How to optimize the most overlooked first-impression-maker
Have you ever heard a voicemail greeting that really impressed you? Wait. Do you remember anyone’s voicemail greeting? Do you even remember your own? Many people have told me that their voicemail greeting was recorded long ago and they can’t even remember what it says (what they said) anymore. Call your voicemail right now and listen to it with the ears of a prospective client. Would you do business with you? This often-overlooked, first impression maker can have impact (positive or negative)…
Last week, as I exited the Metro rail in St. Louis, I emerged from the underground station, lifted my head I was suddenly looking up at The Gateway Arch for the first time. This beautiful structure stood five blocks ahead of me and at 630 feet tall it was towering over the city, like a protector. As the sun shone brightly against its stainless steel exterior, I was awestruck. I had to get a closer look. I entered the underground museum at the base of The Arch, watched the “Making-of” movie, and then took the egg-shaped tram car to the top where I admired the city from 630 feet. Later, I gladly returned my feet to the grassy field that The Arch rests on, looked up and felt so inspired. I thought, “Wow – this is the perfect time to re-record my voicemail greeting.” So, while standing there, I tilted my head back, thought about the people that began this unprecedented project back in 1963, appreciated its beauty while taking it in, smiled from ear to ear and grabbed my phone …
Consider the fact that your voicemail greeting, in many cases, is your client’s very first impression of you as a person. More often than not, callers will hear your voicemail greeting before they get to the “Real McCoy.” The effectiveness of your greeting can influence the caller to leave you a message … or not — it could even help the caller determine whether they will be doing business with you … or not. What you say and how you say it, whether in person or on the phone, has a direct impact on your client’s feelings, decisions and actions.
Fact is, very few people realize the impact of their voicemail greeting, and therefore little attention is paid to it. As we’ve all heard, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The good news is, this is an easy fix. By following the 4 tips below, you can create such an effective and powerful greeting that you may even begin receiving compliments on it.
1. Script, rehearse, and then record:
Write it out exactly as you would like it, considering each sentence, then each word. Read it aloud a few times. Record from a quiet place and on a land-line (recording from a land-line results in a better quality recording than that of a cell phone connection).
Ever notice how often people say, “uhhh” on their voicemail greeting? Don’t they know they have more than one try at recording it? Or, have you noticed how some recordings feel so rushed that you don’t fully understand what was said? I’ve re-recorded my voicemail greeting as many as 5 times, in order to get it just right … it’s that important.
“Smile before you dial.” A smile is heard — and felt — on the other end. Record this greeting when you are feeling great; in a great mood. This can’t be faked, so if you need to, go get inspired by someone or something before you record, even let yourself laugh beforehand.
Whether they ever comment on it or not, people will notice your smile. People want to do business with people they like … and people like people who project positive energy…
3. Keep it brief, yet informative, positive and upbeat:
Shorten it by leaving out the obvious instructions and the negative wording (i.e., “I am sorry, but unfortunately I am not available to take your call right now.” — entirely obvious & entirely negative/can’t-do wording. Or how about, “After the beep, leave your name and number.” — everyone knows to wait for the beep — they’ve been doing it for 30+ years. Everyone knows to leave their name and number and even if they forget (that’s about 1 in 500), you’ve captured it on the caller ID anyway.
Keep it informative by offering your website address, e-mail address, alternate phone number, etc. and a future bypass method.
4. Take this opportunity to remind and/or inform your caller of pertinent information:
Do you have a new website, product or service you would like to promote? Do you want to offer an alternate method for people to contact you? (It’s become quite obvious that lots of folks feel more comfortable writing you an e-mail than they do leaving a voice message, so give them the option.) Do you work “by appointment only” and want to subtly remind your clients of it? Do you set aside a specific time of day to return calls? Your voicemail greeting is one of the easiest ways to handle all of this and it costs you nothing.
“Hi, this is Joe Johnson with XYZ Widgets. Please leave a message. I am either with an appointment or just away from my phone. I invite you to visit my website WidgetJoe.com for my schedule and e-mail address. In the future, you may bypass this message by pressing the star button. Thank You and I look forward to connecting with you soon!”
Every word of every sentence has been chosen carefully. Your message, like the one above, can be recorded clearly in about 17 seconds. Additionally, this message is from you and recorded by you, not your secretary, assistant or someone you asked to do it for you.
Remember to follow all of the above tips and remember all of your phones (work, cell, home office, etc.)
When people actually begin complimenting you on your greeting, you know you’ve got it.
When you go away, say you are “away” instead of using the word “vacation” — your clients are considering spending (or have already spent) money with you and don’t need or want to hear about your vacations, as much as they may love you.
Additionally, instead of saying, “I’m away and won’t be returning until…,” say, “I’m away and will be returning on…” (Keep it “can-do”) Remember: they’re calling because they need you at that moment.
Letting people know you are “away” is important — it has clients forgive you for not getting back to them as quickly as you normally would.
(Modified from its originally published version: Steve Dorfman, Driven To Excel eNewsletter 11/07)