can do it by myself.”
“…I can’t say her name out loud without laughing.”
“…I didn’t know him and he didn’t specify what he wanted.”
“…I didn’t want anything else to do with him at that point.”
“…I knew that I wouldn’t be able to have an intelligent conversation with her.”
“…I obviously no longer needed his services.”
“…If he really liked me, then he would have called sooner.”
“…It seemed like he had nothing to say other than fishing for info.”
“…Our initial connection was lost because a first impression only lasts so long.”
“…She never says who she is.”
“…She probably won’t answer anyway.”
“…She was so hateful and acted like it was my fault.”
And of course, my all-time favorite:
“I didn’t return the call because…”
“…That bitch is totally wack and completely insane, like an H-Bomb detonated inside her brain.”
– – –
OK! Think you’re ready for your phone to start ringing off the hook?
Not so fast, Alexander Graham Bell.
While you DO need to appeal to self-interest and people’s need to feel in control…
While you DO need to state your purpose, pamper their ego and make people feel essential…
And while you DO need to deliver value, mix the medium and speak with meaningful concrete immediacy…
There’s still one FINAL secret to leaving voicemails that get called back EVERY time.
And you’re probably not going to like it.
Because it’s not a technique, a strategy or a unique sales approach.
It’s something you DO and something you ARE long before you even pick up the phone.
I’m talking about reputation, positioning and branding.
I’m talking about credibility, consistency and commitment.
IN SHORT: Character.
Character trumps technique.
Character is the great catchall.
Character is what makes people want call you back.
Because when you have that, when you ARE that, and when the person listening to your voicemail message KNOWS that, you instantly become more call-back-able.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some voicemails to leave.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How will you increase the probability of getting called back?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “12 Ways to Get Customers to Open Your Email First,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!
* * * *
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
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