Man with a Cell Phone

Phone tag got you down? No matter how understanding you can be as a small business owner, when a potential sale keeps slipping through your redialing fingertips, it can really test your patience — not to mention your bottom line. But, what if you didn't have to wait for a call-back to get the ball rolling on your sale? What if you could all but close the sale right in your voicemail? If this were possible, it would not only save you time when the call finally comes through, but it would also give the customer a great incentive to get back in touch in a hurry: they want what you're selling!

As it turns out, it is possible to do exactly that. In fact, there are a variety of ways that your voicemail can accomplish the work you intended to do once you got the customer on the phone.

Geoffrey James writes for about a four-step method to use for any message you leave with a potential customer.

1. 'Identify yourself.' James advises stating your name, company and phone number at the very start of the message.

2. 'Explain why you’re calling,' he says. 'Provide a one-sentence statement about the value, benefits and outcomes that you, your offering, and your company deliver to your customers. This should include a quantifiable financial impact that’s meaningful to the customer.'

3. 'Provide proof you can deliver,' James writes. 'Provide a one-sentence success story about a similar company with whom you have worked and how you were able to help.'

4. 'Identify yourself again,' he says. 'Make it easy for your prospect to call you back!'

Other sales experts, such as writer Larry Chiang, recommend a variety of tactics to custom fit the voicemail sale to the customer. Among Chaing's methods are:

'Set aside your need to sell something,' Chiang writes. 'Instead, help them do their job.' This means leaving a low pressure message that tells the listener something valuable to him or her. For example, this may include important information about their industry. Chiang calls this 'mentoring the prospect.'

He suggests that a caller might say, 'I wanted to talk to you about a new report I’ve read on FICO score trends and how they’re impacting our respective businesses.' This gives the listener a reason besides buying a product or service to give you a call back and if for nothing else, it helps establish a relationship with this person which in turn can help get you recommendations and sales down the line, if not now.

Chiang also says it can be wise on voicemails to 'get in late and get out early. Film directors know this,' he writes. 'Enter a scene late and exit early...This applies to leaving voicemail messages too. For example, I say into their voicemail, 'this is Larry Chiang. Wanted to connect with you about FICO leads. This helps you guys generate new business. These ideas can be used with or without us.'”

While this method doesn't leave time for mentoring the voicemail recipient, when you know enough about your potential client, it becomes easier to know whether educational information or brevity will pay off with each person.

Whether it's the tried and true four-step method or changing up your technique with each call, having an eye on moving the sale forward in the voicemail will save time and encourage call-backs. And as many of your customers are likely busy folks themselves, they're likely to appreciate a speedier transaction as much as you do.

How much time do you spend playing phone tag each week? Could you cut that time down by applying one of these techniques?