Recently I received an email inviting me to a seminar on how to “overcome” voicemail and become an effective sales generator. This seminar promised to teach how to:
- Reach More Decision Makers
- Overcome Voice-Mail Jail
- Get Past Gatekeepers
Oh, how I love these seminars!
Why would you want to “overcome” voicemail? Voicemail is one of our best friends. In our inside sales business, we contact a lot of people everyday. Of course we get a lot of voicemails which inevitably leads a client or prospect to ask us why we even leave voicemails. Their thought is that we can reach more people by hanging up when we get voicemail and moving on to the next call. I explain to them that we leave a voicemail for every person we can (of course not the people we actually get to talk to) as it is a great way to develop a relationship with that person.
How many times do you walk into your office, check the caller ID on your phone, see a number you may or may not recognize, and then call them back figuring they have something important to tell you that you believe you might miss out on if you don’t get back to them right away? Has it ever happened? Now how many times have you come back to your office, listened to a voicemail you received, realized that you meant to call that person back from the last time they called, and called them to discuss an opportunity? This has happened to me a whole lot more than the first scenario!
When I managed salespeople for an IT staffing firm, we used to bring all of the new reps to the corporate headquarters for training. Part of that training was that the newbies would sit in with the more experienced people and watch them as they made 100+ calls a day. I always had these guys sit in with me because they were my good luck charm. Inevitably, I would get 2-3 calls every time from people looking for us to work with them. The rookies would always think that the job must be easy because people are just calling us with opportunities. I would inform them that these calls were actually call backs: people who I had left several messages for but hadn’t heard from until they needed me. When they did, they felt comfortable because they had heard my voice so many times as I had developed a rapport with them through voicemail.
The average person needs to see your name or logo or hear your name 7-13 times before they have developed a strong enough comfort level to do business with you. I have seen relatively similar numbers in the calls we do for clients. Why would you want to waste an opportunity to get yourself just a little bit closer to a sale?
This seminar also covered one of my other favorite topics, “getting past” the gatekeeper. Why would you want to get past the gatekeeper? This person is the pillar of knowledge within most companies. They know who is in, who is out, and who is doing what to or with whom. The CEO may have the big desk but it is the gatekeeper who houses the everyday company knowledge. Those who try to find their way around them usually are met with a brick wall of voicemails, messages of “he’s not in today”, and responses of “he’s not interested, while the person who shows the gatekeeper the respect they deserve usually finds themselves a valuable ally inside the company who can help them with when to call, what to talk about, and other ways to further develop the interest of the person making the decision.
When I worked for a medical staffing company, I would routinely call on hospitals where we placed MRI, CT, and X-ray Technologists. Decision makers were rarely at their desk and tough to catch up with. One day, I walked into the MRI area of a pretty well known Chicago hospital armed with two boxes of cookies. One I had for the decision maker I was trying to see, the other for the group at the front desk. I walked up, handed them a box of cookies, and simply stated that I knew that they were busy so I wanted to give them some cookies in appreciation for their hard work and just ask them when would be a good time to see Mr. So-and-So, the head of the MRI Department to discuss his staffing needs. I also asked them if, based on what they see every day, they thought that he would be receptive to us helping out with their staffing needs. The response I got was exactly what you would expect when you treat people with respect (well, maybe a little bit more since they were clearly used to salespeople who had taken the “how to get past the gatekeeper” seminar). They told me the best times to reach him, the positions they knew to be open, what the person looks for, and how to get to him (“just go through that door over there to his office…yes that one…the one that says no admittance. Don’t worry about that, that’s just to keep people out”). Heck, they even offered to validate my parking.
It’s funny what a few cookies and treating people with respect will bring.