For years I have advocated against leaving voice-mail messages when prospecting. Then my marketing associate, Ellice, persuaded me that it was getting more difficult than ever to catch prospects live on the phone. So we crafted a voice-mail script that has produced a modest number but an impressive quality of responses. I have since worked with several clients and discovered that a well-done voice-mail message works for them also. Here’s what you should do:

1. Prepare a script. Many veteran salespeople balk at this idea. “I don’t need a darn script! I’ve been doing this all my life,” they say. I say you can do better. A prepared script helps you organize your thoughts and prevents you from stammering. It keeps you from wasting the prospect’s time. It helps you identify whether your content is working, so you can adjust the script for future calls.

2. Forget “me,” “we,” and “I.” Stop telling people what “I” can do or what “we” offer. Instead, tell prospects what they will get. For example, everybody boasts about their service, delivery, products, and longevity in the market. A top Sales Leader turns those ideas around by declaring, “You will be working with a company that helps you manage your costs effectively.” After all, that is what timely delivery and accurate take-offs do. Instead of telling the clients what you will do, tell them what they will receive.

3. Sell three assets. The script should boil down to a three-point list of benefits you offer clients. Besides “helping clients manage costs,” as noted above, another benefit you could say you provide is “marketing assistance” in the form of leads and sales tools. Another is “ease of doing business” through fair credit policies, inventory, and knowledgeable staff. Another benefit is “consultation,” which can include advice on building codes or labor management. The list goes on … but stick to the three best.

4. Make it easy to get hold of you. It becomes almost comical to receive voice mails that degenerate into gobbledygook: “Please call me at your convenience at seven seven three two ushem grether hainaro.” Take time to s-l-o-w-l-y leave a phone number and, if possible, an e-mail address.

5. Track your success. You might only receive a return phone call one in 10 times, maybe more or less. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the people who call you back are frequently awesome prospects. The additional good news is that tracking helps you test the effectiveness of scripts. What’s more, we discovered that follow-up calls were well received and even generated apologies from people who said they had been “meaning to call back.”

Developing a voice-mail prospecting message not only adds a valuable asset to your sales tool kit, it also helps improve every aspect of your presentation skills. If you are like I was and don’t believe it will work, then do what I did: Try it, and measure the results. In my case, I realized I had made a mistake. I know better now.

Rick Davis is the president of Building Leaders, a training organization devoted exclusively to the sale of building materials. His next book, “The Sales Secret,” has just been published. To order it, go, call 773.769.4409, or contact Rick at