Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to leave a voicemail: the best follow up to a letter

You may think this is easy.  On the other hand, you may think it's the hardest thing in the world to do.

Either way, I've made it part of my ongoing professional development to learn, practice, study, and improve the art of leaving a voicemail.  

(I've been making business calls since phones looked like the one in the picture.  And I wasn't always good at.)

This is especially important when you're following up on a letter, resume, new business mailing, email meeting invitation, or other correspondence. 

Here are the specific steps I follow.  By using them -- in this exact order -- I've taken the guesswork out of the phone call:
  1. Lead with the person’s first name. 
  2. State your name, your title or level of responsibility, and the organization you represent, if any.
  3. Announce the day and time of your call.
  4. State your relationship to the person who referred you.  (If you have no relationship, then say so.)
  5. Mention your letter, when it was sent, when it should have been received, and the names of anyone else in the organization who was sent a copy.
  6. Explain that you’re calling to confirm that they received and read your letter, and your desire for them to grant the request it outlines.
  7. Quickly and clearly state the key benefits of your offer and/or your key point of difference.
  8. Mention whatever external leverage you can.
  9. Ask for a response, and provide guidelines on how to reach you. If your name is difficult to spell or pronounce, repeat it and spell it. 
  10. Explain that you will follow up again in 2-3 days if you don’t get a response.  If this is your second message to the person and they have not returned the first one, add, “I’ll keep following up until I get your response.”  Watch how fast you get a response!
  11. As a final reminder of the leverage you’ve created, mention that you’ll be following up with the other recipients of you letter, to learn of their responses.
  12. Thank your listener and end the call by repeating your name and phone number.

It also helps relieve some of the natural nervousness you may feel in making such a phone call.  

Try it out, and come back to leave a comment on how it worked for you.

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