Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

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For years I counseled that rather than leave a voicemail when doing telephone introductions, you're better off hanging up and dialing again at a later date. Then someone (I wish I could remember who) explained the dynamics of cold calls and voicemail to me in a new light: “Knowledge is power…”When I cold call someone, I know something about them and they know nothing about me. I have the power therefore, and they feel vulnerable.”

A properly constructed and delivered voicemail message reduces the prospect's vulnerability by delivering information about who you are and why you are calling. It greases the skids for a reply or a pick up the next time you call.

If you've carved out a narrow expertise and you're demonstrating the selectivity of an expert then there's no reason why you wouldn't want to help ease the prospect's vulnerability in this manner. If there's nothing unique about your value proposition or you can't articulate it succinctly then you might not buy into this approach. (You might consider reading The Armour-Piercing Introduction.)

Below I've laid out an example of a repeating voicemail-email pattern that has proven effective. For each touch I outline the key points of the message but the overarching idea is a combination of persistence and invitations to say no. Hopefully we can get a reply. Realistically, we'll offer enough information and demonstrate enough professional persistence to increase the likelihood the prospect will pick up the phone then next time we call.

First Touch: Voicemail

Hi (Prospect); I'm John Doe from ABC Partners, the (specialization) firm. We work with companies like (most relevant client examples) to help them (benefit) and (benefit). We're particularly effective at (even narrower benefit). From what I know of your company I thought there might be a fit here, but I'll ask you to be the judge of that. Would you mind getting back to me and letting me know if this is something you're interested in discussing? If you don't see a fit, that's fine – just say so. My number is 212/555-1212. If you want to have a look at our website first it's (URL). If you'd prefer to get back to me via email my address is (email address).

Thanks (Prospect). I look forward to hearing from you.

Key Points:

  • Succinct
  • Narrow focus and then even narrower
  • “Email me if you prefer”
  • “Feel free to say no”
  • Your tone assumes a reply – don't say or imply that you will try again

Second Touch: Email (anytime within 48 hours of first touch)

Subject: My Voicemail

Hi (Prospect); I just left you a voicemail and wanted to follow up here. We are a (specialization) firm. We work with companies like (most relevant client examples) to help them (benefit) and (benefit). What we do better than almost anybody else is (even narrower benefit). Your company was suggested to me as one that might be a good fit for our expertise.

Feel free to say no if you don't see a fit, but allow me to ask: can we be of help to you?

Key Points:

  • Succinct
  • “Feel free to say no”
  • Important: End in a closed-ended question, inviting a one-word reply

Third Touch: Voicemail (one to three days later)

Hi (Prospect). It's John Doe from ABC Partners, the (specialization) firm. You're on my short list of companies that we might help. I've left you a couple of messages (one phone, one email) and I just want to close this loop. If you don't think there's a fit here, that's fine – just let me know. My phone number is 212/555-1212. My email address is (email address) if it's easier to reply that way. I look forward to hearing from you.

Key Points:

  • Persistant but inviting No
  • Just closing the loop

Fourth Touch: Email (one to two days later)

Subject: It's Okay to Say No

Hello (Prospect); We're not for everyone – I know that, but before I move on I do want to close this loop so I need to hear from you that you don't think we can help you, if that is indeed the case. If you're interested but too busy to discuss right now, just say so and I'll file this for a conversation at a later date.

Key Points:

  • Short and to the point
  • Go for No
  • You might also include a link to some more specific information about your firm or your thought leadership

At the beginning of this pattern the prospect feels a but vulnerable, as discussed. After two or three touches he starts to feel compelled to reply – a bit guilty even if he has not. But guilt walks hand-in-hand with resentment, so as you persist your approach should lighten up a bit or one of you will start to become resentful. (You because he has not replied or he because many prefer resentment to guilt.) This is where it turns into a game.

Your voicemail messages should stay professional and concise but unless you're a sales robot, your human side should start to come out after a touch or two. Little jokes about how this is getting awkward or “this feels a bit like talking to my therapist” can go along way here. Be careful. Some people can make a joke about stalking the prospect and get a laugh, where others get a visit from the police. If I or others have to explain to you what's appropriate and what isn't then don't get too adventurous on this front, just makes sure you're not spewing the same lines over and over again with the same delivery.

So go ahead and leave that voicemail message, then follow up with email if you have the address, then repeat. The key is persistence combined with an invitation to say no. You may get a reply but at the least you'll increase the likelihood the prospect will pick up your next call.


Related Content:

Article: The Armor-Piercing Introduction (free)

Webcast: The Telephone Introduction (membership required)

Webcast: The Takeaway (membership required)

Webcast: Positioning Language (membership required)

Blair Enns
Blair Enns is the Win Without Pitching founder and CEO and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour.
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