This oft-asked question came up in a workshop earlier this week when discussing how to leave effective voicemail messages: What should we say when the person’s instruction is to “leave a detailed message”?
What is a detailed message today? What details should you leave to inspire a return call?
With all the tasks, all the information, all the deadlines that everyone is juggling today, we have to recognize there often isn’t time to return – or even listen to – all the voicemail messages arriving each day. If you want someone to return your call, know that they are prioritizing their messages based on content, so it’s vital that your words inspire a callback. Leaving a ton of detail often defeats this purpose.
Visualize the person you are calling. When they receive your message, they may only have 10 minutes between meetings – or between flights. They might have 10 or 12 or more messages that they must listen to, one after another, and then decide what actions to take later on in the day – or the next day. So how can you be “heard”?
Here are three suggestions:
- If you are leaving a message for someone you know about an ongoing project you can leave details so they can move ahead with their tasks. This is effective and efficient. What doesn’t work is leaving a ton of detail … and then also asking for them to call you. Pick one! For example: “Hi Linda, it’s Mary Jane calling about next week’s blog post. I’m struggling for some reason so I’m definitely going to send it to you later than usual. Let me know if that’s going to cause a major problem for you. Otherwise, I’ll make sure you have it Friday afternoon.”
- If you are leaving a message for someone you know and you want to make sure a conversation takes place, say that specifically. For example: “Hi Linda, it’s Mary Jane calling about next week’s blog post and I do want to talk with you about an idea I’m considering. You can reach me today until 2 pm at 902-404-3290. That’s 902-404-3290. If we don’t connect by 2 pm, that’s fine. I’ll follow up with you later this week.”
- If you are leaving a message for someone you don’t know and you really want to have a conversation with them, you want to be conservative with the details. In this circumstance, if you leave too many details, the person may believe they have enough information to make a decision without speaking to you. Instead, work with the power of human curiosity as part of your “detailed” message. Here’s my recommendation: “Hi Deanna, this is Mary Jane calling from The Phone Lady. I have one quick question for you. I’ll be at my desk today until 2 pm and you can reach me at 902-404-3290. That’s 902-404-3290. If we don’t connect by 2 pm today, that’s fine. I’ll follow up with you later this week.”
Want to learn more? Check out these past posts: