Tips for Surviving VoiceMail

Nancy Anderson
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For modern professionals, it is impossible to avoid voicemail. When you are uncomfortable with recording your own voice, leaving a voicemail message can feel excruciating. By preparing in advance and brushing up on your communication skills, you can start each call with confidence.

Like any other mode of professional communication, voicemail requires strategy. When you want to increase the chances of a return phone call, avoid leaving messages on Friday afternoons or at odd hours. Instead, aim for the hours between 6:45 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and between 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. If you want the person to take a specific action, explain exactly what you need and give all the information that is required to proceed. For sales calls, give the person a tidbit that is intriguing enough to prompt a return call. A small amount of strategic thinking can help you make the most of each voicemail message.

When leaving a voicemail message, it is common practice to leave your phone number at the end. If recipients are strapped for time, they may not have the patience to wait. Make it easier on your contacts by stating your number twice: once at the beginning, right after you say your name, and once at the end of the message. This method also gives the person on the other end a second chance to write down the number.

One of the most challenging aspects of voicemail is its unpredictability. In most cases, it is impossible to know when you'll be speaking to a person and when you'll be recording a voicemail message. To avoid being caught off guard by an answering system, create basic scripts for each of your major phone call categories and keep them near your phone. If you frequently call suppliers to check on the status of orders, you might write a line that says, "This is (name) from (company). I'm calling to verify that (product name and number) was shipped on (date) and that it will arrive at (company name and address) by (expected delivery date)." Instead of scrambling to find the right words and gather your thoughts, you can read the script and fill in the blanks with order-specific information. The script also ensures that you don't forget to include pertinent information such as your name or the order number.

For many professionals, leaving a voicemail message feels like an exercise in humiliation. Preparation can help you avoid stumbling over your words or inserting distracting conversation fillers such as "like" or "um." Practice what you want to say out loud before you call. Whenever possible, find a quiet space so you won't be distracted by other people or objects; even a small, unexpected event can throw you off and leave you stammering. Breathe deeply before you start speaking to release nervous energy, and speak slowly to increase clarity.

Voicemail is an unavoidable part of professional communication. With basic preparation and constant practice, you can leave a voicemail message that delivers crucial information and encourages action.



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