Many people are frustrated with voice mail. It seems like an impenetrable wall between you and your prospects. It often seems the harder you try, the more voice mail you get to.

You have two choices:

1. Hang-up, dial someone else and try again later. Or…

2. Leave a meaningful message when you hit voicemail.

To hang-up, dial someone else and try again later, is often preferred by experienced telemarketers, but I think that it is a poor strategy. Essentially every call you make without leaving a message is wasted productivity. If you only hit 4 out of the 10 people you call, this means 60% of your time is wasted.

Leaving a meaningful message when you hit voicemail, for my money is the preferred strategy. We all have to learn to deal with voice mail. It is a fact of life.

The challenge for most of us is leaving a meaningful message. There is no sense in the kind of message most of us get on our voice mails. “Hi, this is Joan Smith, I am calling to let you know about our customer satisfaction measurement services and to see if we could set up a time to meet.” This kind of message will result in an extremely small response as there is no implied benefit, no reason for the listener to want to speak unless they are actively looking for those kinds of services.

Like it or not you have to prepare for voice mail before you hear the message. It is worth scripting something that you can say, without sounding scripted.

Here is another strategy you can use when you’re cold calling and get a voice mail message instead of reaching the prospect.

1. Prepare the message that you will leave. Think of a question that you would like your prospect to answer.

2. Leave a a non-salesy message with the question to which you’re trying to get the answer. e.g., “I wanted to know if you have a current will? ” or “I am following up to find out if you are happy with the number of leads you get from your web-site?”. The key in sounding non-salesy, is to position it as a customer service question and to make sure your tone is like that of a service person, not a typical telemarketer.

3. The next step is to get the e-mail address or fax number of your prospect. This is a lot easier than you might expect.

Most times simply pressing “0” will get you to an assistant or the operator. When you connect with someone say, “I just left a message for Dennis Roberts and I need to e-mail some additional information to him. Would you be kind enough to give me his e-mail address/fax number please?” Most of the time you will get one or the other.

4. Send the same message that you left on the prospect’s voice mail, via e-mail or fax. This ensures that the prospect gets the message from two sources and connects the two. It also positions you as being serious abut making contact, without being overly aggressive. Sometimes you will get an e-mail response and can begin your dialog that way.

5. A certain number of people will not respond, but don’t worry. If you don’t get a response in two or three days, simply call again.

Some recent research shows that on average it takes 8.4 attempts to set up an appointment with a new prospect. Most people give up after 2 attempts. If you use the above strategy, you end up with two contacts for every attempt, thus shortening the cycle. You may not get through the first time but you will certainly be more likely to get through in the end.

Be creative, there are no written rules, so make your own. The key is to remain positive and helpful in all your calls.