The Art of Leaving an Effective Voice Mail

by Joe Lavelle on November 1, 2009

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Several months ago on this blog, I shared my thoughts on the amazing work that is being done by Keith Ferrazzi, a bestselling author and expert on the skill of professional networking.  His first book, Never Eat Alone, has been named one of the best business books by Forbes every year since 2005.  His new release, Who’s Got Your Back, discusses the importance of establishing “lifeline relationships” with individuals who can offer support and advice.  As someone who is a strong believer that networking is essential to professional success, I find great value in all of the advice that Keith Ferrazzi has to offer.

Since I am a fan of his philosophy, I make sure to read Keith’s blog on a regular basis.  There was one recent post that particularly grabbed my attention.  We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make the best first impression.  We consider what we are going to wear.  We remember to have a firm handshake and a warm smile.  We do our homework to make sure we know the background on the person we are meeting.  However, what if the opportunity you have to make a first impression comes while leaving a voice mail?

Keith Ferrazzi offers four rules for what he refers to as “warm calling” that he believes will get you the best chance at the meeting or follow-up conversation that you seek.  His first piece of advice is to convey credibility.  He recommends that you mention a person or institution that connects you to the caller.  If there is some relationship that is made apparent quickly, then the recipient of the message is less likely to reach for the “Delete” button.

What are the other three rules that Keith offers?  You will need to check out his blog to find out.  I think you will agree that his recommendations can make that sometimes awkward voice mail message as productive as possible.

On the flip side, there are certainly things that a caller can do during a voice mail that scream “do not return my phone call!”  Here are a few of mine:

1. Talk too fast — If I have to replay the message three or four times to catch your name, that’s a problem.

2. Sigh with exasperation — I’m sorry that I wasn’t at my desk.  I promise I’m not avoiding you.

3. Have the background noise of a flushing toilet — Do not call me from a bathroom.  Ever.  Our conversation can wait.

What are your voice mail “don’ts”?  In this age of constant communication and no location seemingly off-limits for phone calls, I’m sure you can think of some ideas!  Please share!

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