Getting the Prospect to Return Your Call

Prospects today are busy, busy, busy and their voice mailboxes are constantly being filled with messages from people they don’t know, people who they don’t want to know, and people who give no reason to call them back. Don’t be one of those people.

Avoiding Voice-mail Hell

In the past, salespeople had to find a way around the “screener,” the person who stood in the way of you reaching the decision-maker. Today, voice mail has taken the place of the traditional screener but the same techniques that work with a screener, will work with a voice-mail system with just a bit of modification.

The key to getting decision-makers to return your call is to leave a tantalizing or compelling message that causes them to think, “Hmm, I’m interested in hearing more!”

Here’s the formula for leaving an effective voice-mail message:

  • Say the person’s name first. (This gets their attention.)
  • Identify yourself, giving the company name first.
  • Speak a bit louder and a bit slower than normal.
  • Present them with a benefit statement. Mention ideas you have that might be of interest to them. Don’t talk about yourself or your product.
  • End the call by giving your name, company and phone number. Speak slowly and clearly. (Important.)
  • Tell them the best time to reach you. (Optional.)
  • Repeat your name and phone number s-l-o-w-l-y and clearly as the very last thing. They can’t return your call if they can’t make out your name and number.


    “Hello, Mr. Byer. I’m calling from Evermore Corporation. My name is Joe Cellar. Our company specializes in helping grocers reduce the amount of spoiled produce they dispose. Depending on how you’re handling this area now, we may have something that could help you minimize your losses.

    “To determine if it would be worth your while taking a look at some possibilities, I’d like to ask a few questions about your current situation. Would you please call Joe Cellar, Evermore Corporation, 555-1234. The best time to reach me is this afternoon before three or tomorrow morning after ten. Again, that’s Joe Cellar, 555-1234. Thanks!”

No Reason, No Call-back

We all know that the basic rule for getting someone to return your call is to give them a compelling reason to do so. But no matter how compelling your message may be, sometimes they won’t return your calls.

Humour May Help

What can you do? Well, one thing you can do before simply giving up, is to use humour. After you’ve left three to five good messages, each with a valid reason for the person to call you back, you might try leaving one like this:

    “Hello, Mr. Prospect, this is Brian Jeffrey calling from SalesForce Training yet one more time. The reason for my call is to follow up on some ideas for improving sales effectiveness and possibly increasing sales. Since I haven’t heard back from you, I’m going to assume one of three things.

    “One, that perhaps you’re not interested and wish I’d stop calling.

    “Two, you really do want to speak with me but you’re either very busy or you’re trapped underneath a large, heavy object and can’t reach the phone, and I certainly hope that isn’t the case (spoken in a light-hearted, non-sarcastic way)!

    “Or three, my timing is just off.

    “Mr. Prospect, I realize that there’s a thin line between being persistent and being a pest and I don’t want to be a pest. If my timing is off, I’d really appreciate it if you would call and give me some guidance. Again, this is Brian Jeffrey from SalesForce Training, 1-800-461-7355. That number again is 1-800-461-7355 (spoken s-l-o-w-l-y!). Thanks a lot!”

Alligator Email

Another approach is to use an alternate contact method such as email. This method works particularly well in those situations where you have already been in contact with the person but they are no longer returning your calls. Again, the use of humour may get the response you’re looking for. We’ve used the “alligator email” with good success. The same format can be modified and used for email. The body of the alligator email reads:

    Mr. Prospect, I suspect you must be up to your armpits in alligators because I’ve been unable to get through to you. When the alligators take a break, do you suppose you could give me a call? I’d really like to talk to you about (insert a benefit statement here). In the meantime, I’d sure appreciate it if you would provide me with an update. Just check one of the items below and fax this page back to me. Thanks a lot!

        You’re right, I’m swamped. Call me on or after _____ so we can talk.

        Don’t quit trying. I admire persistence!

        Don’t call me. I’ll call you.

        As soon as the dust settles, I’ll give you a call.

        I’m not interested at this time.

        Don’t have an answer for you yet. Call me after _____________

Still Can’t Get Through?

If none of these techniques work, you’re probably dealing with a PWOT (Potential Waste of Time) and it’s time to move along to a more promising opportunity.

Let’s face it, if you’ve been leaving good messages that contain a solid benefit to the prospect, either you guessed wrong about the benefit or the prospect simply doesn’t want whatever it is you’re offering. In either case, it’s time to move along to some other opportunity. No use flogging a dead horse.

As a matter of policy, when we’ve been unable to get through using these techniques, we will put closure on the opportunity by sending the prospect our wind-down letter.

Professional selling isn’t easy and getting prospects to return your calls is just one of the many challenges’ salespeople face on a day-to-day basis. Don’t despair. If you have the drive and discipline to do what it takes, you will succeed.