A woman uses speakerphone to talk on her smart phone
Increase your sales team’s callbacks with simple messaging that stands out to potential customers

My friend Mike is in sales for an international company. He makes phone calls to prospective clients every day to sell a magazine that helps his clients make more money. When he is not available to receive calls, he has a great voicemail message that frequently gets prospects to call him back.

His message was once the basic, “Hi, this is Mike. I am not in right now. Please wait for the beep and leave a short message. I will return your call shortly.”

Let’s face it: it’s pretty lame. And it sounds about the same as the voicemail of everyone else on the planet, too.


Last year Mike decided to use a more proactive voicemail message than the traditional one that so many of his peers use. It helped him differentiate himself to his prospects and customers. If you want to stand out from every other sales account caller, you must do something different. While everyone else is just offering “vanilla” in their messages, you need to add flavor for the people who are calling you.

In a day when people know you aren’t available (they got your voicemail instead of you, so the secret is OUT) and they know what to do after the beep (they have a beep of their own on their phone and they all sound the same), Mike wanted to stand out from the ordinary, “vanilla” crowd. So, we reinvented his voicemail message — and his income.

He thought that he should give value in the contact of people calling him that no one else gives to customers. He thought he should tell his clients something unique that might benefit them. He thought right.

Stop telling people something they already know; start telling them something they don’t know about what you can do for them.

Mike changed his voicemail: “Hi, this is Mike. I’m helping a client make a lot of money right now. Leave your name, number and a brief message, and I’ll help you make money next!” Wow! It must have been effective. His clients loved the message. Even other sales reps in his company started calling just to hear it. And his sales improved!

Apparently, Mike’s customers, clients and even his competition were watching him — and listening, too. He almost always leads his company in sales closings and, more importantly, has positioned himself as a trendsetter in a very “vanilla” world of account executives. He stands out regularly from the rest of his peers and competition.

Right Now

In your voicemail, what can you say that you are doing to help someone achieve the goals you want them to achieve from doing business with you? Are you assisting someone in making a life-changing decision? Are you delivering value others would want for themselves?

What can you say you are doing for the last person who contacted you that you will do for the next person you speak with? That is the value of what you deliver in a nutshell.

Think about your “airplane speech.” I noticed that when I fly across the country, other people I sit next to will introduce themselves and say what they do for a living. I learned to say what I do in less than 14 words. The shorter and simpler it is, the better others grasp what I do.

I also learned to state it in a way that makes them ask, “How do you do that?” This leads to a conversation about the value I deliver.

If you know how to give a great “airplane speech” about what you do, then you can incorporate it into your voicemail message. Mike helps clients make a lot of money. So, when he sits on airplanes and another person asks, “What do you do?” he answers, “I help people make a lot of money!” When they inevitably ask how he does that, he explains the unique value he delivers to customers.

Now incorporate this into your voicemail message: “I am helping a client make a lot of money.” As someone who works in the propane industry, you could say, “I help people and companies reduce emissions on a daily basis.” If you help anyone accomplish a positive outcome in their daily life or business, then that’s what you do for a living, right? And you should be always doing it for your customers, even when you are doing something else. You could say, “I help people accomplish their personal goals in life and business.”

Start by working on your airplane speech. Keep your statement short, simple and easy for anyone to understand. Use fewer words (anything less than 14 is a good number). Work on a script to reduce the words before you record it. Use shorter words. Communicate in a way that compels people to ask for more information from you about how you do what you do. Try it out in several different scenarios and see how strangers react. Then try it out on potential customers. Don’t tell them everything you do — just enough to make them ask for more from you. Now you have the basis for a great conversation starter on an airplane, in an elevator or while standing in line that you can monetize — as in, use to make money — into a great voicemail message that people will remember.

So what benefit are you delivering right now? What are people doing with your product or service that goes on all the time? What are they taking away now that others would want to be using now themselves?


People love being first in line. But being first is nothing to being next. I would rather be next than first. If you think about it, next is an awesome position to be in. Next is filled with anticipation. First is already there, and the anticipation has already waned. For instance, which holds more excitement for you: Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Being first in line or next to be assisted? Everyone loves being next!

If you can make customers or prospects feel like they are next, they will anticipate a great experience with you. And they will enjoy the experience more each time they call you.

Most people would rather be next than be first.

What are you doing for customers now that would excite the next customer? I taught this to a group in Alaska several years ago. One lady took this message to heart and reinvented her voicemail to say she was “helping a client save a fortune, but I will be glad to help you make your fortune next.”

It worked — her callbacks increased. It seems that people love to feel like they will get the royal treatment next. Whatever you can do to add value to calling your number, you should do — and do right now — before the next person calls you and gets your outdated message!

Your entire voicemail strategy should be about delivering value to people who call you. Deliver benefits they can get from only you, not lame features or facts.

I don’t put the day and date on my voicemail message for two reasons. First, most people didn’t call me to get the time and date. There used to be numbers to call for time and temperature. But with the advent of The Weather Channel and smartphones, most people know that already. Likewise, they didn’t call you to find out what the date is.

Secondly, most outgoing messages have incorrect dates for when the person is in or out, or they’re not updated. I once called a businesswoman and her message said she was out for the week, but she would “return on Dec. 15.” Pretty smart message, right? Except I called her in July! When was the last time she updated that message? Is she aware how she sounds to everyone?

It wouldn’t hurt each person reading this to call their own voicemail, hear their message and ask themselves, “Would I leave a message for him or her? Would this make me want to do more business with them?” Try this out and see what you think when you hear what you say.

Change It Today

What are you saying in your business messaging that makes you stand out from the “vanilla” crowd? While everyone else is doing the same old, same old, what are you doing to be different? Someone will be listening the day you do! And they will also be listening to see what difference you make.

Jim Mathis, IPCS, CSP, CJMT, is The Reinvention PRO, an International Platform Certified Speaker, certified speaking professional, certified John Maxwell team speaker and trainer, and bestselling author of “Reinvention Made Easy: Change Your Strategy, Change Your Results.” For more information on how Mathis and his programs can benefit your organization or group, call 404-922-8199, or visit jimmathis.com.


The 2023 State of the Industry Issue