When I was looking for a service that could offload some of my IT administrative duty, I sent an email to a prospective company asking a few questions. In response, I received a call from a sales rep, who we’ll call Darren. I missed the call, but Darren left me a sales voicemail answering my questions and asking me a few more.
So I shot him back an email answering his questions and asking a few more of my own.
He responded by leaving me a voicemail.
I sent him another email.
He left me a voicemail.
I sent him another email.
Again, he left me a voicemail.
Finally, he called me while I was at my desk. Having seen the number on my caller ID so many times, I knew it was him -- so, I stopped what I was doing, picked up the phone, and shortly thereafter, I become a customer.
You must be wondering, why did I stay in engaged in Darren's sales process for this long?
Simply put: He left voicemails.
You see, even on my busiest day I rarely get more than 10 voicemails. I could, however, easily get a few hundred emails. It seems to me that emails have become a victim of their own success. Because they are so quick and easy to send, they are (for many) a preferred method of communication. But because it is so popular, your email is likely to be just one of hundreds sitting in your client’s inbox.
By responding to me via voicemail, Darren got to the top of my stack. And when you’re prospecting, that’s all you’re trying to do. On the first dial, you aren’t trying to persuade someone to buy your stuff, or even to take a meeting. Your goal should be to get yourself to the top of your prospect’s to-do list.
Sure, if Darren had simply answered my questions via email, it’s possible I still would have ended up buying from his company at some point. But it is also just as likely that I would have bought from someone else. What I can say for sure is that I definitely wouldn’t have acted as quickly as I did.
When should you use a sales voicemail vs. an email?
I’m not suggesting that you ignore electronic communication altogether. Show me a rep who only uses the phone and I’ll show you a rep who suffers poor accessibility. But show me a rep who only emails and I’ll show you someone with poor communication skills.
You have to use both, but knowing which to use and when can be difficult. Different situations call for different approaches so I think it’s a fool’s errand to create rules that are too strict. Factors like your style, your client’s style, and what your relationship is like (in this instance, I started the conversation by becoming an inbound lead), all have to be considered.
So how do you know which approach will be most effective? I suppose we could create a multi-layered “in this situation, use this” flow chart that details endless possible scenarios. But instead, I’d rather share an easier, more efficient technique to help guide your decision.
When you are faced with the decision to call or email, simply ask yourself this question: “Which one takes more courage?” I have often found that when I choose the path that gives me the most fear, I wind up achieving the best results. Be curious. Be confident. Be fearless. And most importantly, be heard.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.