Master the Art of Leaving Messages

Want to get your calls returned, and quickly? Leaving voicemail messages is a real skill, and one that many of us find difficult to master, meaning that our calls are less likely to be returned. However, the seven tips in this article will help you improve your voicemail practices and increase your likelihood of getting your calls (happily) returned.

By Honoree Corpron

What's the difference between a great voicemail message and one that's lacking, and therefore stands less of a chance of getting returned right away, if at all? It comes down to whether you "gave good voicemail"...or not! Wouldn't it be great if there were official voicemail rules for people to follow? Here are some of the most effective ideas I've found on leaving effective messages and having a better chance of getting your call returned:

1. Name and number

Start and end each message with your name and number. This makes it easy for the recipient to play the message and capture your number - without having to listen to it all again. People access their messages from places other than their offices, so always leave your contact information with every message, even if you think they have it in their database. You can speed up the return of your call with this simple step.

2. Prepare your message in advance

What exactly do you want to say? Jot down a few notes prior to calling so you will remember everything you need your listener to know (and allow them to prepare properly before calling you back).

3. Brevity is bliss

Make each message one minute long or less. Have more to say? Give the recipient an overview of what you'd like to discuss, and ask them to return your call. Sending a brief email is also another great alternative.

4. Leave a message!

In addition to your name and number, leave an actual message. Give them a clue as to why they need to call you back (including what information you need), when you're available and the level of urgency of your call. These are especially important if you're not well acquainted with each other - otherwise the recipient may delay the return call because they don't have all needed information, or might delete your message thinking you're a telemarketer.

5. Smile

This will enhance your tone - and without any other non-verbal cues such as face and body language, your tone is all you have to communicate with.

6. Match the recipient

Match the volume and tonality of the recipient. A quick and effective way to create rapport is to match your recipient's outgoing message. If they sound quiet and shy, so should you. If they are ebullient and full of enthusiasm, well, fire it up!

7. Include your availability

Phone tag can be frustrating, and one of the best ways to avoid it is to advise your listener when you can best be reached in the next couple of days. Another alternative is to schedule a phone meeting through their assistant or via email.

Including these seven steps in your email practice will increase your productivity and elevate your standing as a true professional. Share this with your business contacts; they'll appreciate your help and you will all be on the same wavelength.

Dave Neal is a senior partner at 4th Street Training and has helped develop thousands of employees and managers in organisations around the world for over 15 years.

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