Business Voicemail Fails: 15 Tips to Guarantee No One Ever Calls You Back


What do the best business voicemails have in common? Most professionals would agree that the best ones are short, sweet, and get right to the point. Of course, that’s only if you want the person you’re calling to call you back. But relying on voicemail to win callbacks is a chancy thing these days.

Voicemail is definitely on the decline, with most of the upcoming generation preferring texting to phone calls. The average response rate for a voicemail from a sales call is a mere 4.8 percent. And that’s not all—90 percent of first-time voicemails get ignored. Nevertheless, sales reps spend 25 hours per month leaving voicemail messages. This is probably because 92 percent of all customer interaction is still handled over the phone.

Best Business Voicemail Practices

This decline in voicemails, and responsiveness to voicemails, means any voicemail you do leave has to count. It should be compelling, personable, and persuasive. Here are a few quick tips to fine-tune your voicemail messages.

  • The best messages last between 8 and 14 seconds.
  • The best times to call are Wednesday and Thursday, either at the beginning of the workday or the end.
  • The worst times to call are Monday morning and Friday afternoon.
  • Smile while you’re calling. The people on the other side will hear it.

This is all assuming you WANT a callback. Maybe you’re too busy texting, playing Candy Crush, or chatting with friends about the new Star Wars movie. If that’s the case, here are 15 tips to guarantee no one will ever call you back.

(If, however, you want people to respond to your voicemails, consider this a “how to” in reverse.)

#1. Call from someplace noisy.

Construction work in the background? Children screaming? The more distractions you have on the line when you’re calling, the better. It helps if the environment is so loud that you have to shout into the phone. People love to get shouted at.

#2. Make the call as convoluted as possible.

There’s a reason you’re calling. That’s the important information the listener will want to hear. Make sure you bury that information in a lot of distracting details. If you have multiple points you need to cover in your voicemail, then you should never tell the person you’re calling how many points you have. That way, your voicemail just goes on and on.

#3. Sound accusatory and confrontational.

When you leave a message, sound really hostile. Perhaps blame the person you’re calling for causing all your problems. If they know you’re upset, then they’ll do their best to avoid you. And not just over the phone. They’ll probably cross the street when they see you, delete your emails and texts, and unfriend you on social media.

#4. Mix in some profanity.

Variety is the spice of life, and profanity is the salty spice of language. Cursing in a voicemail message is a surefire guarantee you’re not getting a return call. It also leaves the person you called with a nice recording they can play back later for your boss.

#5. The longer the message, the better.

Ramble for as long as you can. Long messages are a good way to eat up the listener’s time. The real benefit of a long, rambling voicemail message is it fills up the person’s voicemail box. That way they may miss an important message they actually want to receive.

#6. Never rehearse leaving a message.

You don’t need to practice leaving a message. You’re a natural! Of course the words and phrasing will come to you in that few-second pause between the end of the voicemail greeting and the beep. There’s absolutely no way your mind will go blank at that exact moment.

#7. Don’t reveal your name.

Just forget to mention who is calling. Or leave it for the end of the message, kind of like a surprise or afterthought.

#8. Leave them asking questions.

By the time the person you called finishes listening to your message, you want him or her feeling a certain way. Overwhelmed, frustrated, emotionally drained—these are all good. But most of all, you want them wondering, what was the point of this call? Also: “Why me? Why me?”

#9. Talk fast.

The faster you talk, the more important your message will sound. You know you’ve done it right when you leave a really, really long message even though you’re talking a mile a minute.

#10. Pack the message with ums and uhs.

So, yeah, um, it’s probably, like, unprofessional to, uh, talk like this. Which, um, is what you’re going for. After listening to, ah, two or three, um, minutes of ums and uhs, I’m sure no one’s going to, ah, want to, um, talk to you on the, uh, phone. Or, uh, at all.

#11. Only mention your contact information ONCE.

This is critical. You should only mention your contact information once. Sure, it’s always easy to say, “Again, my phone number is [random phone number].” But if you do that, the person you called might not have to listen to your message over and over. Why would you deprive them of that?

#12. Refer to past calls.

If you’ve called this person before and left messages, be sure to remind them of each and every one. Nothing keeps people from returning a call like the threat of a possible guilt trip. And if they do dare to call, lay it on thick. Remember, they owe you for all those times you had to dial their numbers and endure their lame voicemail greeting.

#13. Don’t worry about time zones.

Make those calls and leave those messages whenever it’s convenient for you. If people don’t like getting calls when they’re out of office—or possibly asleep—they have options. They could set their phone to Do Not Disturb. Or they could just move to a time zone closer to you.

#14. Instruct them to ONLY call you at a certain time.

In your message, tell the person you called that you’re only available during a narrow window of time. That will remind them that you’re a busy person, too.

#15. Tell them “if you don’t call back, I’ll just call again.”

Sound as threatening as possible when you say this. Because you want calls from you to become a punishment. It really helps build that company/customer relationship.

Business Voicemails Are Only the Start

Leaving a business voicemail takes finesse. All professional communications do. In the office, there are many communications channels, and each one can either work for or against you. Learn how they can work in your favor with our ebook The Bible of Business Communications, available below.


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