Successful entrepreneurs understand that reaching out to people -- whether we want their advice, financial support or business -- is a form of sales. When the person you've been hounding responds to your request for a meeting, they've bought into the idea that you're worth engaging with. That's why the way you present yourself, down to the thirty-second voicemail you leave, counts.
These days, many professionals prefer to communicate via email and I can understand why. Among its many benefits, email is passive and less personal. Emails, after all, are much easier to ignore than phone calls. But these are actually the reasons I prefer to conduct most of my business by telephone. It's direct and intimate, requires confidence and courage and allows you to find common ground more quickly.
All day long, I'm inundated with calls from colleagues, students, friends and frequently -- strangers. I've also been pitching product ideas over the phone for most of my career. These days, I receive a lot of voicemails. I'm baffled by how many fail to convey a succinct, compelling message.
Want someone to call you back? Start by changing the way you leave a voicemail. Your goal is to make returning your call as easy and painless as possible.
Always state your name and number at the beginning and end.
This advice seems like it should go without saying, but the number of rambling, nearly incoherent voicemails I receive tells me it's not. JJ Ramberg, the host of MSNBC's weekend business program Your Business, confirmed my suspicion: "For some reason, people tend to speed up when they start saying their phone number." she said.
Don't make people have to listen to your voicemail more than once. If you have an unusual name or one that's difficult to pronounce, spell it out.
Leave a voicemail from the number you want to be reached at.
Don't create any unnecessary complications by asking someone to call you back at the office when you're calling from your cell phone. Chances are you may never hear from them at all.
Quickly establish a point of reference -- and get to the point.
I've talked with a number of well-established business professionals about this topic and they all agreed they'd be much more likely to respond to a voicemail from an individual if they can place them in a relevant context. For entrepreneur Jonathan Fields, the author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance, who gets more calls, emails and voicemails than he can return on any given day, "an introduction from someone I know, like and trust is a huge factor" when considering who to call back.
Small-business expert Barry Moltz agreed that the voicemails that annoy him most are the ones in which people don't acknowledge how they became connected to him. Effective voicemails concisely and quickly identify why you've decided to reach out to a specific individual. "I respond to voicemails from strangers when they specifically tell me what they need, and I think I can help. General voicemails do not get returned," Moltz said.
Plan ahead and keep it brief.
I occasionally receive voicemails that clock in at nearly four minutes. Huh? Leaving a voicemail is not an opportunity to conduct a one-way meeting or a monologue. Less is more. Give people a reason to call you. If you've already described everything you want to say in minute detail, there's no incentive to call you back. Think critically about what you want to get across and how you're going to do that. When I receive a rambling voicemail, I'm irked that my time is being wasted.
Don't ask questions.
If you have questions, voicemail is not the place to ask them. People think laying it all on the line in a message is helpful, but I disagree. I want to know enough to feel compelled to call you back, but not so much that I feel demands are being made of me.
Be professional and enthusiastic.
Leaving a voicemail from a noisy place is rude and unacceptable. Barely being able to understand what someone is trying to say because the background noise is so loud or the connection is so feeble sends a clear message that the person calling me doesn't care very much. Wait to leave a voicemail until you are in an appropriate setting. In the same vein, put effort into crafting a voicemail that sounds natural, but also enthusiastic. If you're not excited about what you're talking about, neither am I.
If all else fails, keep calling.
I use a special technique when I'm having a tough time getting someone to call me back and it has yet to fail me. I simply let the person know I will keep calling. I don't call repeatedly, but consistently. Sooner or later, his curiosity is piqued and my sheer doggedness has earned me enough respect to warrant a call back.
Be persistent, be patient, be generous when calling others back and you may find the same comes back in return to you.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.