How To Get Your Voice Mails Returned

Do you leave messages on answer-phones when you can’t get through?

The camp is definitely spilt on this one.

Half of the people I speak to leave messages and half do not.

Only last week one of my delegates said “Sean, I never leave messages on an answer-phone. It’s a waste of time. They never call me back.”

I disagree with this as it all depends on the message that you leave.

The primary objective of leaving a message is to get your call returned. That’s it. Period!

Don’t go into sales fluff, don’t go into why you are calling and why it’s so important. Just think of some standard message and test it out.

Try out different messages and keep track of the responses you get.

Keep tweaking that message until you get the best returns.

Here are 5 quick tips to get your calls returned:


Don’t try to sell your product or service on a voice mail.

Don’t just “introduce” yourself via voice mail and expect a response.

All you want is for your call to be returned.


Make your prospect think and want to call you back.

Try a statement like:

“Hi Jim, it’s Sean from MTD. Could you please call me back in relation to your sales people”

This statement would create curiosity. Is the call from a client wishing to complain? Or from a top sales training company looking for business?


Your message should be 20 seconds or less.


Say your name and number at the start and the end of the message.

You are much more likely to get a call back if the prospect doesn’t have to listen to the message again to take action.


Make sure you keep track of who you’ve left a message for and what you’ve said, so that you are prepared should they call you back.

When all is said and done the purpose of leaving a voice mail is to get your call returned – never forget that!

Sean McPheat is regarded as a leading authority on modern day selling. Sean is a bestselling author and has appeared on CNN, ITV, BBC and has over 250 other media credits to his name. Sean founded MTD Sales Training in 2001 and since then they have helped over 50,000 staff. Please visit Sean’s Sales Blog for his latest musings and tips. Sean also offers free audios, videos and sales tips.

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  • Particularly in cold calling, what often works is asking about some issue, challenge, or even success that the company you’re calling is currently experiencing (who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?). I’m not a fan of leaving ambiguous or very vague messages because inadvertently you may be creating expectations in your prospect’s mind that are not aligned with who you are or what you are trying to accomplish (your objective), which then may be detrimental to your objective once you actually reach your contact.

  • Rebecca

    Very good ideas from Sean. Bart your comment is great too.

  • William

    @ Bart Zych – While you have a valid point Bart and should continue to do what you are a fan of, Sean has nail it on the head here.

    That said, I personally did not read into what Sean was saying as leaving some ambiguity styled message; more of don’t sell yourself short by selling in the V.M..

    I hear the mistakes pointed out quite often in my line of work. My experiential reality is great number of people selling, professionals and business owners alike, get wrap forget that the goal of a V.M is to get a call back, not sell.

    Have a great day!


    William S. Dickinson

    • Good points William, and of course Sean! Voice mail is definitely not for leaving a sales pitch. I’m sure we all get enough of those – and promptly delete them! Creating interest and curiosity, however, is a different story. Some prefer to create curiosity by being vague, as in Sean’s example, while others, like me, find that a quick online check for something interesting about the prospect’s company can go a long way too.

  • Michael Mangalam

    It is like asking out a girl – don’t do it on voice mail. Ask her to call you back – or else you will try to reach her later.

    – Michael Mangalam
    “Crowdsourced Confidential Consultations”

  • Thank you for this article! I have been recently wondering about this exact topic!! This week I’ve tried a new tactic: after 3 separate tries at contact with no answer, I leave a brief message asking them to call me back. This way at least I can move people forward in my sales funnel.
    In the beginning, I left a few messages offering my services, and never got my calls returned. Rookie mistake.

  • Anonymous

    Remember that the sole objective is to get your call returned. And you MUST NOT sound like a sales person.

    Decision makers have a warning beacon that sounds everytime.

    Issues, challenges, problems or success related messages are left all of the time be sales people – as soon as the decision maker hears that their alarm will sound!




  • chart3

    I personally don’t want just anyone to call me back so I tend to leave very detailed voicemails as a filtering mechanism. When I do receive a call back, it’s usually from a person who is highly interested in the offer. I believe for that reason, I lead my company in several cold-calling campaigns and I’ve just been offered the most lucrative opportunity that most others are afraid to pursue.

  • chart3

    Note: I normally call C-level executives at Fortune 2000 – Fortune 500 companies, so my technique/style may not work as well if calling other demographics.

  • Sheila

    Great advice, Sean and Bart. It’s easy to get overly excited about your services and dip into sales mode. In many cases, the best way to avoid VM is to call before hours, after hours, and sometimes weekends. Your prospect is usually more likely to pick up the phone than in the middle of the day.

  • The books say not to leave a voicemail, but I don’t buy it. After a few attempts without getting through to a live person I will leave a message – it’s a touch, after all! Of course, the voicemail you leave is key to success – keep it short and relevant for the listener…who, what and WHY are key….benefit, benefit, benefit. Sometimes I leave my phone number while other times I let them know I’ll be calling again on X date.

  • Sometimes I do leave a message, but 95% of the time I do not because they mostly do not get returned. I do test different voice mail messages at times and always put myself in their shoes when I leave messages knowing damn well that they probably get a lot of solicitations.

    You definitely have to be creative and think outside the box.