Telephones have been around for a very long time now, as the first phone call was made in 1876. For decades, the only way someone would know that you called was if they answered or someone else took a message. A person would have no idea about the missed call and wouldn’t know to make a return call. It wasn’t the best system for efficient communication, but it was the only one available.
All of that would change 103 years after the first phone call was made when voicemail was created. Gordon Matthews invented voicemail in the late 1970s when he founded a company called VMX (Voice Message Express). His invention made it possible to leave a recorded message when a phone call went unanswered. Voicemail systems became an instant sensation and quickly became a necessity for businesses and everyday people alike.
In the modern era, voicemails have fallen by the wayside a bit. Landlines were replaced with mobile phones, and social media, texting, and emails have made it possible to reach anyone at any time. Voicemails are something of a relic as the majority of people don’t listen to their messages. The thought process is that if it’s important enough, they’ll call back another time or send them a text/email.
While it’s true that voicemails have somewhat lost their initial luster and functionality, they are still an essential part of everyday life. Sooner or later, there’s going to be a time when you need to leave an important voicemail or receive one. We’ve already talked about how you can make a great first impression by creating a professional voicemail greeting.
Now, let’s talk about how to do the same thing when leaving a voicemail.
9 Things To Do When Leaving a Voicemail
Depending on the situation, a voicemail can often be the unofficial first meeting between two people. The last thing that you want to do is leave the wrong impression and squander an opportunity for something great because of a voicemail. For that reason, here is a list of nine things that you need to take into consideration whenever you’re leaving an important voicemail:
1. Double Check That You Have the Right Number
In the past, you could easily dial the wrong phone number and wind up calling a complete stranger. The creation of contact lists has made organizing much easier and significantly reduced these embarrassing situations. It might be unlikely, but it’s still a possibility that you entered the wrong number when you created the contact.
It’s smart to play it safe and take a few seconds to make sure that the contact information is correct. That’s especially the case if you’ve never called this particular phone number/contact before. You don’t want to leave a voicemail with potentially sensitive information in a random person’s inbox.
2. Plan Out What You’re Going To Say
Leaving a voicemail will never be as complicated as making a big-time speech in front of a crowd of people. You’re not presenting a dissertation or anything like that. All that you’re doing is leaving a quick message. That being said, you should have a mental template of what you’re planning on saying.
A voicemail that switches between long pauses while you’re thinking and bouts of rambling incessantly are only going to waste the recipient's time. On the other hand, if you have to re-record the message multiple times, then it’s only going to waste your time.
Take a minute to plan out what you want to say and jot it down on a scrap piece of paper. Writing out a voicemail script might seem like overkill, but it’s much better than trying to improvise on the spot.
3. Check the Current Time
The entire point of a voicemail is that you can leave a message for someone who is currently unavailable. Now that doesn’t mean you should just call them whenever you feel like it. Leaving a voicemail at 2:30 AM is both highly unprofessional and wildly inappropriate.
Even if it doesn’t disturb the recipient this time, they’re unlikely to be thrilled that future calls from you could come at all hours of the night. You should try to limit your voicemails to regular business hours of 9 AM to 5 PM on Mondays through Fridays.
This is especially true for sales calls. Sales reps work all over the world, so checking the time zone of the person you intend to call is vital. No one likes it when their phone rings at 2 AM, especially for non-emergencies.
4. State Your Name (or Company Name) Clearly
Old habits die hard, and this is an excellent example of that concept. Earlier, we mentioned how voicemails had been around since the late 1970s. It took another decade before Caller ID was created by New Jersey Bell in 1987. Even then, it wasn’t a standard feature for many more years after that. The point is that there was a long time when you would check your voicemail and have no idea who had left a message there.
Back in those days, you would have to provide your name; otherwise, the person would have no idea whose voice they heard in the message. It’s not as big of a deal anymore as they could simply check their call logs and find out who called and at what time.
Either way, it’s considered polite to clearly state your full name at the beginning of your voicemail message. Naturally, it’s essential to do this whenever you’re calling a phone number for the very first time.
If you are calling on business-related matters, state your name first and then the company name. For example, “Hi, I’m Ally, calling from (Company Name) to discuss your application for our (role) you submitted on LinkedIn.”
5. Explain Your Reason for Calling
Cell phones come with a variety of ways to limit how intrusive that is in your life. For example, you can turn on the “Do Not Disturb” mode, and all calls will go directly to voicemail. You might not be disrupting someone’s day by calling them, but it’s the virtual equivalent of knocking on their front door.
The first question they’ll have is “who,” and the second question is “why.” Briefly explain why you’ve called and left a voicemail immediately after you provide your name.
6. Leave a Phone Number Where You Can Be Reached
If you’re leaving a voicemail, then it indicates that you want to speak directly with that person in the near future. The ball would be in their court now to call you back and try to initiate that conversation.
Slowly listing your ten-digit phone number is the polite thing to do as it would be a big time saver for them. Otherwise, they would have to comb through their call logs or voicemail records to find your number for themselves. Obviously, you’ll definitely need to clearly state your phone number if it’s different from the one that you placed the voicemail with.
7. Keep It Short and Sweet
Although you have the option to record a voicemail that lasts a few minutes, you should try to limit your message to 30 seconds or less. Focus on the broad strokes of information and save the details for the upcoming conversation.
Remember that the person you called will have to listen to your entire voicemail. The longer you talk, the longer they’ll have to pause their day and listen. It’s best to avoid taking up too much of their day with unnecessary chatter.
8. Speak Professionally and Be Courteous
There is a time and place for slang and foul language. Leaving a voicemail is not one of them. You should make a great effort to speak professionally and avoid sounding like you’re at a hockey game on dollar beer night.
Be courteous and respectful. Pepper in statements like “Sorry to interrupt your day,” “Thank you for your time,” and “Have a great day.” It doesn’t cost anything to say these words, but they can be very rewarding for the other person to hear.
9. Recap Before Hanging Up
The very last thing that you want to do before ending the voicemail is to offer a brief (emphasis of brief) summary of why you called. As mentioned earlier, the message that you left shouldn’t be very long in the first place. This way, you’ll prevent them from needing to replay the message if they missed any important details.
In one sentence, sum up who you are, why you’ve called, how to get into contact and a call to action (“Call me back” or “Email me the information”). Doing so before you hang up will ensure that your message is crystal clear.
Leave Your Message After the Beep
The ability to leave an amazing voicemail isn’t something that you should take for granted. Leaving voicemail might be less common than it used to be, but there are still going to be times when you need to leave an important one.
Networking and communication are two skills that are crucial for navigating modern life, especially in the world of business. By following the tips listed above, you can leave the best voicemail possible and make an excellent first impression.
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Leaving an awkward voicemail? Rerecord with a keypad shortcut | CNET
'Caller ID' Stirs Debate on Phone Privacy | The New York Times
Are you still checking voice mail? | CBS News
Gordon Matthews Dead at 65; Invented Corporate Voice Mail | The New York Times